In the nineteenth -- and final -- installment of this year's "How I Got That Story" series, Gus Garcia-Roberts talks to Phillip Bailey about his award-winning short news stories for Cleveland's Scene. Garcia-Roberts, an Academy for Alternative Journalism alum who was transferred to Miami New Times after the Scene's merger with Cleveland Free Times in June, covers meth addicts, rural farmers, nightclub owners, and cultural phenomena with equal aplomb in his entries. He tells Bailey how each story came about, reveals his reporting process, and offers advice to other young alt-weekly journalists. "Think small," Garcia-Roberts says. "Find weird people in your area that have no idea why you're writing about them, and do their strangeness justice."
Former stripper Michelle Peacock was exonerated by a jury of all charges on Tuesday, the Nashville Scene reports. Peacock is seeking at least $25,000 in compensatory and punitive damages from reporter P.J. Tobia, the Scene, and its parent company in a defamation suit over an October 2007 story which cited an arrest report detailing the alleged prostitution.
US District Judge Lesley Wells this week dismissed in its entirety a suit brought against the Scene by Dr. Edward Patrick. Patrick had argued that a 2004 article by Thomas Francis falsely suggested his resume was misleading, his medical credentials were not valid, and that his board certification process was fraudulent. The doctor sought compensation for defamation, invasion of privacy by disclosure of private facts, and false light invasion of privacy, all of which were thrown out by the court.
Calling Michelle Peacock's defamation suit "a masterpiece of minimalism," the On Point blog from Courthouse News Service notes that the paper has little to worry about. "[Peacock] won't be able to gloss over the common-law privilege which protects reporters from liability when they fairly and accurately report the information in a public document," On Point reports. "In commenting on Peacock's alleged mid-afternoon handjobs, the Nashville Scene didn't say anything that was not in the police reports. So the privilege clearly applies."
The Scene and staff writer P.J. Tobia were hit Wednesday with a defamation suit filed by a former stripper in response to a story published last October, the Nashville City Paper reports. Scene parent company City Press LLC, which is owned by Village Voice Media, was also named in the suit. Michelle Peacock alleges that Tobia's representation of her in the article resulted in injury to her character and reputation, and she's seeking at least $25,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. In the story, Tobia cited a police report that stated Peacock twice "offered to manually stimulate (an undercover cop) until ejaculation for $100 U.S. Dollars." According to the suit, Peacock "continues to suffer a diminution in her earnings and earning capacity" since the strip club refused to allow her to continue working there after the Scene story was published.
In the fifth installment of this year's "How I Got That Story" series, the Nashville Scene writers Tracy Moore and Matt Sullivan talk about their work on Nashville Cream, which garnered a first-place win in the blog category. In a city so strongly associated with country music, they chose to go a different way with the Scene's music blog, which has helped it stand out. "There's a misconception that Tennessee only covers country and honky tonk," Moore says, "So when I took over [the site], I really made the rock scene my thing."
Publisher Matt Fabyan tells the Cleveland Plain-Dealer that his fears of newsroom tension between employees of former competitors Cleveland Free Times and Scene were unfounded. "After the first day, people have jelled really well," he says. The Plain-Dealer runs down some facts about the new paper, which debuted last week after the two papers were merged by new owners Times-Shamrock. The first issue came in at 100 pages, which was up from 72 in Free Times' last issue and 60 in Scene's last one. The new paper's circulation is 60,000, which is 10,000 more than pre-merger circulation totals for each paper, but down from a high of 100,000 a few years ago. Fabyan also tells the P-D that total staff loss was about 10 people. Each paper had about 25 staff members pre-merger, and the new paper comes in around 40, half from the old Free Times and half from the old Scene.
"A month ago we were enemies, hunkered down in bunkers and trying to will each other into starvation or surrender; today, we share the same fax machine and make small talk in the elevators," Frank Lewis says of the now-merged Cleveland Free Times and Scene. "And between deadlines and the seemingly endless details inherent in merging two operations -- packing and unpacking, integrating computer systems, finding the goddamn coffee -- there's just been no time to nurse grudges." He adds: "What matters most now is figuring out what to do with this rare opportunity -- in the Rust Belt, at least -- to leave behind the hand-to-mouth, week-to-week existence, the paranoia and bitterness, and figure out how to make the most of a more stable future."
"The idea, of course, is that with no competition to siphon off advertisers or keep ad prices rock-bottom, one alt-weekly might accomplish what the Free Times and Scene couldn't: make enough money to survive," Scene managing editor Joe Tone says of the recently announced merger. "And it's hard to bemoan the consolidation. Had they not become one, the two papers would have eventually become none." However, Tone notes that, for now, Cleveland "will lose some journalists." In addition to former editor Pete Kotz, who has already left for Nashville, Tone says staff writer Lisa Rab and food critic Elaine Cicora have departed. Frank Lewis, who last week was named the new paper's editor, reports on the Free Times blog that the other managers have been named. Sean Misutka and Joe Strailey have been plucked from the Scene to be ad sales manager and classified sales manager, respectively. And three additional Free Times managers have found homes at the new paper: Steve Antol is the circulation manager; Tim Divis is the business manager, and Steve Miluch is the production manager.
AAN News has learned that Frank Lewis has been named the editor of the Scene, which is being merged with the Free Times by new owners Times-Shamrock on July 23. The announcement was made to the two staffs yesterday. Former Scene editor Pete Kotz began his tenure as editor of the Nashville Scene this week. Lewis joined the Free Times in 2005 after serving as the Scene's managing editor. Before that, he spent close to seven years at the Philadelphia City Paper.