Petty, the former publisher of the St. Petersburg Times and the Hartford Courant, has been named the new chief executive officer of the six-paper Creative Loafing chain. She will succeed Richard W. Gilbert, who has been interim CEO since the company emerged from bankruptcy. "I'm invigorated by the possibilities to deepen relationships with our readers and advertisers and expand our influence in our communities," she says in a release. "The coverage areas which have differentiated and distinguished the alternative press historically may be more important than ever." MORE from Creative Loafing (Tampa).
As part of a bankruptcy judge's August decision to turn Creative Loafing, Inc. over to its creditors, the Tampa paper had to vacate its old office building, which was owned by the Eason family. This week is Creative Loafing (Tampa)'s first in its new offices, located in the historic Ybor Square area, and editor David Warner is already impressed with a seemingly simple aspect: being able to get out of the office and walk around. "That may not sound like much, but after five (!) years cooped up in a former fruit warehouse where you had to get in your car to do anything outside the office, this was, literally, a dream," he writes.
The Association of Food Journalists last week named the winners of its 2009 Awards Competition at a banquet in New Orleans. Seattle Weekly's Jonathan Kauffman won first place for Best Newspaper Restaurant Criticism and Creative Loafing (Atlanta)'s Besha Rodell took home first for Best Newspaper Food Feature. (Riverfront Times' Kristen Hinman took third in that category.) Kauffman's victory marks the fourth year in a row that a Village Voice Media paper has won the Best Newspaper Restaurant Criticism category.
St. Petersburg Times media critic Eric Deggans says that Creative Loafing should, among other things, "get some aggressive, entertaining name writers back in the house" and "break news, especially news mainstream outlets won't report." He says alt-weeklies are well-positioned to do the latter. "An alternative newspaper often does its best work holding accountable those who hold others accountable," Deggans writes. "There's a multitude of civic issues at hand that a grass roots alternative newspaper could grab hold of, and explore in new ways; doing that in a provocative, localized way builds the brand tremendously."
After Atalaya gained control of the six-paper company in bankruptcy court last week, several of the new board members met with staff at Creative Loafing (Atlanta). "I want your ideas," Jim O'Shea told them. "I want to hear from you. And I'll do everything in my power to make sure we're sitting here two, five, 10 years from now with more resources, more people, better salaries and more of a future." O'Shea, a former Los Angeles Times editor, will advise Atalaya on editorial strategy while former Des Moines Register president Richard Gilbert will be interim CEO. The Atlanta staff "applauded the sentiments" expressed by O'Shea, Thomas Wheatley reports. "After the meeting, one staffer likened the mood in the room to the elation with which liberals greeted the inauguration of President Barack Obama after eight years of George W. Bush."
Managing partner Michael Bogdan tells the Chicago Tribune that without the crushing debt, Creative Loafing is now generating positive cash flow, which will allow the individual papers to hire new employees "to fill holes where they need to grow." He acknowledges that despite all the promises, employees at the six-paper company will likely remain skeptical of Atalaya. "I don't expect people to trust me right now," he says. "The proof's in the pudding." MORE: Chicago Reader associate publisher Steve Timble discusses the sale and the new media landscape on WTTW's Chicago Tonight TV show.
"Maybe we should have been smarter, or less starry-eyed about it, but we thought and hoped Eason would succeed," says Mike Lenehan, who owned a small part of the Reader before it was sold to Eason. "I don't think there would have been much sentiment to do [the deal] if we thought he'd turn out to be Ben Eason. Maybe we should have known better -- but that's what we thought." MORE: Reader media columnist Michael Miner discusses the paper's future with Chicago Public Radio, and Creative Loafing (Tampa) publisher Sharry Smith has sent out a memo calling Atalaya's acquisition of the company "a very positive development." (AAN News has been told the memo was drafted by all of the CL publishers together.)
Wayne Garcia, the man behind the "Political Whore" column and blog, announced yesterday that he has accepted an appointment as the Freedom Forum Visiting Professional at the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications. He will teach investigative journalism and editing. Garcia says he's already started working on campus while he finishes up a few projects at Creative Loafing.
At today's equity auction, federal bankruptcy judge Caryl E. Delano gave control of Creative Loafing, Inc. to the company's largest creditor, Atalaya Capital Management. Atalaya's all-cash bid of $5 million won out over Creative Loafing CEO Ben Eason's bid of $2.32 million in cash and other securities. The deal is expected to close within 10 days. We've got a roundup of all the news here.
Creative Loafing (Atlanta)'s Thomas Wheatley is in Tampa covering the proceedings. He reports that CL CEO Ben Eason's opening bid was $2.3 million, including $825,000 cash and the rest in "in-kind contributions." Atalaya Capital Management countered by bidding $5 million in cash.