Tuscaloosa should be thankful for its media. The Druid City boasts numerous news outlets that continue to serve the people of West Alabama, but Planet Weekly has, for 14 years, provided an alternative slant for issues about town.
I should know. I wrote more articles for this magazine than I could possibly count before moving elsewhere with my career. Needless to say, it holds a special place in my heart and I was honored when asked to write this special anniversary piece.
A creative endeavor with the staying power of Planet Weekly would not be possible without strong leadership and direction. Linda Johnson has remained at the top of the chain of command and weathered the technological revolution into a new age of journalism and entertainment.
“It’s taken a lot of blood, sweat, and tears,” she said. “It definitely has not been easy, but having great supportive clients and some of the most talented and creative staff have truly been a blessing.”
The media market in Tuscaloosa is an interesting blend of both traditional and alternative media, and Planet Weekly has established an obvious foothold. However, this burgeoning form of alternative journalism continues to evolve across the country and many publications looks for a formula like the one implemented by Planet Weekly.
Johnson said the creative and unconventional focus of the magazine has proven to be the keys to success.
“Over the years our main focus has been to provide an outlet for Tuscaloosa’s Arts, music, and culture,” she said. “Being an alternative-based publication has allowed great flexibility for our writers to express their passions, and their creativity which I always have encouraged. Words are a very powerful tool and have a tremendous impact.”
In addition to covering the popular issues of the city, Johnson has used Planet Weekly to work with local charities and reach out to the community.
“I have also been privileged to work with some great charitable organizations, such as United Cerebral Palsy , Roll Tide Relief Benefit, United Way, and my personal non profit that was started 10 years ago, the C.P. Winters Summer Camp, helping children with mental challenges. “ she said. “Our goal has been and always will remain to be committed to helping our community fulfill its human and economic potential.”
Technology has revolutionized media around the world and Planet Weekly continues to adapt with the changes under Johnson and Managing Editor Herb Neu’s leadership. The magazine recently launched a new website aimed at pushing Planet Weekly farther into the 21st century. “A digital version of the magazine is also available on the site,” she said. “With everything going digital it was the logical next step for Planet Weekly.”
The 14th anniversary of Planet Weekly stands as a testament to the hard work of a socially conscious and creative staff that continues to provide coverage for an information-hungry public. With each new article produced by this talented staff, the gap is bridged between the old and the new.
Alternative media is surely here to stay in Tuscaloosa, and on a personal note, I am thankful that I could be a small part of an ever-growing publication in such a great community.
During my time as an editor, I grew as a journalist and writer while telling the stories of the people, places and features that make Tuscaloosa great. I was able to interact with a progressive-minded staff that genuinely values the community around them.
As the faces in the community change and new names appear in bylines for Planet Weekly, Tuscaloosa can be certain that this humble alternative publication will continue to serve the people of the city and tell their stories in a way that can only be found in Planet Weekly.
—Ryan Phillips is a former editor of Planet Weekly, now Digital Producer at the Birmingham Business Journal

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