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A Pessimist's Perspective

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Dear Reader editors and staff,

Sorry about the news. I hope you are too.

In the press release for the sale of the Reader President Bob Roth (or whoever wrote the release) says:". . . we've been able to make careers doing work we love and to establish papers that are vital parts of the communities they serve. We had a great ride. Now we're happily handing the keys to a new generation, Creative Loafing and their CEO Ben Eason."

I guess the board of directors must have forgotten to take a look at Creative Loafing's flagship and namesake paper. Creative Loafing is kind of like the bad parts (or, all) of Time Out, RedEye, and the Red Streak put together. Put together sounds too organized and legible; I mean smashed together in a poor and ugly and unreadable design layout, which was tabloid-style last time I saw it. The "loafing" part of the paper seems to be the more dominant side. CL is consistently the opposite of creative when it comes to cover art, inside art, photos, layout, copy, everything else. You might not be able to judge a book by its cover, but you may judge your "independent" weekly that way (that's kind of the point of the cover). The current cover article for Charlotte's CL: a story about predatory moneylenders, or in the parlance what are called loan sharks. The graphic: A shark in a suit at a desk.

Another case in point: check out their Web site. The symbol for radioactive fallout covered by the slogan "Shelter From the Mainstream" is right out of a 90s "alternative rock" radio station spot by Clear Channel. These are the Reader's new parents? Nice knowing you, but I don't think I want to hang out anymore.

I guess it's to be expected, though. If the Reader was cutting edges back in the 70s, now it's getting on in years and the edges that need cut demarcate the front yard. Plus, it's nice to relax and watch the investments dry.

Waxing chummy in his blog, Michael Miner says that CL won't meddle too much in the Reader's editorial routines. Classic takeover operation: keep the ballast, change the flag. But the Reader is all flag, if you ask me, and I mean that in a good way. We're not going to lose The List or general reviews or such and such, the ineluctable shit that keeps the paper rolling, but come New Year's will there still be a fiction issue? Come spring will there still be stories from the greater midwestern region? None of the other cities Creative Loafing has its sea-salt and saliva fingers poked in (Atlanta, Sarasota, Charlotte, Tampa) have anywhere near the magnitude of local cool shit happening that we do. Will CL allow the Reader to keep a focus on all the hometown happenings?

Let's see. The cover story this week in Atlanta's Creative Loafing, obviously their majormarket heretofore: Mayor Bloomberg, of New York City, is suing his gun shops. The cover story for the current Tampa issue is also the cover story for their Sarasota weekly: a diarist's op-ed about the author's change in preference of baseball team from the Red Sox to the Devil Rays. Syndication is cool and everything, but what happens when CL CEO Ben Eason's kid wants to become a creative like his dad and granddad, picks Oberlin College, and all of a sudden the Reader needs to pinch a bit to save money? Will we get syndicated op-eds out of fucking Florida?

Also in Miner's blog, a paragraph of brand-consumer-content bizznasty lingo from his new boss (Eason), speaking some bullshit about "The addition of two top-ten markets--and two of the industry's most respected alternative news products--offers us a pivotal gateway of connectivity . . . ." That "addition of two top-ten markets, etc . . ." is to be worried about, if you care about your local paper. What he is saying is that he will increase profits of all their papers by criss-crossing (or homogenizing) content and ad interests through his new goddamned "pivotal gateway of connectivity." What is such a device? I don't know, a turret gun?

Forgive me of foreboding a little too much like Ben Joravsky, but when the Reader changes in the future, like property taxes supposedly will, remember back when they said nothing would change. I don't own any property in Chicago, but I do have an interest in the Reader. Not for long though, I'm putting it up on Craigslist. Maybe somebody with a pivotal gateway of connectivity can make better use of it.

Jonathon Simpson

Chicago reader

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