That seems to be the opinion of Ed Avis, who looks at the challenges alt-weekly owners are facing in a piece for Quill, a magazine published by the Society for Professional Journalists. Not surprisingly, he says the biggest challenge to the business is the internet. He talks to the Austin Chronicle's Louis Black, Creative Loafing's Ben Eason, and Times Shamrock's Don Farley to see where they are at in relation to the internet, and, more importantly, where they're trying to go. Ultimately, Avis thinks that the challenge of the online market -- in concert with the aging of the original alt-weekly founders -- is what's behind the industry's increased consolidation. Northwestern University professor and Academy for Alternative Journalism director Charles Whitaker agrees. "I think the (older owners) have had difficulty adjusting and figuring out the new media landscape, particularly the internet and things like Craigslist," he says. "At the same time, a group of new owners said, 'We can do this as a chain. We still have our alternative press sensibilities, but by pooling our resources we can run these papers more efficiently than they had been run in the past.'"

Continue ReadingIs a ‘Generational Shift’ Afoot in the Alt-Weekly Industry?

"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."

Continue ReadingJohn Sugg Retiring from Creative Loafing

"While it is easy to blame mean and nasty CEOs for trimming budgets, the fact is that our journalism, advertising and our content needs to be and are being re-conceived," Creative Loafing CEO Ben Eason says in a memo to employees leaked to Poynter's Jim Romenesko. In the memo, Eason tells his employees that most of the post-merger integration -- including staffing decisions -- of the Chicago Reader and Washington City Paper into the CL family is complete. "I'm very pleased with how the new company has come together," he says. "We are positioned well to take advantage of the future."

Continue ReadingBen Eason Weighs in on the State of Creative Loafing

The Hartford Courant announced plans Tuesday to sell the Valley Advocate, an alt-weekly covering western Massachusetts, to Newspapers of New England Inc., which owns newspapers in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Editor & Publisher reports that the sale lets the Courant focus its attention on its properties in Connecticut. The Advocate will continue to share content and do cross-market sales with the remaining alt-weeklies the Courant purchased in 1999 from New Mass. Media: the Hartford Advocate, the New Haven Advocate and Fairfield County Weekly. The sale is expected to close later this month; terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Continue ReadingTribune Co. Daily Sells Valley Advocate

"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."

Continue ReadingSeven Creative Loafing Employees Laid Off

The Times columnist says that given all of the newspaper industry's woes, last week's Chicago Reader and Washington City Paper newsroom layoffs might not seem significant. But Carr, who was editor of the City Paper in the 1990s, thinks the cuts illustrate the larger issue of an industry-wide abandonment of investigative journalism. Creative Loafing CEO Ben Eason says that's not the case. "We are not trying to make any other statement here other than it is a competitive world out there and we are doing what we can to make sure we are putting out an excellent paper in the communities we serve," he tells the Times.

Continue ReadingDavid Carr: Muckraking Pays, Just Not in Profit

John Conroy, Harold Henderson, Tori Marlan and Steve Bogira were laid off this week by editor Alison True, Michael Miner writes on his News Bites blog. True tells the Chicago Tribune that, given the mandate to cut costs by her new bosses at Creative Loafing in August, it became difficult to afford their work. "The numbers are part of a deal that was structured a long time ago," she says. "Even if [CEO Ben Eason] were the most passionate journalist in the world, he wouldn't have the option of saying, 'I'll give you a little extra this year so this doesn't have to happen.' He's bound to his deal." Meanwhile, Fishbowl DC is reporting that five editorial staffers were laid off at the Reader's sister paper today: Washington City Paper writers Joe Eaton, Amanda S. Miller, Tim Carman and Jessica Gould, and editorial assistant Joe Dempsey, are all no longer with the paper.

Continue ReadingChicago Reader & Washington City Paper Editorial Staffers Laid Off

Executive editor Mike Lenehan (pictured) left Chicago Reader, Inc. on Aug. 30, and as a result he has stepped down from his position as Diversity Chair on the AAN Board of Directors. AAN president Stephen Leon appointed Jackson Free Press editor and current at-large board member Donna Ladd to serve the one year remaining in Lenehan's term as Diversity Chair, and appointed East Bay Express publisher Jody Colley to take Ladd's at-large seat for the one year remaining in her term. "I think I speak for everyone on the board in expressing our gratitude for Mike's service over the years," Leon says. "We're going to miss his dry wit, and also his common sense." Lenehan has served on the board since 2002 and was elected as the association's first Diversity Chair in 2004.

Continue ReadingAAN Board Member Resigns, Two Others Appointed

CEO Ben Eason recently told the paper's distribution drivers that they would be terminated as salaried employees and made independent contractors following this week's issue, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The change would result in both a drop in income and a loss of benefits, and the majority of the 20-plus drivers have thus far rejected the offer. "It's just not economically viable anymore, and I don't know of any other alternative paper that works that way now," says Eason, who indicated if the stalemate couldn't be resolved, he would bring on new drivers. There have also been staff changes, according to the Sun-Times. Advertising director Don Humbertson and art director Sheila Sachs, both longtime Reader employees, have left the paper. "I don't want people to think that because we were purchased that folks have come in and made decisions to act against our best interests," publisher Michael Crystal tells the Chicago Tribune. "It's very simple for people to point fingers at new ownership and all that kind of thing. We're just trying to wade through this in a way that makes sense."

Continue ReadingCreative Loafing Starts to Make Changes at the Chicago Reader

Janet Reynolds, a 20-year veteran of publishing group New Mass. Media, will leave the papers on Sept. 28 as part of a company-wide restructuring. "Publishing a newspaper has always been a challenging business particularly in the last few years," says Reynolds, who began as a listings editor at the Hartford Advocate in 1986 and has since served as a reporter, managing editor, editor and publisher within the New England-based chain, which was acquired by the Tribune Company's Hartford Courant in 1999. "I feel that I met many of those challenges and am able to leave them in good shape and in good capable hands that will take them to the next level." Josh Mamis, currently group publisher of New Mass. Media's two other alt-weeklies, the New Haven Advocate and Fairfield County Weekly, was named group publisher for all four papers, their websites and other products. Sean Hitchcock and Do-Han Allen will assume associate publisher roles at Fairfield County Weekly and the Valley Advocate, respectively.

Continue ReadingHartford/Valley Advocate Group Publisher to Step Down