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The Underground Press Syndicate, commonly known as UPS, and later known as the Alternative Press Syndicate or APS, was a network of countercultural newspapers and magazines formed in mid-1966 by the publishers of five early underground papers: the East Village Other, the Los Angeles Free Press, the Berkeley Barb, The Paper, and Fifth Estate. Walter Bowart of the EVO took the lead in inviting the other papers to join, and initially it was hoped that the syndicate would sell national advertising space that would run in all 5 papers; but these hopes were soon dashed.
The San Francisco Oracle, The Rag, and Illustrated Paper (a psychedelic paper published in Mendocino, California) joined soon afterward, and membership grew rapidly in 1967 as new papers were founded and immediately joined. In the South, the first to join was The Inquisition (Charlotte, North Carolina). By June 1967, a UPS conference in Iowa City hosted by Middle Earth drew 80 newspaper editors from US and Canada, including Liberation News Service.
UPS members agreed to allow all other members to freely reprint their contents. And anyone who agreed to those terms was allowed to join the syndicate. As a result, countercultural news stories, criticism and cartoons were widely disseminated, and a wealth of content was available to even the most modest start-up paper. First-hand coverage of the 1967 Detroit riots in Fifth Estate was one example of material that was widely copied in other papers of the syndicate. As it evolved, the Underground Press Syndicate created an Underground Press Service, and later its own magazine.
Shortly after the formation of the UPS, the number of "underground" papers throughout North America expanded dramatically. The explosive growth of the underground press did not begin to subside until 1970, and by 1973 the boom was clearly over and most underground newspapers in the US had ceased publication.
For many years the Underground Press Syndicate was run by Tom Forcade, who later founded High Times magazine. After a 1973 meeting of underground and alternative newspapers in Boulder, Colorado, the name was changed to the Alternative Press Syndicate (APS). APS was an attempt to reinvent the syndicate to compete with the growing network of alternative weeklies networked by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies; but failed, and the AAN supplanted its role.
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