The Chicago Reader cut more costs last week by firing four of its most experienced journalists. "Thousands of bloggers could type for a millennium and not come up with the kind of deeply reported story that freed innocent men," writes New York Times media columnist David Carr of the work of those fired. A millennium is a long time but that is probably totally true! But what's more: Does firing real journalists actually cut costs? A look at any newspaper's most popular stories suggests the most obvious thing of all: That reporting actually makes money for newspapers.
Lost amidst all the hubbub about Rupert Murdoch's takeover of Dow Jones is this little nugget: The little alternative weekly that could, the New York Press, got bought yesterday! Its new owners are "Manhattan Media." You may be familiar with their other publications, New York Family and AVENUE, not to mention a newish outfit called Our Town, Downtown. Doesn't that just sound so quaint! What's even quainter is that the new owners are going to merge Our Town, Downtown with the Press. Just when it seemed like it would be the perfect time for a real competitor to the New Times-ified Voice to emerge, the Press basically gets turned into a community paper. Then there are these reassuring words: "We also anticipate that most current New York Press employees will be joining the Manhattan Media family." (Does that include Martin Basroon, we wonder?) The full memo follows.
Yesterday's news that the alt-weeklies Chicago Reader and Washington City Paper had been sold to Creative Loafing, which owns a few alt-weeklies in the Southeast, left some people a little puzzled—especially employees of both papers, who didn't seem aware in the slightest that their publications were on the block at all. Over on the Reader's website, commenters are debating what it means that Creative Loafing bought the paper; the general sentiment seems to be cynicism and wariness of an outsider company buying their beloved Reader. So what does the sale portend for the state of alt-weeklies in this country? Is Creative Loafing emerging as the only viable national competitor to Village Voice Media?
Revolving doors! The Boston Phoenix has named a new editor. The Phoenix notes that Lance Gould, a veteran New York journalist, will begin his tenure in Boston in late April. The former editor at the Daily News and Spy magazine (Unfunny Years edition), comes from a stint at Radar and replaces Bill Jensen, "who left the Phoenix to become director of online operations for Village Voice Media" (where he spends his time conspiring against editors and writing crazy-ass essays.) But times, oh they have changed for the alt weeklies.
This week's Boston Phoenix has a must-read piece on the fallout from the New Times-Village Voice merger. We've seen some of the effects locally, but the Phoenix's Adam Reilly takes the pulse throughout the country and, guess what? The news is not so good. Again, you should really read the whole thing, but here are a couple of highlights.
Late yesterday afternoon, it was announced that incoming Village Voice EIC Erik Wemple had changed his mind about the whole job thing, quitting before he had officially started. The official response was that he had encountered disagreements over newsroom management, and Village Voice Media executive editor Michael Lacey explained, "The Voice is an enormous and complex horse race. We asked Erik to mount several ponies mid-stride, and he was alarmed to find us still in several of those saddles." Gee, thanks for the clarification.
So you were once a Harvard wunderkind, a spritely hipster with real talent, but then you blew your decent gig at a major alt-weekly by fabricating, of all things, the details in your cover story. You got canned, your editor resigned, and your name became synonymous with journalistic jackassery. For such a young guy, you fucked up pretty badly.
• Justin Timberlake comes to ex-girlfriend Britney Spears's defense: "It's, like, leave the girl alone." Powerful words there, homeskillet. [Yahoo!]
• Paris Hilton faces a $10M lawsuit from model Zeta Graff, who claims the heiress planted lies about Graff in the venerable pages of Page Six. [CourtTV]
• When pressed about a possible tryst with lady-beating actor Tom Sizemore, Paris Hilton claims to have never met him. Photographs, however, seem to suggest otherwise. [Gossiplist]
• Heartbreaking staggerer Dave Eggers, with the help of director Spike Jonze, draws pornographic pictures. Someday, he'll show them to his newborn daughter, October. And yet another celebrity child is doomed! [NYT]
• Seattle Stranger pervy genius Dan Savage saw the Village Voice-New Times union coming, but wonders whether this is a merger or a buy-out. We hate it when we're reliant on semantics to tell us how to feel about these things. [The Stranger]
• We can't imagine anything called Chilifest requiring tailored pants. [Craigslist]
Things haven't been particularly lovely at the offices of the Village Voice, but life at our sole alt-weekly survivor seems to be getting even worse. Late last week, editor Don Forst chucked his cranky feces at the office fan, prompting outrage at new pay cuts, ranging from 25-40%, which will mostly affect senior editors and salaried staffers (freelancers' rates were already slashed prior to last week). The changes aren't in writing (likely be etched in stone by tomorrow) but, considering the staff just settled on a new contract, the union has threatened another walk-out on Tuesday.
So what gives? We've been hearing rumors of a "merger" with the New Times publishing house, which is a bit like the McDonald's of alt-weeklies. Staffers don't know what, exactly, is happening, but perhaps that's because all the email negotiations have been double super-secret secured, thus preventing the leak of any details. Nevertheless, the rumors are not unsubstantiated.