Alternative Weeklies Get Alternative Owners

By: Lucia Moses

Alternative weekly newspapers in both New York and Omaha, Neb., will ring in the new year with new owners.

Russ Smith, who founded the New York Press with the goal of unseating The Village Voice as the city’s dominant alternative, is seeing the paper sold about halfway to his goal: The Press‘ free distribution is 115,000, and the Voice‘s free distribution is 230,422, according to the 2002 Editor & Publisher International Year Book.

The Press sprang to life in 1988 as a free-distribution alternative to the paid-circulation Voice. The Voice adopted the Press‘ economic model six years later, and today maintains its strong No. 1 position in the Big Apple’s alt-weekly race.

Purchasing the Press Monday were Charles Colletti and Doug Meadow, who will serve the newly created New York Press LLC as president and chief operating officer, respectively. The purchase price was not disclosed, but a New York Post report on Tuesday estimated it at about $5 million.

Smith, who also founded and sold the Baltimore City Paper and the Washington City Paper, will continue to write his once-anonymous “Mugger” column for the Press.

In Nebraska, Omaha Weekly Editor and Publisher John Heaston announced that he has bought The Reader of that city from the late Alan Baer’s family for an undisclosed price and plans to merge it with the smaller Weekly, the daily Omaha World-Herald reported Saturday.

Heaston helped in 1994 to launch The Reader, a member of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies with a free distribution of about 30,000. He went on to sell his stake and found the Weekly, a free and subscription-based tabloid, in 2000. The combined paper will be called Omaha Weekly Reader, at least initially.

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