The Berkeley Barb. The Great Speckled Bird. The Black Panther. East Village Other.
They were among hundreds of radical newspapers that appeared in the late 1960s and early 1970s, sparked by opposition to the Vietnam War, an emerging youth culture and the black and women’s liberation movements that shook society.
The loosely affiliated underground press even had its own Associated Press of sorts – Liberation News Service, which produced and sent out packets of news, graphics and photographs.
Buffalo had its alternative media, too, beginning with Cold Steel and followed by New Age. Both offered a working-class bent and were co-founded by Paul Krehbiel, a Buffalo native who graduated from Kenmore West High School.
Krehbiel, now 64 and a retired labor organizer living outside Los Angeles, recently wrote a chapter about his experiences in “Voices from the Underground,” a new four-volume history of the underground press published by Michigan State University Press.
“A lot of us felt the Buffalo Evening News and the Courier-Express weren’t telling the whole story about the war and about other issues, including labor issues, we were familiar with,” said Krehbiel, who will be speaking locally three times this week about the underground press.
“So, because of that, and having known of other anti-war and countercultural newspapers, we decided to start up our own newspaper.”
Cold Steel, Buffalo’s first alternative tabloid newspaper, came out in June 1970 during the student strike that rocked the University at Buffalo that spring. New Age, with a circulation of 10,000 copies, was launched in September and continued until August 1971.
“New Age reflected all of the tendencies of that period, including hippies, yippies and some people sympathetic to the Weather Underground, which supported violent revolution,” Krehbiel said.
Krehbiel identified with the student anti-war movement as a member of Students for a Democratic Society and the Buffalo Draft Resistance Union. Having been an auto parts worker in the summers at Standard Mirror in South Buffalo, he also felt a connection to blue-collar workers.
“New Age was produced by and for workers. All of us who started it were people who had worked in factories, and some of us were night students,” said Krehbiel, who dropped out during the student strike and didn’t return to college for five years.
“The paper’s goal was to empower the working class of Buffalo and workers on the job in Buffalo and in their communities, and help unite them with the anti-war movement and other [movements] going on,” he said.
New Age – the name had nothing to do with the emerging, quasi-spiritual movement – came to an end when women members of the newspaper collective demanded that half the stories be exclusively about women, even though the industries written about were male-dominated, Krehbiel said.
“The acrimony got so bad that we kept postponing calling a meeting until, finally, it never happened,” he said.
Krehbiel said the underground press succeeded in empowering many groups in society while strengthening opposition to the war.
Leslie James Pickering, co-owner of Burning Books, one of Krehbiel’s speaking stops, depended on underground press accounts found in the Central Library’s stacks to write his 2007 book “Mad Bomber Melville,” about Sam Melville, who died in the 1971 Attica prison uprising.
“There was such a stark contrast between mainstream media reports of incidents and the reports found in the underground press by people who actually participated in what was reported,” Pickering said.
The bookstore, with its left-of-center focus, carries on the legacy of the underground press, he said, while celebrating today’s alternative press found online and through other media.
“The underground press is really important because you get a different voice,” Pickering said. “Media is often controlled by interests that have money, and convey the same opinions over and over again.”
Krehbiel will speak at 4 p.m. today at Riverside Salem Church, 439 W. River Road, Grand Island; 7 p.m. Monday at Talking Leaves, 3158 Main St.; and 7 p.m. Thursday at Burning Books, 420 Connecticut St.