Ahmed “Staying Put” at Riverfront Times

Editor to Remain With St. Louis Weekly Despite New Times Purchase.

In the weeks since New Times, Inc. purchased The Riverfront Times [RFT], AAN has been rife with speculation about what the ownership change means for RFT Editor Safir Ahmed. After all, the Phoenix-based chain, which now owns 10 alternative newsweeklies — has a reputation for gutting the editorial departments of newly acquired papers to bring in its own hand-picked writers and editors.

But Ahmed — RFT’s editorial commander for the last seven and a half years — tells AAN News that he’s not going anywhere. After a long face-to-face meeting with New Times Executive Editor Michael Lacey in St. Louis on Oct. 14, Ahmed is confident he’s “staying put” as editor of the 21-year-old, 100,000-circulation paper.

“After my initial meeting with him [Lacey] — as long as he’s a man of his word — which I assume he is, I do not expect [the departure of any editorial personnel], including myself,” says Ahmed. “I want to stay put. [Lacey] told me they want me to stay put.”

Both Ahmed and Lacey say New Times’ purchase of RFT is unlike any of the company’s prior acquisitions.

“It’s a good-sized paper, completely dominant in the market and the quality of the staff is good,” says Ahmed. “When they bought this paper, I don’t think they ever intended to come in like a bull in a china shop. They know the paper’s not broke and they don’t have to fix it. What I see happening is some fine-tuning: making the paper bigger, hiring more writers and increasing circulation.”

Lacey, who says RFT will soon hire two more full-time writers, adds: “When we purchased some of our other papers, what attracted us wasn’t the staff, but the city. In San Francisco and Los Angeles, we didn’t find editorial staffs in place that were very professional. That’s why we brought in new people.

“The Riverfront Times is a good newspaper with a good editorial staff. Safir is a good editor and the job is his.”

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