By: Mark Fitzgerald
Six months after it was folded in a controversial deal that also killed a Los Angeles alternative paper, the Cleveland Free Times will resume publication in May with an ownership group headed by former Publisher Matt Fabyan and Editor in Chief David Eden. In a separate action, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) cleared Southland Publishing Inc., a small but fast-growing California alternative-newspaper chain, to acquire the assets of the shuttered New Times Los Angeles.
Both transactions arose from a DOJ antitrust consent decree that unwound an Oct. 1 deal in which Village Voice Media LLC and NT Media LLC (New Times) each agreed to shut down a competing alternative in Los Angeles and Cleveland. Voice Media folded the Free Times, leaving NT Media’s Cleveland Scene as the city’s only alternative, while NT folded New Times L.A., which competed with Voice Media’s LA Weekly. As part of the consent decree, the Scene and LA Weekly for a two-year period that began Jan. 27 must allow advertisers to terminate without penalty contracts entered into since the Oct. 1 deal.
Publisher Fabyan said he’s eager to resume competition with the Scene: “We had a whole lot of momentum going, and had it not been for the L.A. situation, we would have kept going.” The paper, he said, will have an initial press run of 60,000 copies, and work toward the 90,000 copies it distributed when it was folded. Ramon Larkin, publisher of the Scene, did not return a phone message. It remained unclear last week what plans Southland Publishing had for the assets of New Times L.A.