Triangle Weeklies Spectator and Independent Plan Merger


The Independent and the Spectator, two longtime weekly competitors based in two different corners of the Triangle, announced today that they plan to merge into one newspaper to be known as the Independent.

The result will be a larger paper with the strongest features of both papers as well as local ownership and leadership, said Steve Schewel, president of Carolina Independent Publications, Inc. which owns the Independent. His company is acquiring the Spectator from Creative Loafing Inc., a Tampa-based group that also owns weekly papers in Atlanta, Charlotte and Tampa.

The two owners said they have signed a letter of intent and expect to conclude the merger by October. Both papers will continue to publish separately during that time, but Spectator advertisers will be offered continuing contracts in the surviving Independent if the merger is completed as planned.

“We’re thrilled to be acquiring the Spectator after nearly two decades of toe-to-toe competition,” said Schewel. “We recognize the loyalty of the Spectator’s readers and advertisers, and we welcome them with open arms. We’re committed to serving them by making sure that the merged paper includes the best of the Spectator — especially its focus on the Raleigh scene and its tradition of excellent arts and entertainment coverage.

“We were able to work out this acquisition because we admire the Creative Loafing folks and their commitment to great alternative journalism in the South,” Schewel said. “Instead of knocking heads with us in the Triangle, they can take the cash from this sale and build even better papers in the cities where they’re already very strong.”

Schewel noted that Sioux Watson, a 19-year veteran of the Independent and the paper’s publisher since 1999, will continue as publisher of the merged weekly. “Sioux will be the perfect ambassador to the Spectator’s readers and advertisers,” he said.

Ben Eason, CEO of Creative Loafing Inc., said, “The Triangle is a wonderful, prosperous, growing market, but it is difficult for two newspapers with similar missions and readerships to thrive and serve their readers as well as one newspaper can. We have known and respected the Independent’s leadership for a long time, especially their devotion to the good of this community. We think our readers and advertisers will be well served by this new combination of strengths.”

While some of the Spectator’s staff will be offered jobs with the Independent, Eason said his company will work diligently to help the rest of the staff with a transition to new employers as the merger moves closer.

“I can’t say enough good things about the competitive spirit and accomplishments of our staff,” Eason said. “One of us ultimately had to give in to create a single financially successful paper, and we yielded to local ownership.”

Eason cautioned that it is always possible that something will interfere with the completion of the merger and said the Spectator will compete vigorously and maintain its strong editorial content until the merger is completed.

“Our goal has always been to serve our readers with excellent judgment about arts and entertainment as well as politics in the Triangle and to serve our advertisers by taking their message to our more sophisticated, intelligent readership. We will keep doing that to the last day.”

The companies disclosed no financial terms of the transaction. Adam Abram of Omega Management Inc. represented the Independent in the negotiations.

Creative Loafing acquired the Spectator in 1997 from founder R. B. “Bernie” Reeves III. The paper, based in Raleigh, published its first edition in November 1978.

The Independent was founded in 1983 by Schewel and a number of other local citizens. The main office is in Durham with branch offices in Raleigh and Chapel Hill.

For Spectator:
Ben Eason, chairman and CEO, Creative Loafing Inc.
813-248-8888 /

Neil Skene, Senior Vice President, Creative Loafing Inc., and Editor and Publisher, Spectator
919-828-7393, ext. 248 /

For Independent:
Steve Schewel, president, Carolina Independent Publications, Inc.
919-286-1972, ext. 226 /

Sioux Watson, publisher, The Independent
919-286-1972, ext. 138 /

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