Journalists Lament Nashville City Paper’s Impending Closure

The City Paper launched in 2000 as an option to The Tennessean. In its first days, CP was thrown in driveways and even hawked by newsboys downtown. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

The City Paper launched in 2000 as an option to The Tennessean. In its first days, CP was thrown in driveways and even hawked by newsboys downtown. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

The City Paper will be no more come Aug. 9. Owner SouthComm says the free online and print publication has been losing money for too long.

In a statement, SouthComm CEO Chris Ferrell says The City Paper was popular with readers, but the ad revenue never followed – even after 13 years in operation.

“Several of our more financially viable publications have been subsidizing it for some time,” Ferrell said.

SouthComm owns alt-weeklys and niche publications around the Southeast, including Nashville Scene and NashvillePost.com. Half of the City Paper staff will be folded into other mastheads. They learned of the closure Wednesday morning. Ferrell says eight people – including some reporters – will lose their jobs.

“It’s been a very expensive experiment at times,” he says. “It got close to profitability a few years ago, but now is headed in the wrong direction.”

The City Paper has gone head-to-head with the Tennessean on covering state and local government, however Nashville’s paper of record has hired away many City Paper reporters.

Editor Steve Cavendish says the paper “punched above our weight,” adding that he’s sorry that there will be fewer journalists holding officials and institutions accountable.

The City Paper isn’t the Tennessean’s only print competition, but it has been the closest match. The creative tension between dueling media adds spice to the city’s journalism, says Gene Policinski of Nashville’s First Amendment Center.

“There’s a competitive factor,” he says. “But I think there’s also a value in seeing differences in news judgment. What seems to be an important story to one publication may not be by the other.”

The City Paper’s readers took to Twitter to voice their disappointment – “sad news” and “RIP” were some common responses.

The publication launched in 2000 as an afternoon paper that would be thrown in driveways and focus on local news. WPLN’s Anita Bugg interviewed founder Brian Brown the first day the paper hit the streets.

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Nashville’s best-known newspaper man, John Seigenthaler, says it was always an uphill climb to convince advertisers to spend money on a paper with circulation that was hard to confirm.

Seigenthaler, who was publisher of the Tennessean and helped launch USA Today, says he was a “casual reader” of The City Paper, only because he had to go out and find it on a newsstand.

“Anytime a community loses a voice, it’s the poorer for it,” he says.

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