The UNDERGROUND PRESS developed to serve the communication needs of political and cultural radicals in the 1960s and early 1970s. Its salient features were its opposition to the VIETNAM WAR and its promotion of drug use, rock music, and free sexual expression. Underground papers also experimented with new styles of type and layout and rejected traditional notions of journalistic objectivity. Two publications dominated Cleveland's underground press. The Buddhist Third Class Junkmail Oracle appeared in June 1967. Published by poet d.a. levy (see D. A. LEVY) and distributed free, the Oracle reflected the interests of the emerging counterculture. The paper resembled a collage in its layout, jumbling together poetry, artwork, announcements, advertisements, and reprints from papers in other cities. Levy published the Oracle until his death in Nov. 1968; it was continued by his friend, Steve Ferguson, until Mar. 1970. Ferguson then began his own Great Swamp Erie da da Boom, which lasted until the summer of 1972. It was succeeded by Nelson Moore's Cuyahoga Current (1972).

The other dominant paper in Cleveland's underground was more overtly political. The Big Us began publishing in 1968. Edited by Carol McEldowney and Carole Close, it reflected the views of the STUDENTS FOR A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY. In its more traditional layout, the Big Us published news of the local radical movements, political analysis, letters, announcements, essays from other underground papers, and music reviews. It changed its name to the Burning River News with its 28 Oct. 1969 issue. In Mar. 1970 it combined with the Oracle as the Burning River Oracle. The union was soon dissolved, although Burning River continued into the summer. Other short-lived efforts from the 1960s include the 1-issue Swamp Erie Pipe Dream (May 1967); Matthew Shulman's Cleveland Tribunal; and Cleveland after Dark, an entertainment weekly owned by a group in Boston that suspended publication in June 1970.

In Dec. 1970 students and staff members at CLEVELAND STATE UNIV. began publishing Bread, Peace, and Land, which continued as late as 1973. Other alternative publications appearing in 1973 included Modern Times, from a west side collective; the Plain Press, a near-west side community paper published partly in Spanish; and the Star. As radicalism waned in the early 1970s, the underground press became more respectable in style and tone. The best example of the greater success of the alternative press in Cleveland is the free weekly entertainment-oriented paper SCENE, begun by Richard Kabat in July 1970.

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