Mikaela LaFave is one of our Graduate Assistants in Special Collections this year. She holds a B.A. in English from Georgia College and is now a first year student in the department’s masters program.
For anyone coming of age in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, the words counter culture, underground newspaper, and zine may have an almost mythic status. For those of us born a little to late, here’s a refresher course. An underground newspaper was a form of publication popular in the 60s and 70s in major North American cities and were a group of loosely related, radicalized newspapers. While the term underground is a bit of a misnomer (these newspapers published openly), they deliberately flaunted the social conventions of the day and called for revolutionary overthrow. Georgia had its own underground newspaper called The Great Speckled Bird, which published from 1968 to 1976, that you can find digitized from Georgia State University. The Bird, as it’s commonly styled, was an advocate for both national and local change in the city of Atlanta. Zines were another popular form of spreading news untouched by traditional media. Short for “fanzine,” zines existed as a means of self-expression for those unable to publish in the mainstream. Both of these methods provided an outlet for those from the 60s to the 90s who felt that their voice needed to be heard.
What might surprise you is that a little slice of the counter culture has made it to Milledgeville through self proclaimed alternative presses of the 1990s and into the present! Today, we will be taking a look at the different publications of the Georgia College student body; whether interested in spreading news not published elsewhere, provide another outlet for students to express themselves, or simply find a candidate to place on the ballot for Mayor of Milledgeville in the 90s, alternative presses have had a varied history in our town of literary fame.
We’ll first take a trip back the the 90s, when most of our current students at the college were just being born and flannel was the hottest trend. Starting in 1993 and running until 1995, students were able to pick up a copy of the Mooncalf Press, available at bars downtown – some still there, like the Brick, and others that have disappeared in favor of the changing downtown scene. Styling itself as an underground newspaper, as well as a zine, Mooncalf allowed its contributors to muse about life in Milledgeville around the growing alternative music and culture scene of the 90s.
Perhaps indicative of the alternative mission of Mooncalf was their invitation soliciting submissions from students and other readers alike to “apply” to run for mayor. With a highly contested mayoral race, Mooncalf editors promised their support to whoever submitted the best 100 word snippet about why they should be elected mayor to Mooncalf‘s “I Wanna Be Mayor” Contest. This humble student can think of no better, attention grabbing way to take hold of the political process.
Of course, along with political commentary and musings on the meaning of life, there is also a bit of humor. In the April 27, 1995 issue, editor conducted a taste test of Mr. P’s frozen pepperoni pizza…after cooking it and placing it back in the freezer overnight. Featuring pictures of the three taste testers and their reactions, this delightful taste test gave readers a chance to inject a bit of humor in their day. The consensus? Refrozen frozen pizzas are not the best addition to your culinary day. This is perhaps the best example of collegiate food choices.
After the demise of Mooncalf, students and residents alike were left bereft of an “alternative,” until the creation of The Alternate in 2008, featuring articles prominently covering political news of 2008, art and poetry either submitted by or created by students, and editorials concerning a national scale. Started with support from the Georgia College Art Department The Alternate sought to fill a niche for students who felt that traditional campus media did not feature their voice. Staff writer Kim O’Toole describes The Alternate as follows in the October 2008 issue:
For me, this paper is a megaphone for the voiceless on the campus. Voiceless because of race, of gender, of administrative politics, or religion, of morals, of dreams, of anything.
Other staff writer, Claire Dykes, specifically calls The Alternate an alternative voice to the traditional campus newspaper The Colonnade stating “The Alternate is a great way for students that don’t want to be involved in typical media like The Colonnade to express their passions by writing about them.”
However, in a break from how the narrative usually plays out between traditional media and alternative press publications, the interaction went better than expected. In a September 2008 article, Alternate writer Tony Dread sat down with Editor in Chief of The Colonnade, Corey Dickstein, to clear up confusion and provide a neighborly nod to traditional campus media. When discussing The Colonnade attitude towards The Alternate, Dickstein discusses his initial concern with the production of The Alternate, but how after research he concluded that The Alternate was more of a niche production. Clearly, it was. Publishing a mix of poetry, art, and editorials, and focusing clearly on political action and activism, The Alternate had more in common with its forbearers than it did with current, traditional media.
Hitting its stride in the post-election, November 2008 issue, The Alternate featured voices from across the state (UGA, Georgia State, Young Harris) and beyond. At this point, the publication seemed to move beyond their original intent, whether aware of that or not. Still featuring a mix of music reviews and personal stories, poetry and art, and political articles, The Alternate moved towards not just making statements or affecting underground change, but rather towards a larger and more cohesive statement towards activism.
While neither Mooncalf Press or The Alternate are publications at Georgia College today, students have begun to share their “underground,” “countercultural” experiences through different avenues. In 2014-2015, a group of unnamed students banded together to create Bitch Slap, a pocket sized, feminist zine dedicated to photos, poetry, prose, and articles detailing the feminist experience, and how that experience changes at Georgia College. Unnamed students also started a blog in 2015 entitled the Atkinson Chronicle, providing a satirical, Onion-esque look at the Georgia College experience.
There we are! A brief look at the two major alternative newspapers and zines that have undoubtedly provided Georgia College students with a forum for their unheard voices, and hours of reading pleasure and hilarity. I know rereading these snippets of the 90s and 2000s provided this Graduate Assistant with some great entertainment. Stop by Georgia College Special Collections on the Second Floor of Ina Dillard Russell library to see these publications in person. Signing off, with all the news that’s fit to print.
Read on for some photos of the covers of these publications!
“A Breakdown with The Alternate,” Alternate, October 2008, 2.
Alternate, November 2008, 3.
Atkinsonchronicle, Atkinson Chronicle (blog), https://atkinsonchronicle.wordpress.com/author/atkinsonchronicle/.
Blake, Meredith. “Ask an Academic: The Sixties Underground Press,” New York Times, published May 3, 2011, http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/ask-an-academic-the-sixties-underground-press.
Dread, Tony. “Media on Media: An Interview with The Colonnade,” Alternate, September 2008, 1.
Freedman, Jenna. “Definition,” Barnard Zine Library, accessed 29 September 2016. https://zines.barnard.edu/definition.
J.D. Cade, “1968-1975: Printing the News You’re Not Supposed to Know,” The Great Speckled Bird, accessed 29 September 2016. http://www.greatspeckledbird.org/history.html.
“Mooncalf’s First Taste Test,” Mooncalf Press (Milledgeville, GA), April 25, 1995.
Roberts, James. “Milledgeville Overrun with Subversives!,” Mooncalf Press (Milledgeville, GA), May 11, 1995.