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At the time, the Creative Loafing chain of newspapers—which consisted of nine weeklies and one monthly— was the third-largest chain of its kind in the nation. Debby Eason: The sale split our family up, for at least a couple of years. We had been talking about selling to [the Village Voice ]. It was a total shock. I was She could have gone like 80 miles an hour, not The most significant hire Debby Eason made before she lost control of the company was in , when she coaxed Edelstein to return to CL , this time as managing editor.
Two years later, he was named editor-in-chief.
Edelstein lured flight attendant and part-time memoirist Hollis Gillespie from competitor Poets, Artists, and Madmen , gave a local photographer and stunt presidential candidate named Andisheh Nouraee a tongue-in-cheek nightlife column, and challenged young reporters to chase stories no other outlet would tell. You also have to acknowledge your own point of view. Wall had been a reporter at the Atlanta Business Chronicle in when Edelstein lured him to Creative Loafing , where he covered the General Assembly and the environment.
He also wrote the first stories about what would become the BeltLine. That was frustrating. CL seemed more intellectually honest to me. Ken called me out of the blue. But it was flattering. What was his pitch? A paycut at a much less reputable newspaper! Edelstein: I was very lucky that I came in at a time when Creative Loafing had grown enough that a certain type of professionalization of the staff was necessary.
Creative Loafing had a sort of uneven editorial culture and record. Atlanta was just taking off as this mecca for a new generation of people from both the South and from around the country.
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They were attracted to Creative Loafing because it was cool and hip. There were a lot of talented writers who saw this as a place where they could really create something and not be cogs in the daily newspaper machine. Each time I went out to hire, I had a larger pool of people to choose from because they were more excited about the kind of journalism that they could do at Creative Loafing.
And each time I hired, they tended to stay for a little bit longer as well.
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The cultural milieu of the different staff members getting a buzz off each other was kind of creating a virtuous cycle. Creative Loafing , despite its juvenile name, was gaining traction nationally. Politics reporter Kevin Griffis coaxed presidential candidates Lindsey Graham and Howard Dean to the office for interviews.
Griffis also broke stories on the federal investigation into corruption within the Bill Campbell mayoral administration. Fennessy investigated immigration court, animal testing at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, and the road rage death of an Iraq war veteran in Midtown.
A young guy who used to deliver Creative Loafing was killed in the parking lot of the Velvet Room by a gunman who belonged to something called the Black Mafia Family. The more I dug in, the crazier it got. There were even ties to a fatal shooting carried out by an up-and-coming rapper named Gucci Mane. A story like that, with so many dots to connect, would never have materialized without a mentor like Ken. Doug Monroe is a writer living in Athens. Under Ken, it really flourished and did some great journalism. Ken was a very careful editor.
He never ran roughshod over anything, though he could be hell to get along with at the time. He was volatile. Fennessy: Ken had unrelentingly high standards. It made us better reporters, better writers. Fennessy: But he could make you miserable. His tirades could tear the paint from the walls. Wall: He could make you feel stupid, like the dumbest person in the world.
Thank God for therapy. Edelstein: I often felt caught in between. I wanted to fulfill the vision that Ben had, and, on an analytical high level, I think that he had some great ideas. On the other hand, I wanted to protect my staff from demands that were unreasonable or got in the way of their creativity and happiness. I know that at times I was passionate, and I tried to quell that emotion, somewhat.
I know I stupidly lost my temper a couple of times—more than a couple of times—and always admired people who were more cool-headed than me. Monroe: We were able to jump on politicians in a way that the AJC would not or could not. The AJC had gone soft on telling the truth about what was going on in the Republican party.
They were doing that to suck up to the conservatives in the suburbs. Nan Orrock was first elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in and has served as Democratic state senator since You could see it sitting on desks all over the Senate and the House. If you were on the losing end of battles, it gave you some satisfaction to see the bad guys get nailed to the wall. It was always a seminal day when the Golden Sleaze arrived on the desks. The whole House pawed through them. It felt good the first time I got the award.
Freelance contributor and later senior writer Andisheh Nouraee suggested a foreign affairs column with a humorous twist. Nouraee: Just to give you an idea of how different times—and mortgage requirements—were, writing two freelance columns a week for Creative Loafing , I was able to afford a house.
For five years, I had a job where all I had to do was make jokes. Fennessy: I thought we should get more hot people into our pages, so I floated an idea where readers would submit nominations of service workers they found attractive and wanted to know more about.
- A long, strange trip: The oral history of Creative Loafing.
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Ken said go for it. Imagine how the AJC would lame-ify that idea. In September , OutKast released its seminal album, Aquemini. That same week, Roni Sarig joined Creative Loafing as music editor. It was more for white liberals. So one of my goals was to have the coverage reflect the actual city and not just the Little Five Points white guys.
OutKast was the big story. Rodney Carmichael covers hip-hop for NPR. I came at a time when Atlanta was planting its flag as a capital of hip-hop. And it felt weird to be at a publication in the city that was very much about arts, culture, and music where I was getting pushback on covering too much hip-hop, or that it was too popular to cover in an alt-weekly. Black culture has been historically marginalized, so what could be more alternative than covering that?
It was a culture shock for me coming to CL. I grew up in the black suburbs of Atlanta, and my worldview of Atlanta was, this is a black city. All the culture and music is black. I was working in a restaurant up until the point I started at CL.
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You have to think about it in their terms, of people who are going out once a year for a special occasion. I always try to keep that person in mind because I was that person. After Ben Eason first bought the paper in , he tapped former Tampa-area journalists, financial executives, and civic activists to serve as a kind of college of cardinals.
Advisers and a band of consultants began traveling periodically to Atlanta to offer management, journalism, and marketing training. Where Debby Eason had invested profits in digital initiatives, her son invested in consultants. It was a different company. There was a whole level of upper management that I had to report to. If you worked for me, and you were doing a good job, I never cared what you did. Now, I had to start caring. I had to start getting involved in your bullshit. That all changed.
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You had to account for your hours. Fennessy: The paper owned a little bungalow next door to its headquarters on Willoughby Way. When I think of the hours lost around that table.
We were doing a Best of Atlanta event at Paris on Ponce. Ken was there, and we were waiting for everyone to arrive. That was that. In the mids, as legacy media operations began feeling the pinch from the internet, alt-weekly chains, seeking economies of scale, began buying publications in other markets. In July , Creative Loafing Inc.
The deal granted CL entry into the third- and eighth-largest media markets in the country, according to Forbes.