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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Staffing Cuts at Alt-Weeklies

Not sure if anyone else around here is paying attention to this, but there have been a bunch of staffing cuts recently at Creative Loafing-owned alt-weeklies, including the Chicago Reader and the Washington City Paper.

Creative Loafing Atlanta Editor Ken Edelstein gives an overview of the carnage:

In Atlanta, we laid off four sales people, a marketing assistant, a sales assistant and our wonderful assistant distribution manager — seven employees total. No Edit staff member was among those cuts, but that’s partly because we have a couple of open positions right now.

The edit departments at the Chicago Reader and the Washington City Paper – altweeklies that Creative Loafing Inc. bought last August — were hit a bit harder. Reader Editor Alison True had to lay off John Conroy and three other highly respected, longtime staff writers on Friday. City Paper Erik Wemple laid off four writers and an editorial assistant.


At the Reader, the cuts included Steve Bogira, who was on leave working on a book.

I'm pretty sure I saw Steve Bogira speak at an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies conference a few years ago. He wrote Courtroom 302, a widely-acclaimed account of a year in the life of a Chicago courtroom. 

If memory serves, he talked about investigative reporting, about the importance of developing sources and building a sound fundamental understanding of your beat, about how there are lots and lots of important stories out there in the world for reporters who take the time to find them.

I remember that he advised the writers in the audience to spend time in courthouses, to spend the day watching trial proceedings, even if we didn't necessarily have a story to cover. He said that's how he found some of his best stories.

I remember thinking, Yeah right, like I have the time to just hang out in a courthouse. I don't have the luxury of being able to do all of this background research.

Now, I guess, neither does he.

It's too bad. He's a great reporter.

I want to point out that the editorial staff at Seven Days is growing — we added a 2nd Staff Writer and a Food Editor in 2005, an Online Editor, a Videographer and a News Editor in 2007 —  but I have to admit that it's still hard for us to do the kind of research that Bogira recommended. I wonder how he'll subsidize his reporting from now on?

December 11, 2007 at 02:10 PM in Media/Keeping an eye on the competition | Permalink


You should make your videographer do "COURTROOM 802 - Sordid Tales of Rural Stenographers".

Posted by: Molly | Dec 11, 2007 6:46:24 PM

I'm on it!

Posted by: Eva | Dec 11, 2007 9:56:45 PM

Eep. That's scary...

Posted by: Mistress Maeve | Dec 11, 2007 9:59:05 PM

These cuts are VERY scary, given how negligent even the supposed cream of the mainstream media crop has become. Especially as the Iraq war madness--poorly reported on, at best--consumes ink, domestic crises grow to epidemic proportions with nary a word about them in print. I nearly gagged at the NYTimes' big story two days ago on horrifying delays in the Social Security disability claims process. As anyone who has been through the Orwellian ordeal knows, it's been like this for at least TWO DECADES. (Reagan christened the purge-the-rolls policy.)

Of course, under Bush it's getting worse. What isn't? Needless to say, the Times didn't run my letter thanking them for the news flash, and breaking the story that cavemen had just discovered fire.

At this point in American media history, if the alt-weeklies don't cover certain stories, they won't get written about at all. Hearing about staff cuts at sister papers--that's deeply disturbing news.

Posted by: Lisa Crean | Dec 12, 2007 5:55:43 PM

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