Photograph by Steven Higgs

Almost three years to the day since planning for The Bloomington Alternative print edition began, the biweekly counter to market-driven journalism in Bloomington is ending its run. The mission will continue online and, perhaps, in other, yet-to-be-determined forms as well.

Even though I know this piece is a farewell to some, it's really an announcement of a new phase in the ongoing experiment in new-media journalism called The Bloomington Alternative.

Yes, the Dec. 5 issue will be the last Alternative print edition. And I've heard from enough loyal readers who crave that newsprint in their hands to know that we're going to lose them if we don't keep a print publication on the street (an eventuality that has not been ruled out).

But while the thought of losing readers is an anathema to any writer -- it sets pinched nerve endings ablaze, actually -- the truth is, for a multitude of reasons, it's time to let go of the old media and more fully embrace the new.

The only aspects of the future that are certain today are that we will continue building our Web presence, and all of the Alternative's regular contributors -- Travis, Garvey, Canada, Thom, Hamm, Harrell and Fischer, Rust -- will be there, with extensive archives of their work.

And given that the creative potential on the Internet is limitless, we'll be offering some new media experiences for those who make us part of their virtual habits.

But it bears repeating: We are evolving, not going away, by any means. And a print publication of some sort may indeed be part of the mix.

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A common response from readers and supporters these past 5 1/2 years has been that they appreciate our honesty, whether they agree with us or not. We tell it the way we see it. Take us or leave us. It's the readers' choice.

In that spirit, I'm going to be honest and say the decision to end the print version isn't just about money.

The paper and Web site pay for themselves through the generous support of individuals and advertisers who share our vision and value our audience. We've always paid our bills, and our contributors, on time. None of us would quit over cash.

It's about money in the sense that future cash-flow prospects don't bode all that well for anything other than treading water. And those who have watched the Alternative grow since July 2002 know that standing still is not what we're about.

It's about time and opportunity, for the Alternative and for me, honestly. There simply aren't enough hours for the personal and professional obligations I have now. And I have some new opportunities that I can't pursue while publishing a biweekly newspaper. (See my new photo album online.)

Absent the resources to move the print edition toward its potential, I just can't continue.

To be completely honest, I'm tired of saying I'm sorry.

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As far as the new-media experiment goes, we will spend our "time off" this month building upon the online upgrade we did last summer.

As I said, all of our regulars, plus a batch of new contributors, will be there. And they will be as compelling as they've always been, perhaps more so, given the freedom that comes with the Web.

And there's all that creative potential.

We can already prove that we're the No. 1 alternative media Web site in Bloomington. And our No. 1 goal is to expand our audience at all levels -- local, state, national and global.

After all, we never have been an alternative to just the market-driven pap that passes for media in our community these days.

I was recently interviewed by a young Middle Eastern journalist who "collects" the print editions. Hell, ask me about my John Negroponte story sometime.

Trust me, that Internet is one hell of an exciting place. (Those newspapers are made from trees, anyway.)

Thanks, and good luck to those readers we lose. To those who come to the Web with us, hang on. We've just started.

Steven Higgs can be reached at .