Politics & Media
Sep 30, 2008, 07:16AM

Print Media Crisis, Continued

The New York Sun, the Chicago Reader, the Washington City Paper—things are getting bleaker and bleaker.

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Creative Loafing, the campany that owns the Washington City Paper, the Chicago Reader and several other alt-weeklies across the country, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It might not be as bad as it looks:

Ben Eason, Creative Loafing’s Tampa-based CEO, said the company had a debt load of more than $40 million and was facing a Wednesday deadline for an interest payment.

“The company owed more money than it can pay back right now,” he said in a statement. “This will give us a fresh start. It is a reorganization, not a liquidation. Everybody gets paid.”

Advertising revenues in the last year have fallen up to 15 percent, the company said. Under a chapter 11 filing, a business usually continues to operate while a federal bankruptcy court oversees the reorganization of its debt and contractual obligations. Creative Loafing’s case was assigned to federal bankruptcy judge [...] in Tampa.

Hopefully the company can find a little elbow room in an industry with very little room to spare. It would be difficult to see great publications like the City Paper and the Chicago Reader go under because of money because, well, money keep publications in print. Case in point: the New York Sun. The Sun was a great paper that filled a niche and simply could not make ends meet as of today. That's the breaks.

The Washington City Paper is in the middle of a reorganization of its own. The Georgetown Voice ran a fantastic column that summed up the paper's moves away from traditional long-form narrative journalism and looks to incorporate more Web content with the print edition:

[City Paper's Editor in Chief Erik] Wemple believes that the key to keeping the City Paper successful despite the changes it is going through is to maintain its core of reporting and good writing, regardless of whether information is presented in paper or web format.

So even though “The District Line,” a 20 year-old, 1,000 word local news feature, and “Show & Tell,” a five-year old arts feature, were scrapped two weeks ago, Wemple is filling their void with content from the City Paper’s blogs. Amanda Hess, “Show and Tell’s” former writer and a recent graduate of the George Washington University, now devotes all her time to her new blog on the City Paper’s website, “the Sexist,” which covers sex and gender issues in the District and is the basis for a column in the print edition each week.

The column sites numerous sources that say the future of the City Paper lies with Wemple. But no matter how savvy an editor,  sometimes the best of evolution still lead to extinction. No, I don't think all newspapers are going the way of The Sun, but it will be quite interesting to see who survives, and in what form.

  • Along with so many fans of The New York Sun, I was distressed to read about its shutdown. Seth Lipsky is an extraordinary and courageous journalist, and the product he created with Ira Stoll was a must-read not only for its contrary editorials, but great sports and arts sections. It was a welcome (if low-circulation) antidote to the New York Times, which no matter what you think of the Times, is no small accomplishment.

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