Ohio state Sen. Kevin Coughlin has been dismissed as a defendant in James Renner's lawsuit over his termination by the Scene, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. The alt-weekly has requested the rest of the suit be tossed out as well; the judge is reportedly considering that request now. Renner's suit alleges he was unjustly fired over an unpublished story about an alleged affair involving Coughlin and a former campaign aide.
Village Voice Media executive associate editor Andy Van De Voorde tells the Tennessean that the Scene's rumored financial troubles were not what led the company to sell the paper to Nashville-based SouthComm, Inc. "I have no reason to believe that anyone wasn't pleased with [the Scene] financially," he says. Van De Voorde also says that Scene editor Pete Kotz, who came to Nashville after VVM's Cleveland Scene was merged with Free Times, will leave the paper but remain in the VVM chain. Whether other staffing changes are in the works is not yet clear, though Van De Voorde notes that all Scene and Nfocus magazine employees will receive two weeks severance, plus a week of pay for every year of service and unpaid vacation time from VVM -- whether or not they keep their jobs under the new owners.
Village Voice Media today confirmed the rumors that it is selling the Nashville Scene to SouthComm, Inc. VVM will also sell Nfocus magazine to the Nashville-based media company run by former Scene publisher Chris Ferrell. SouthComm also owns AAN member LEO Weekly. The deal is expected to close this Friday, and terms of the transaction are not being divulged. MORE: See SouthComm's statement on the transaction.
The Tennessean is reporting that Village Voice Media and SouthComm Communications are discussing the sale of the Nashville Scene, which VVM acquired in 2006. SouthComm, which is based in Nashville and run by former Scene publisher Chris Ferrell, also owns AAN member LEO Weekly and a handful of Nashville websites and publications.
The Tennessee alt-weekly celebrates the anniversary with a special issue with a number of essays looking back at how Nashville has changed in the past two decades -- and how the Scene has changed with it. "For our 10th anniversary issue, the Scene laid out an exhaustive history of how much the paper had changed in that brief, whirling, taken-for-granted decade," managing editor and longtime staffer Jim Ridley writes. "There's even more to cover now in the Scene saga -- a two-decade rollercoaster by which a local shopper transforms into a successful alt-weekly and ultimately a link in a national chain, while the media 'landscape' gradually comes to resemble the black-lighted computer ether-world of the '80s sci-fi fantasy Tron."
Four AAN members took home a total of 17 awards in the 31st Annual Ohio Excellence in Journalism Awards competition, hosted by the Press Club of Cleveland. The Other Paper was named "Best Non-Daily Newspaper in Ohio: Alternatives," with Cincinnati CityBeat taking second in that category. CityBeat also took home four additional awards, including first-place wins for Multiple Illustrations/One Story, Reviews/Criticism, and Single Illustration. Cleveland's Scene took home five total awards as well, including first-place finishes in the Best Section and Community/Local Coverage categories. The now-shuttered Cleveland Free Times won four awards, including firsts in Covers and Features. And in addition to its first place win mentioned above, The Other Paper was given two other awards.
James Renner says a story he wrote alleging that a Republican gubernatorial candidate had an affair with a former aide was killed after the politician threatened to file suit if it was published. Renner says that when he complained about this in an email to the CEO of Scene parent company Times Shamrock, he was fired. "I was told by both my publisher and my editor that the story was spiked because we couldn't afford another lawsuit," Renner tells Editor & Publisher. Times Shamrock CEO Matthew Haggerty begs to differ. "Our decisions concerning whether or not to publish any story, including the story referenced in Mr. Renner's lawsuit, is never dictated by the threat of potential litigation," he said in a statement. "Rather, Mr. Renner's draft story was passed over for publication because it did not meet management's basic standards of journalism as required of all our reporters and editors." In addition to demanding reinstatement, Renner is asking the court to declare the story he submitted to Scene not defamatory. The suit names the gubernatorial candidate in question, Ohio State Sen. Kevin Coughlin, as a defendant.
Louisiana's Independent Weekly reports that in 2008 it had to lay off one employee and that it recently instituted "a single digit, company-wide salary cut." The Nashville Scene says it is eliminating its books section, as well as News of the Weird and the New York Times crossword. Boise Weekly's publisher says that even though the "last quarter of 2008 was very disappointing ... it might have been the best we will see for awhile." Meanwhile, the Chicago Reader says goodbye to two of its departing editorial staffers, and Nat Hentoff talks to the New York Times about his plans post-Voice.
Three alt-weeklies have recently cut back in freelancer-generated content areas. SF Weekly theater reviewer Chloe Veltman writes that the paper's weekly Stage setion "will drop from three plays -- my 1,000-word column plus two 200-word capsule reviews -- to just my column." Over at sister paper the Nashville Scene, books contributor Maria Browning says on her blog that the book page has been eliminated from that paper altogether. And up in Massachusetts, Worcester Magazine will stop running the local bi-weekly comic "Action Geek."
James Renner's The Serial Killer's Apprentice: And 12 Other True Stories of Cleveland's Most Intriguing Unsolved Crimes, which was released on Halloween by Gray & Co., looks at 13 unsolved mysteries, from a 1964 murder of a teenager to the 2005 death of a dancer. It is Renner's second true-crime book.