The San Francisco Bay Guardian executive editor offers his take on the deal announced last week that will merge the Cleveland Free Times and Cleveland Scene under new owners Times Shamrock. He wonders why "VVM couldn't create a monopoly, [but] another newspaper outfit apparently can." He's referring to when the Justice Department nixed a similar 2002 deal between New Times and Village Voice Media (then two separate companies) that shuttered the Free Times. Justice forced the sale of Free Times to a group of investors, and the paper reopened in May 2003. "I'll leave it to you to speculate on why we couldn't do this deal, but Times Shamrock could," VVM executive editor Andy Van De Voorde says. Redmond says the Justice Department has yet to respond to his request for comment.
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."
The other shoe has dropped. Times-Shamrock just announced that it is buying Cleveland Free Times as well as the Cleveland Scene, and will merge the two publications into a single paper on July 23. The new paper will be called the Scene, and current Free Times publisher Matt Fabyan will run it. "This is a great addition to our existing group of alternative newsweeklies," says Don Farley, group publisher of Times-Shamrock's stable of alt-weeklies, which now numbers five. "We look forward to serving the greater Cleveland community for many, many years." UPDATE: Fabyan tells the Plain-Dealer that the deal had "been in the works for a while," and Crain's Cleveland Business reports that staffers at each paper are being asked to reapply to the new paper.
Village Voice Media announced today it is selling the Cleveland Scene to Times-Shamrock Communications. Terms of the purchase agreement are not being disclosed; the deal is expected to close on June 25. "We more than achieved our journalistic goals in Cleveland," VVM CEO Jim Larkin says of the paper the company bought in 1998. "This is a staff of remarkably talented and hard-working people. Unfortunately, after ten years, we weren't able to achieve our financial objectives." Times-Shamrock also owns AAN members Baltimore City Paper, Metro Times, the Orlando Weekly, and the San Antonio Current.
Continuum Books has published D.X. Ferris' book, 33 1/3: Reign in Blood, which examines the classic heavy metal record by Slayer. It is part of Continuum's 33 1/3 series, a growing collection of volumes about and inspired by classic albums. "Writing the book, I had two goals in mind," Ferris says. "First, I didn’t want to be the guy who screwed up a Slayer book. Second, I wanted present the story in a way that's compelling to both rabid Slayer fans and to NPR listeners who love pop music, but have never lost a shoe in a mosh pit."
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."
Lawyers and economists from the U.S. Justice Department are investigating if the Cleveland Free Times can "be a viable business in the current media climate" in the city, according to the Plain Dealer. The Free Times was closed in 2002 when its owner, Village Voice Media, agreed to shutter it, giving Cleveland's other alt-weekly, the New Times-owned Scene, a monopoly. (The two parent companies merged in 2005.) The Justice Dept. investigated that deal and forced the sale of Free Times to a group of investors. Former Free Times editor David Eden tells the Plain Dealer he was recently questioned by lawyers from Justice about whether or not he thought the paper could be turned around. He says he told them that Cleveland needs the paper's independent voice and he hopes it is sold to a local group rather than being bought out by the competition and closed. "It feels like deja vu all over again," he says.
Mike Smith will replace Chris Ferrell, who announced his departure to start a new media company last month. Smith, who has been with the company since 1997, will also be associate publisher of Nfocus magazine. "It was important to me and the Scene to search internally for Chris Ferrell's successor," says Stuart Folb, group publisher of Village Voice Media, which owns the Scene. "After interviewing Mike, there was no doubt that my search was over and that he was the right person for the job."