Free Press Walkout | Bleader

Free Press Walkout

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Will we ever see another edition of the Chicago Free Press? Several members of the staff, including editor in chief Matt Simonette, art director Vincent Lane, and senior writer Amy Wooten, have walked out, protesting a missed pay day and the generally unhappy working conditions they hold publisher David Costanzo responsible for. Costanzo's pit bull kept at the office figures in the bill of particulars.

A Former Chicago Free Press Employees group has been formed on Facebook, and at this moment it's up to 25 members, including Simonette, and also Louis Weisberg and Lisa Neff, who were founding editors ten years ago when the staff of Windy City Times walked out on publisher Jeff McCourt and started a new paper. Not everybody on Facebook worked there until the walkout (for example, Weisberg's with a paper in Milwaukee), and not everybody who worked there has left.

Someone who hasn't is theater editor Larry Bommer, who says he'll just keep writing, and if he's not paid for a while, so be it. "I haven't been paid since November," says Bommer, "but I never wrote for the gay press for the money." Bommer says he'll write just to keep the paper alive until -- he hopes -- a buyer comes along." Bommer isn't sure who walked out because he hasn't been in the office in weeks — he's no fan of the pit bull.

He tells me that general managers Jeff McBride and Bill Feld, who have been with the Free Press since the split with McCourt, are still there too, trying to scrape together the next issue while looking for someone to buy the paper from Costanzo. "They're trying to save the paper from him as much as for him," says Bommer.

But another Free Press contributor said in email about the exodus, "I can't imagine who's going to produce the paper without them, and I do know that we are all owed one, two or three paychecks."

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