Alt-weeklies walked away with half of the 18 winning entries in the under-150,000 circulation category of the Association of Food Journalists awards announced last week. New Times foodies at Dallas Observer, SF Weekly and Riverfront Times each picked up a first-place prize, while Houston Press' Robb Walsh took home both a first- and second-place. Independent Weekly, Creative Loafing-Atlanta and Willamette Week were the other AAN winners in the AFJ's small-paper category. LA Weekly's Jonathan Gold, who won first-place in this year's AltWeekly Awards Food Writing category (Walsh placed second), also won first-place for Restaurant Criticism in the AFJ contest, in the 150,001-300,000 circulation category.
Recently departed L.A. Weekly writers like education reporter Howard Blume have been left baffled as to why they were fired or forced out. Pasadena Weekly reporter Joe Piasecki delves into changes at the 26-year-old Los Angeles alternative weekly that have led to staff anxiety and the filing of union grievances. Writer and union shop steward Erin Aubry Kaplan says the overall emphasis of the paper has gone to "softer stuff," but Editor-in-Chief Laurie Ochoa denies there is any trend toward "fluffier features and blander politics."
At least five L.A. Weekly senior editorial and art department employees -- including veteran education reporter Howard Blume -- have filed grievances with management via the International Association of Machinists, the paper's bargaining unit, reports L.A. Alternative Press. Most are alleging that they're being pushed out of their jobs without adequate union process as specified in their contracts and only because they make some of the paper's top union salaries. These charges come on the heels of the September ouster of several veteran employees at The Village Voice, which, like L.A. Weekly, is owned by Village Voice Media.
Nikki Finke, who writes the Deadline Hollywood column for L.A. Weekly, has become essential reading for those who follow the Industry, reports Los Angeles Magazine. Capitalizing on her position as both insider (with numerous longtime sources) and outsider (what studio exec would talk to an alt-weekly reporter?), she reveals, critiques and influences showbiz power. "Nikki is part of a tradition of women reporters in Hollywood who terrify people," says Vanity Fair contributing editor Bruce Feirstein.
They need to make a living but can't afford to let the conformity demanded by some day jobs sap their creative spirit. Independent Weekly's Leslie Land, Tucson Weekly's Marc Desilets and others explain the migration of musicians to the classified sales departments of alternative newsweeklies. What's the appeal? Good pay, good vibes -- altogether a decent daylight gig for a breed that Cincinnati CityBeat's Chuck Davis has dubbed "rawker-ad-hawkers."
"The source seeking anonymity isn’t 'bucking the system' -- he is the system," David Ehrenstein writes in L.A. Weekly. It's not just the Jayson Blairs of the news industry who deceive readers; it's those reporters who publish dubious information supplied by public relations representatives whose identity and motives remain concealed. In some journalistic circles, shoe-leather reporting has been replaced by a formula Ehrenstein describes this way: "Promise the bosses at your paper that you will get scoops, then cut deals with highly placed individuals to serve as their conduit to the front pages."
Cardinal Roger Mahony's three-point plan for handling some 500 claims of molestation by priests continues to exploit those seeking reparations, Jeffrey Anderson writes in L.A. Weekly. He describes how judges, trial lawyers and the media have deferred to the cardinal's desire for secrecy, and says Los Angeles "has become a beehive of intrigue at the expense of the collective psyche of already damaged victims of child rape."
U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski worked in the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans during the year leading up to the war. The same week the U.S. invaded Iraq, she retired so she could speak openly about what she says she observed: "a neoconservative coup, a hijacking of the Pentagon." Kwiatkowski tells L.A. Weekly's Marc Cooper the search for weapons of mass destruction was a façade—"they didn't expect to find anything"—and offers three motives for the war that never became part of the Republican Administration's spin.
After getting fired from Larry Flynt's L.A. Free Press, Jay Levin founded L.A. Weekly and put out the first issue on Dec. 7, 1978. Seed money came from several investors, including actor-producer Michael Douglas. In an interview with Kristine McKenna for the paper's 25th anniversary edition, Levin recalls the grueling early days when the L.A. Weekly was undercapitalized and then grew rapidly. The paper, now owned by Village Voice Media, had a strong emphasis on international as well as local news and was more progressive than it is today, Levin says. But rumors that the office was a hotbed of drug abuse and interoffice sex are wildly exaggerated.
Ron Curran (pictured), a "dogged, award- winning investigator and unblushing idealist" died this week in his Southern California home, according to his former employer, the LA Weekly. Curran, who left the Weekly after ten years to work at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, recently founded the alternative wire service, Pulp Syndicate. "Ron was one of the best writers and reporters I ever worked with," Bay Guardian Executive Editor Tim Redmond tells the Weekly.