Friday, November 28, 2008

Annals of bizarro: Sugg dishes on the Loaf in the Sunday Paper

Posted By on Fri, Nov 28, 2008 at 8:20 PM

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Love him or hate him, former CL Senior Editor John Sugg never fails to get lips a-flappin' with his firebrand columns — particularly one published today, under the headline "Creative Loafing's death spiral."

The column talks about "the demolition of the newspaper’s once-outstanding journalism" (ouch!), how "the content eroded to a state that can only be called pathetic" (egads!) and that "the big losers are the readers" (sorry, guys!).

Other than Sugg's hyperbolic elegies, I have two issues with his column — the same two issues I had when Sugg presented the column to me three days before it appeared on the Sunday Paper's website.

My first concern is that Sugg used his column to criticize newspapers, including the Loaf, for "hanging on to printed editions long after consumers were decidedly digital." Basically, he's calling out CL for putting so much of its faith (at least in the past) in its print edition. Fair enough. Yet Sugg failed to disclose that he and a crew of fellow talented journalists are currently trying to secure funding for an online-only news organization.

He and the organization arguably could benefit from spreading the online-only gospel. That, to me, is a conflict of interest — one that warranted a full disclosure. I told him so, and he agreed.

My other issue had not to do with the possibility that Sugg might profit from what he printed but, rather, that he didn't explicitly state that he'd lost money as a result of what he described as "the erratic and impetuous" managerial style of Creative Loafing Inc.'s CEO Ben Eason. Sugg did disclose in the column that he's a Creative Loafing Inc. shareholder, but he didn't outright state that Eason's supposed missteps were a blow to his own finances — or that he might harbor anger toward Eason because of that financial hit.

Anyway, you might be wondering why I read the column days before it appeared in another publication. Sugg had emailed the column to me on Tuesday night, to be printed in next week's Creative Loafing. But as I had mentioned to him the day before, I and the rest of the staff wanted to print a column about the contributions of former CL Editor Ken Edelstein, who'd just been fired.

I asked Sugg to retool the column. He said he would — but instead wrote an entirely different piece. The original then appeared in the Sunday Paper.

At this point, the conflicts have become so convoluted that, although we'll be running a column about Edelstein in our next edition, it won’t be written by Sugg. When I told him that, he said he understood the decision. Hey, no hard feelings.

P.S. — Note to SP editors: Your headline for Sugg's column (and the column itself) alludes to CL's "strategy" to "rip off articles and blogs from real content producers and paste them onto CL Web sites." You seem to be referring to a sidebar on our website's home page, where we link to stories we find interesting in other publications. The whole thing takes less than 5 percent of the staff's time. It's called "aggregation," and it's practiced by the New York Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and, to a greater extent, Talking Points Memo and the Daily Beast. Wake up to the Internetz!

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