Creative Loafing Inc, New Times, and other pubs--budget cuts, freelancing or blogging for free

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Reading about Creative Loafing Inc's latest cutbacks at the Washington City Paper and the Chicago Reader. Thought I'd create a new catch-all thread for this as it relates to writing about music (see the older thread about New Times and the Village Voice)

curmudgeon, Saturday, 8 December 2007 18:02 (nine years ago) Permalink

Village Voice Media being acquired by New Times very soon

curmudgeon, Saturday, 8 December 2007 18:04 (nine years ago) Permalink

But now comes word from the Chicago Reader that there was more going on with this sale than first met the eye. Reader editor Michael Miner reports that "the owners who spoke for the Reader were being sued by a founder they'd stripped of operational authority some 20 years earlier." That founder, Tom Rehwaldt, accused his former partners of scheming to sell the Reader and City Paper, as well as the company's other holdings, in an inside, sweetheart deal rather than trying to get a better return from another party. And Rehwaldt had another party in mind--New Times, the country's largest owner of alternative weeklies.

The Reader story provides a little insight into the troubled state of alternative weeklies in the age of the Internet, and specifically into the City Paper's bottom line: "the Reader's net income, 'typically approximately 30% of revenues' in the late 80s, had declined to a small operating loss in 2006, while profits of the Washington Free Weekly, Inc., which published the Washington City Paper and was controlled by the same officers and investors, dropped from about 15 percent of revenues to 6.7 percent. (Because classified revenues were never as important to City Paper as they were to the Reader, the Washington paper was less affected by the free classifieds introduced by Craigslist.)"

The other owners of the Reader vehemently disagree with their ex-partner's version of reality and say that while they were talking to various companies about selling the papers, they would never have sought a deal that would bring in a smaller return and especially not simply to spite Rehwaldt, as his lawsuit contends.

As it turns out, the papers were sold to a Tampa company called Creative Loafing, which says it will trim expenses and maintain the current editorial leadership of City Paper. Rehwaldt, meanwhile, got his cut of the sale and went away.

By Marc Fisher | August 27, 2007; 2:24 PM ET Washington Post blog

curmudgeon, Saturday, 8 December 2007 18:07 (nine years ago) Permalink

one month passes...

Washington City Paper keeps losing writers. Publisher Creative Loafing fired some right before X-mas and others are just leaving. Longtimer Dave Nuttycombe left, and there were no movie reviews from Mark Jenkins in the latest. He's now blogging at

curmudgeon, Monday, 14 January 2008 15:00 (nine years ago) Permalink

Great thread.

Dom Passantino, Monday, 14 January 2008 15:05 (nine years ago) Permalink

Why Should People Be Paid For Writing About Music?

curmudgeon, Monday, 14 January 2008 15:45 (nine years ago) Permalink

eight months pass...


With a $40 million loan default looming, Creative Loafing Inc., the owner of Washington City Paper and a handful of other weeklies across the U.S., sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday.

According to a filing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court’s Middle District of Florida, Tampa, Fla.-based Creative Loafing reported estimated assets of between $10 million and $50 million and liabilities of the same amount.

In July 2007 it bought the Chicago Reader and Washington City Paper, which were both controlled by founders of Chicago Reader.

But the company “disavows a causal link between those acquisitions and the bankruptcy filing,” according to Erik Wemple, editor-in-chief of the 26-year-old Washington City Paper, in a Monday morning blog post.

Ben Eason, Creative Loafing chief executive, told the company’s staff from his Tampa office that “the step would allow the six papers in the Creative Loafing portfolio to establish a greater online presence while the company reorganizes its operations,” according to Wemple’s report.

Eason’s family founded the first Creative Loafing newspaper in Atlanta in 1972.

Eason also said the bankruptcy filing won’t result in liquidation or layoffs, according to Wemple, and that Creative Loafing employees and vendors will be paid on time.

In addition, Eason announced that editorial staff cuts at every paper would be “rolled back” but said all the papers should “proceed with “Web-first” publishing strategies,” reported Wemple.

The bankruptcy filing comes the same day Creative Loafing sued Atalaya Administrative LLC, Atalaya Funding II LP and BIA Digital Partners SBIC II LP asking a judge to stop a default on $40 million in loans. In the suit, filed with the same court, Creative Loafing said the lenders failed to act in good faith when they refused to negotiate lowering the financial covenants. Without the injunction, Creative Loafing says it has no other options in stopping the default, as it would be “too late to save the debtors’ businesses, reputation, and close-knit and effective management.”

Eason, however, did not address the lawsuit pending against the lenders. According to the injunction request, Creative Loafing received a $30 million secured loan from Anacapa Funding I LLC out of Georgia — a predecessor to Atalaya Funding — in July 2007 to acquire both the Chicago Reader and the Washington City Paper, including a paying down of $15 million in debt for both papers.

At the same time, Creative Loafing borrowed $10 million from BIA. All $40 million remains outstanding, according to court documents.

By February, “downward pressures” in the economy as well as the housing market drop forced Creative Loafing to seek forbearance agreements with both Atalaya and BIA because Creative Loafing could not generate enough revenue to pay the interest rate of the loans, according to court documents.

Several months later, Creative Loafing sought to revise its financial covenants with the two lenders even more. However, on Sept. 11, Atalaya demanded Creative Loafing raise $15 million in new capital to pay down Atalaya’s loan.

Creative Loafing hired Skyway Capital LLC to help raise the money, but Atalaya by then declared the media company in default, saying Creative Loafing was in breach of its senior forbearance agreement, leading to the bankruptcy filing.

In its bankruptcy filing, Creative Loafing claims less than $500,000 in unsecured claims from shareholder loans by Eason as well as Scott Walsey of Marietta, Ga. Eighteen other creditors are listed, but no claim amounts were provided.

Creative Loafing has publications in Tampa, Sarasota, Atlanta, Chicago, D.C. and Charlotte, N.C.

It claims a combined circulation of 425,000 with Web sites that reach 2 million unique visitors monthly.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 30 September 2008 05:42 (nine years ago) Permalink

“This is all about a fresh start,” stated Eason, who hastened to add that the filing entails no liquidation, no layoffs, and “no terrible, terrible things.” All Creative Loafing employees and vendors will be paid on schedule, he said.

The move does contain good news for editorial departments in the chain. Eason announced that cuts to edit staffs at all the papers would be rolled back but stressed that all the papers should proceed with “Web-first” publishing strategies, in which writers and editors customize their content for the Internet and subsequently transfer that content into their print products.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 30 September 2008 05:44 (nine years ago) Permalink

I should have mentioned the Chicago Reader in the title. CL bought and is killing them slowly as well.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 30 September 2008 17:15 (nine years ago) Permalink,CST-FIN-reader30WEB-w.article

Still at the time of Eason's acquisition of the Reader, some wondered if the new owner may have overpaid for the well-known property, given the rapidly deteriorating state of newspaper advertising revenue. "I don't think so," said Eason. Whatever the case, the accelerating decline in print revenue throughout the Creative Loafing chain apparently precipitated the bankruptcy filing, though Eason remains optimistic about the future of online advertising. "I think we as publishers have to see and understand clearly the convergence of the print and Web products," Eason said.

Eason had made substantial changes at the Reader in the little more than a year that he has owned the newspaper. The paper cut its full-time staff and shrunk to one section instead of four. It is now printed in Milwaukee instead of Chicago.

Reader Publisher Michael Crystal had just exited the paper, and Creative Loafing Chief Operating Officer Kirk MacDonald was installed as interim publisher. Steve Timble, the founding publisher of the weekly Time Out Chicago, was set to come on board this week as the Reader's associate publisher. Per Eason, Timble, who could not be reached for comment, is in line to become the Reader's next publisher.

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 1 October 2008 16:38 (nine years ago) Permalink

If you want to get REALLY bummed:

jigglepanda.gif (Whiney G. Weingarten), Wednesday, 1 October 2008 18:59 (nine years ago) Permalink

To staffers, Eason has been holding up the Huffington Post’s Chicago website as a model. It has one employee, who essentially sifts through every media outlet in Chicago for the best stories and then links to them. He’s a filter of content, but not a creator of one. Eason is in awe of the model.
Eason wants his journalists to be filling their websites up every day with fresh content. And not just fresh content, but links to other stories written by anyone in the world. “I’ll use [CL staff writer] Andisheh Nouraee as an example. I love what the guy writes. But I’m also interested in going, ‘What are you looking at in the morning, what’s cracking you up, what kind of crazy shit are you pulling off the web?


What kind of crazy shit are you pulling off the web? I'll remember that as a good joke line.

Eason seems to be going in the same direction as the webside operation of the Los Angeles Times. They're nuts for crazy shit from the web, too. Fortunately, as a subscriber I can choose to skip the crazy.

Gorge, Wednesday, 1 October 2008 19:40 (nine years ago) Permalink

Since Eason acquired the Washington Cp and the Chicago Reader, and increased his network of papers, advertising has gone down in the Washington Cp. That on top of the the large out of pockets costs for the purchases of the 2 papers means his grand plan did not work.

curmudgeon, Thursday, 2 October 2008 12:59 (nine years ago) Permalink

one month passes...

The Los Angeles Times just got rid of a bunch of folks including Agustin Gurza who wrote lots of well-written pieces about Latin musicians from many genres

curmudgeon, Saturday, 8 November 2008 22:24 (nine years ago) Permalink

curmudgeon, Saturday, 8 November 2008 22:28 (nine years ago) Permalink

Yeah, letting Gurza go is a damn shame. Extremely thoughtful and engaging writer on numerous fronts.

Ned Raggett, Saturday, 8 November 2008 22:28 (nine years ago) Permalink

More on Creative Loafing and the Chicago Reader (Creative Loafing owned Washington City Paper keeps cutting back also)

curmudgeon, Friday, 21 November 2008 23:17 (nine years ago) Permalink

four weeks pass...

The Washington Post is going to make big cuts to its Style section that covers the arts. They used to employ 15 freelancers to review 40 some concerts a month. Now they are getting rid of 10 freelancers, and shrinking the section. More fulltimers are aalso leaving through buyouts. Not good.

curmudgeon, Saturday, 20 December 2008 15:04 (eight years ago) Permalink

one month passes...

The Washington Post is putting some reviews online and not in the print edition.

more doom and gloom here:

curmudgeon, Thursday, 22 January 2009 17:41 (eight years ago) Permalink

chicago reader has gone WAY downhill since the creative loafing purchase. i used to read it every week, now i rarely pick it up

congratulations (n/a), Thursday, 22 January 2009 17:44 (eight years ago) Permalink

Glad I live in a city where I don't have to read a CL or NT paper. The Bay Guardian seems positively amazing by comparison to these.

Alex in SF, Thursday, 22 January 2009 17:54 (eight years ago) Permalink

Lucky to have The Stranger here.

If Timi Yuro would be still alive, most other singers could shut up, Thursday, 22 January 2009 22:45 (eight years ago) Permalink

yeah the Guardian is pretty good, altho I wish they carried Savage Love.

Courtney Love's Jew Loan Officer (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 22 January 2009 22:48 (eight years ago) Permalink

Gah, I worked for the Washington City Paper pre-Loafing, when it was just owned by the Chicago Reader. Things seemed pretty dire even then; one certainly couldn't count on a steady income from freelancing. Now it seems one is lucky to get anything at all; eesh.

Ye Mad Puffin, Friday, 23 January 2009 21:33 (eight years ago) Permalink

If you want to get REALLY bummed:

― jigglepanda.gif (Whiney G. Weingarten), Wednesday, October 1, 2008 2:59 PM (3 months ago) Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink

dang that article is crazy

In 2006, Mara Shalhoup’s stories on the Black Mafia Family led to a book deal and to her being named Journalist of the Year by the Atlanta Press Club.

the BMF series they did was amazing btw -

゙(゚、 。 7 (cankles), Friday, 23 January 2009 21:53 (eight years ago) Permalink

Puffin, when were youat City Paper? I used to freelance for them.

If Timi Yuro would be still alive, most other singers could shut up, Friday, 23 January 2009 22:09 (eight years ago) Permalink

Roundabout 97-99, IfTimi.

The Mad Puffin, Saturday, 24 January 2009 03:23 (eight years ago) Permalink

Ah, so you knew Glenn? I moved to Seattle in '98; that's when my City Paper stuff stopped.

If Timi Yuro would be still alive, most other singers could shut up, Saturday, 24 January 2009 03:32 (eight years ago) Permalink

Glenn, if you're talking about Glenn Dixon, has been doing some writing for the Express for the past few years, the freebie paper that the Washington Post hands out at subway stations and elsewhere Monday through Friday (plus it has a website -

curmudgeon, Sunday, 25 January 2009 04:03 (eight years ago) Permalink

Wow, someone wants to buy all the Creating Loafing owned papers

curmudgeon, Friday, 6 February 2009 17:45 (eight years ago) Permalink

chicago reader has gone WAY downhill since the creative loafing purchase. i used to read it every week, now i rarely pick it up

I think this has less to do with Creative Loafing and more to do with the realities of the newspaper industry in 2009. When Creative Loafing took charge, the only thing that really changed was the move to a tabloid format (and Reader staffers claimed, truthfully or not, that that was in the works prior to the takeover). It's gotten worse recently just because so much has disappeared from the paper: writers have been fired, listings have shrunk (first in art, now in music and theater). And I'm guessing that's the result of budgetary decisions rather than a new editorial dictate. (Also, the absence of Jonathan Rosenbaum, regardless of how you feel about him as a critic, certainly lessens the paper's prestige, but I think that was a voluntary retirement once he reached 65 and decided he didn't want to keep up with new releases each week. Although I guess you could argue that the paper's failure to hire another critic to supplement J.R. Jones's work demonstrates a decline of sorts.)

Bianca Jagger (jaymc), Friday, 6 February 2009 18:40 (eight years ago) Permalink

Creative Loafing, which had financial problems to begin with, paid too much for the Chicago Reader and Washington City Paper, and guessed wrong regarding how much new advertising they could get by becoming a national chain, and by how cutting expenses and slashing writers would not affect the reputations or readerships of the papers. Yea, the economy for newspapers is bad, but CL's behavior made things worse and thus affected the editorial dictate. Plus, the CL head has made clear statements about editorial dictate, so I don't agree w/ giving him a free ride just because of the "realities of the newspaper industry in 2009." Alt-weeklies elsewhere may be struggling, but not to this degree.

curmudgeon, Friday, 6 February 2009 20:17 (eight years ago) Permalink

New City actually has a strong issue this week. Cover story is on Googie architecture in Chicago, the reviews are fairly long (though formatted as one long paragraph), and they cover an underground variety show and other non-commercial things going on here. Plus Free Will Astrology.

Eazy, Friday, 6 February 2009 20:20 (eight years ago) Permalink

I'm frankly amazed that New City still exists.

Bianca Jagger (jaymc), Friday, 6 February 2009 21:10 (eight years ago) Permalink

one month passes...

From Creative Loafing's website on March 31, 2009:

Ben Eason, whose family started Creative Loafing in Atlanta in 1972, was vindicated in a federal bankruptcy court in Tampa today, as a judge ruled against a lender’s effort to take control of the nation’s second-largest chain of alt-weekly newspapers.

Judge Caryl E. Delano said despite contradictory (and flawed, in her estimation) reports about the chain’s value since going into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September 2008, there was no evidence given that Eason’s management of the media company is harming its value, as lender Atalaya Capital Management had maintained in its effort to dislodge Eason and the current management.

To the contrary, Delano read from the bench, three days of hearings showed that Eason’s management had done a lot to preserve value, by making budget cuts and introducing an emphasis on web publishing models, including one in Tampa that has produced a sharp increase in web traffic while making the print edition a break-even proposition instead of a money-losing one.

“I find that Atalaya has not met its initial burden of proof and is not entitled to relief [from court stays against it foreclosing on the company's debt] at this time,” Delano said.

For Eason, who has been slagged by some former employees and in anonymous blog comments, the ruling was more than satisfying, even if the company still has a long way to go in winning confirmation and release from bankruptcy court.

“I’m psyched,” Eason said as he exited an elevator on the ground floor of the Sam Gibbons Federal Courthouse. “Just to have it over with. She came to a pretty solid decision at this point.”

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 1 April 2009 14:16 (eight years ago) Permalink

three months pass...

Will Eason be able to hold on to the Chicago Reader and Washington City Paper?

curmudgeon, Friday, 24 July 2009 01:51 (eight years ago) Permalink

one month passes...

Eason lost. Will the new owners hold on to all the papers or sell off some of them? What other changes might they make?

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 25 August 2009 20:51 (eight years ago) Permalink

Guessing about whether things will improve at the Chicago Reader...

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 26 August 2009 12:20 (eight years ago) Permalink

eight months pass...

Ch-Cha-Changes in Washington at the City Paper plus new arts editor Jon Fischer from Philly

curmudgeon, Thursday, 29 April 2010 13:38 (seven years ago) Permalink

Some folks only do better paying cd reviews for the Washington City Paper (that appear in print and online) rather than also doing Washington City Paper Arts Desk blog posts that pay less

curmudgeon, Thursday, 29 April 2010 13:40 (seven years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

the reader's mike miner is skeptical:

congratulations (n/a), Monday, 12 March 2012 19:39 (five years ago) Permalink


We're a little surprised that the Sun-Times, not long out of bankruptcy itself, can afford to buy anybody. Maybe we should buy them first. There's talk here of passing the hat, and if we reach three figures making an offer they can't refuse. More likely though, the money's going to wind up in the March Madness pot. Better chance of a decent return.

congratulations (n/a), Monday, 12 March 2012 19:39 (five years ago) Permalink

Only so many Chicago hipsters, it appears:

Rising competition from Time Out Chicago also has hurt the Reader, Mr. Whitaker noted. Before that weekly magazine appeared on the market in 2005, the Reader's subscriber and advertising base was distinct from many other outlets in Chicago because it had particular appeal to the “hipster” set, but Time Out and others now target that audience, he said.

Bulkley and Atalaya didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. Chicago Reader Publisher Alison Draper also couldn't be reached.

Last October, Atalaya sold the other two papers, the Creative Loafing weeklies in Tampa and Charlotte, N.C., to SouthComm Inc., which is based in Nashville, Tenn.

Phoenix-based Village Voice Media Holdings LLC, which owns news weeklies across the country including the Village Voice in New York and the Phoenix New Times, also would be possible candidate to buy the Chicago Reader, said industry observers, who weren't aware of such talks. While SouthComm was also mentioned as a possible purchaser, it has tended to focus on smaller markets.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 13 March 2012 15:13 (five years ago) Permalink


Laura Lucy Lynn (La Lechera), Tuesday, 13 March 2012 15:15 (five years ago) Permalink

Pay was pretty low even before this

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 14 March 2012 19:55 (five years ago) Permalink

two months pass...

The deal is not final yet. Atalaya slowly selling off alt-weekles they acquired-- they still own the Washington City Paper and other ones.

curmudgeon, Monday, 14 May 2012 13:45 (five years ago) Permalink

The Slow, Agonizing Death of National Alt-Weekly CD Reviews

related issue

curmudgeon, Monday, 14 May 2012 13:47 (five years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

Aw man

Beatrix Kiddo (Raymond Cummings), Thursday, 25 July 2013 02:32 (four years ago) Permalink

two months pass...

more related discussion below in October 2013 posts

pitchfork is dumb (#34985859340293849494 in a series.)

curmudgeon, Thursday, 24 October 2013 17:07 (four years ago) Permalink

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