Cincinnati Alternative Shuttered After 16-Year Run.
The end came quietly for Cincinnati’s Everybody’s News.
The last issue for the 16-year old free alternative weekly was Aug. 19, but folks in Cincinnati didn’t know for sure until the following Thursday, when the papers’ racks weren’t replenished on schedule.
There was no official notice or explanation from EN officials. In fact, the shuttering wasn’t publicly confirmed until Aug. 27, when Editor & Publisher broke the story on its website.
In the E&P article, EN Publisher and part-owner Donna Goodwin acknowledged that the plug had indeed been pulled. Goodwin characterized the move as a euthanasia of sorts, citing shrinking revenues and a personal desire to get away from the weekly grind.
“I’ve been suffering from severe burnout,” Goodwin told E&P, “and I just made a decision to put it to rest.”
Repeated calls to Goodwin’s home and office were not returned.
Most people inside Cincinnati’s media community were not surprised by the news, which had been rumored for weeks.
The rumors were so widespread that even one of Cincinnati’s notoriously sluggish dailies picked up the scent. “Everybody’s News, the weekly alternative newspaper, is close to going out of business an investor in the business said,” reported an Aug. 17 article in the Cincinnati Post. “Louis Buschle, an accountant and minority owner of the paper, said Publisher Donna Goodwin ‘was not real optimistic’ about remaining open.”
John Fox certainly knew EN’s days were numbered. According to Fox, who left his editor’s job at EN in 1994 to co-found the city’s other alternative weekly, Cincinnati CityBeat, “[Everybody’s News] demise was a long time coming. Their page count, ad count and press run fell steadily over a period of time.”
Despite the loss of a rival, Fox was melancholy about his competitors’ demise.
“It’s sad that Cincinnati has lost a unique media voice,” he said. “This town, more than most, needs a variety of viewpoints to offset the dominant bland, corporate mainstream media here.”
Goodwin, her husband, and four other backers had owned EN since 1989. According to published reports, the ownership group achieved a modicum of success, upping distribution from 12,000 to 42,000 and pocketing a small profit in the mid-’90s.
Recently, however, the paper struggled. Competition from CityBeat sent the page and ad counts into retreat. For example, in the weeks preceding its closure, EN was running around 24 pages. During the same period, CityBeat’s book averaged 60 pages.
According to various published reports, Goodwin got tired of operating in the red.
It was widely known within the alternative newspaper business that she had been looking to sell for at least the past two years. But in the end, her efforts proved fruitless. With no buyer in sight, Goodwin and the other owners decided it was time to kill the paper.
It isn’t clear how the demise of Everybody’s News will affect Cincinnati’s media landscape. But one thing is certain: The paper’s collapse provides yet another example of a medium-sized market unable to support two alternative papers.
“In a perfect world,” said Fox, “Cincinnati could support two thriving alternative newsweeklies. In the real world, the city is probably too small and too conservative to give two alternatives the kind of backing they need to be profitable. We knew that reality when we started CityBeat in 1994, and every decision we made in the early years was geared to being the bigger and better alternative paper — and the survivor.
“We don’t anticipate any windfall benefits from their going out of business. We don’t think we’ll see a measurable increase in ad revenue, and we’re not pushing up distribution in response [to the paper’s shuttering].”
Randy Katz, who was editor of EN from November 1994 until the spring of 1998, said he was “surprised Everybody’s News survived as long as it did. I thought it would have gone under way before this.”
Ever since Goodwin abruptly terminated Katz and permanently eliminated the editor’s post in April 1998, EN had been operating with a skeleton staff, according to Katz.
“It’s impossible to conceive of a leaner operation,” he said. ” When I was still at the paper we had three people in editorial, and we still managed to have a good little goddamn publication. But after [the two other editorial staffers quit] and I had been fired, our positions were never filled. You see, when [Goodwin] showed me the door, she laid down her sword and her shield.”