Alice Embree :
REPORT | Houston’s historic underground newspaper…

…on the really small screen.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | November 25, 2020

Space City News hit the streets of Houston in June 1969, but got a name change when a UFO group informed the paper they were already publishing under that name. By January 1970, the paper was publishing as Space City!, and it continued to publish through transformative times in Texas’ largest city, times that were a changin’ and often harrowing as an active Ku Klux Klan took aim at the fledgling paper.

The Houston cousin of The Rag published for three years. Many of its veterans had cut their journalistic teeth at Austin’s pioneering underground paper and three quarters of the board of the parent nonprofit, the New Journalism Project, hailed from Houston, so the cousin relationship was alive and well.

In this year of pandemic, we have accomplished several things to keep Space City!’s memory alive. NJP raised funds, compiled a near-complete collection of newspapers and sent them off to be scanned and put online at the Internet Archive. After a three-month Covid quarantine at the Indiana library, the collection was scanned and has been viewed by more than 3,000 people, including viewers from as far away as Norway and Argentina. That is the gift of online access.

The pandemic has created hurdles in terms of in-person gatherings, but NJP has persevered. We received help from a former Ragstaffer, Hunter Ellinger, to create a searchable data entry site. Over 6,000 entries later, we have a contents guide that includes authors, subject matter, advertisements, and more.

We had help from another Austin-based collaborator, People’s History in Texas.
PHIT advertised for UT interns and had a surprisingly large and talented cohort of students. Through that connection, an intern, Bridget Tobin worked on the searchable data entry. Another intern was working with PHIT on video production. NJP asked for help and got it from Braden Holt. The NJP board wrote a script, identified archival images and recorded a bit of Zoom voice-over. Spencer Perskin, Bluethroat Music, and producer Bruce Hooper let us use “Song for Peace” by Shiva’s Headband as sound. Now we have a short video to further imprint Space City! in the annals of countercultural history. It is online and accessible on a You Tube channel (see above).

We have more plans as we wait out the pandemic. We will continue to gather the Space City! community together through whatever means available. Obviously, these gatherings will not be in person. We plan to launch a Facebook page for the paper and to request memories of their experiences with the paper from the contacts we have established. We are committed to the publication of a book, similar to the widely-acclaimed book Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper. Then, like The Rag, we will have a book and a movie. The sky will be the limit. We can then launch our efforts on the Space City! musical extravaganza!

As we celebrate holidays in the weirdest of times, we are thankful that we are still alive and kicking and that those of you who are reading this are as well. We look forward to a post-Trump, post-vaccine reality. As you eat whatever passes for a Thanksgiving feast this year, watch our video. Maybe it will conjure up an idea for a musical sequel.

Watch the video here.

And please support the efforts of the New Journalism Project here.

[Alice Embree is an Austin writer and activist who serves on the board of directors of the New Journalism Project, is associate editor of The Rag Blog, and was a founder of The Rag, Austin’s legendary underground paper, in 1966.]

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