Luann Labedz will take over on June 2 for departing publisher Dave Schmall, chief operating officer Kirk MacDonald told the staff Thursday morning. Labedz comes to Creative Loafing after 18 years at Gannett Co., most recently as director of market development at the Citizen-Times in Asheville, N.C. During her tenure at Gannett, she was responsible for niche publications, product development, strategy and advertiser partnerships. "It's not broken here, so I want to build on that," Labedz says. "There's a great deal of energy here."
"This company has been my home for almost 13 years, I love it and own a tiny bit of it, so I won't disappear," the CL group senior editor, columnist, and shareholder says in announcing his retirement at the end of January. He says he'll "likely continue" writing his column, "in large part because our CEO, Ben Eason, and editor, Ken Edelstein, are guys who passionately care about Atlanta." Sugg plans on starting a think tank which will "look for radical, yet effective, alternatives to urban dilemmas."
"Friday was a rough day at the Loaf, perhaps even rougher at our new brethren papers in Washington and Chicago," writes Creative Loafing (Atlanta) editor-in-chief Ken Edelstein. "In Atlanta, we laid off four sales people, a marketing assistant, a sales assistant and our wonderful assistant distribution manager." He adds that the six-paper company is going through the same sort of difficult transition that's hitting other media companies, before noting that his paper's online readership continues to grow. "How that audience growth translates into ad dollars is the business question that [CEO] Ben [Eason] and the folks on the sales side of our business are going to have to grapple with for a long time -- and continuously."
The columnist and Creative Loafing shareholder says his company's acquisition of the Chicago Reader and Washington City Paper is neither an "idealistic foray" nor a "hostile takeover of independent papers." The way Sugg sees it, the two papers were caught up in a "broader crisis in the publishing business" that their former owners weren't nimble enough to navigate. He also defends CEO Ben Eason, who hasn't exactly been welcomed with open arms in Chicago and Washington. "He believes alt-weeklies can help readers strengthen their communities," says Suggs. "Eason loves to see controversy in his newspapers. He admits mistakes, takes risks and has an ambitious vision for new media. His lieutenants often disagree with him; he listens ... sometimes."
The Atlanta Press Club bestowed the honor on senior writer Mara Shalhoup at their annual gala last week. Shalhoup was cited in part for her three-part series on the rise of the Black Mafia Family, a cocaine-trafficking network with ties to a music label and violent crimes. "Since late 2004, my editor and I knew what an important story the Black Mafia Family's was," Shalhoup says. "Creative Loafing deserves a round of applause for its devotion to publishing the series." She will receive a $1,000 prize.
The Atlanta alt-weekly's story on the Stormfront White Nationalist Community web forum, "A Kinder, Gentler Racism," led to a landslide of hateful and nasty comments on the paper's website. The avalanche may have been triggered by a post on the Vanguard News Network Forum encouraging "everyone here [to] take a minute, breeze through the article and comment on the Creative Loafing site about it." Despite charges of censorship leveled by the white nationalists, Web Editor Lea Holland says that only one comment has been deleted, "because the link was dead." The incident highlights the balancing act papers perform while monitoring their sites' comments. "While we all have mixed feelings about this, I think ultimately our readers and the public good are better served by letting these guys show who they are," Editor Ken Edelstein tells AAN News. "I have enough faith in our readers to know that the overwhelming majority will be repulsed by what they see -- but also informed at the same time."