Liz Garrigan, who had recently been helping the Scene out as a freelance contributing editor, will become the interim executive editor for SouthComm's three main Nashville publications: The Scene, The City Paper and NashvillePost.com. SouthComm CEO Chris Ferrell, who bought the alt-weekly from Village Voice Media in August, describes Garrigan's new job as "a temporary stint of a few months' duration," during which time she will be responsible for "develop[ing] a more smoothly functioning, integrated organization" in regards to converged editorial operations. The Tennessean reports that the integration has already begun, with SouthComm merging the City Paper's Thursday print edition with the Scene. (The City Paper still publishes a print edition on Monday.)
Outgoing editor Liz Garrigan reports that she had "openly recommended Scene managing editor Matt Pulle for [her] job, and he was seriously considered." But in the end, Village Voice Media brought Pete Kotz over from the soon-to-be-defunct Cleveland Scene, a move that was criticized by some of the paper's staff. "Bypassing Matt sent exactly the wrong message to the city: It said that the Scene is just another interchangeable cog in a big corporate wheel," one staffer says anonymously. Former Scene media critic Henry Walker agrees. "The idea of an alternative weekly paper importing an editor would have been almost unthinkable just a decade ago," he says. "[But VVM] has pioneered the adoption of a cookie-cutter news and design formula and the employment of fungible editors among the alternative weeklies." VVM executive editor Michael Lacey, for one, isn't buying Walker's critique. "For nearly 40 years, we, like most alternative newspaper owners, have selected editors, writers and columnists based upon their skill, not their birth certificate," Lacey says. "Walker's simplistic comments reflect parochial jingoism."
Cleveland Scene editor Pete Kotz has been named the new editor of the Nashville Scene in the wake of last week's news that the Cleveland paper will be merged with Cleveland Free Times in July. On July 1, Kotz will replace Liz Garrigan, who announced she was leaving the Nashville alt-weekly in May. "I know Pete from editors' meetings and conventions and can say unequivocally that he's a wonderful guy, a talented journalist and a good soul, if not the 'dangerously handsome man' he claims to be," Garrigan writes. "He has five kids, loves to 'bust a phrase,' holds dear the value of a great story, and prefers to chase his whiskey with beer."
Liz Garrigan says in a blog post that she'll be leaving the paper at the end of June to become editorial director of Magellan Media, an umbrella company of book imprints and (non-newspaper) publishing enterprises. "I'm attempting something pretty rare in journalism these days: a chance to make an exit while I'm still having an enormous amount of fun," she writes. "It might be a bit anticlimactic, but this is not a protest resignation, a corporate cost-cutting measure or a veiled firing." She says she hopes to continue contributing to the Scene, but "after 12 years at one place -- as political writer, news editor, associate editor, then editor -- it's time for this root-bound journalist to repot herself."
In a live chat yesterday, Liz Garrigan discussed her recent Washington Post piece on Fred Thompson's presidential chances and briefly highlighted two elements of alt-weekly journalism. After she said Al Gore won't enter the 2008 race because "he's got swimming pools to heat," a reader complained about Garrigan's off-hand remark. "Snarky asides help to pay my bills," she replied. Later, when a reader asked if she "might want to at least appear objective," Garrigan took the question head-on. "Part of what distinguishes alt-weeklies from mainstream media is that we don't peddle objectivity (or even think it's possible)," she said. "We do value fairness and balance but in the context of point of view. But that's another chat."
Music City Mayor Bill Purcell announced last week that he has hired Liz Garrigan's husband Curt as his number two, a post he will fill for eight months. To avoid conflict of interest, Liz Garrigan says in an editor's note that she will recuse herself of all writing and editing duties involving stories "dealing specifically with Purcell, my husband or the mayor's office." She will not shy away from city politics altogether, however, and will continue to weigh in on subjects such as "the upcoming mayor's race, pieces about development and growth, [and] the Metro Council." MORE SCENE NEWS: Former staffer Jeff Woods will rejoin the paper after a stint as an editor for Scripps Howard News Service. Woods, says Garrigan, "will be covering pretty much whatever he damn well wants."
Bruce Dobie, co-founder and editor of Nashville Scene, will be leaving the paper next month. The 46-year-old father of two tells the Nashville Post that alt-weeklies "need to be young" and that he doesn't have as firm a grasp on how best to cover the city for a young audience as he once did. To adapt to the 24/7 news cycle favored by many 18-35-year-olds, he believes that the paper must establish an online presence and be willing to continually reinvent itself. Dobie's successor will be current associate editor Liz Garrigan, who's been at the Scene for eight years. "The Scene's a great paper now," she says. "With new energy and more aggressive reporting, it will be better."