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Monday, February 1, 2010

Atlanta Free Press loses staff, addresses shutdown rumors

Atlanta Free Press is down (another) editor and an art director, but is apparently still breathing.  With the way things have gone for them since opening Dec. 10, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if their offices were attacked by piranha.  Big gay piranha.

So the LGBT news publication last went through its share of drama in late December when their editor resigned after it was revealed he had been fired from Southern Voice for fabricating quotes and sources.  This time around, a story by Atlanta Progressive News claims that AFP had "apparently" ceased production because, well, no one can find it.  APN did a search throughout the city’s LGBT-frequented businesses and could not find any issues available.

AFP publisher and Nightlife Media Group co-owner Matt Neumann told CL that Atlanta Free Press is still in business but was not able to pull together the last two weeks’ issues after parting ways with Interim Editor Xanna Don’t over “creative differences.”  Neumann says that he and Don’t got into what he called “a pissing match” over the editorial direction of the paper.  In particular, the publisher thought Don’t was giving too much coverage to lesbian-related stories and events, and he wanted more of a newsy focus as opposed to a nightlife focus.

“It wasn’t going in the direction that I wanted it to go,” Neumann says.  “I thought that it was better at this time to do a restart rather than put out something that was going to be another problem.”

Neumann also said that he and Don’t clashed over whether or not to let a paid advertiser place an editorial in the paper---typically a big no-no.  AFP was about to run an ad for the play “A Sordid Affair” and Neumann wanted to run an article written by the play’s producers.

“They took out two full-page ads in the paper,” said Neumann.  “If they want to write a story about the play that sounds self-serving then honestly, so what?  We’re not talking about a political indiscretion here, we’re talking about a play promoting a play.”

While Don’t confirmed her opposition to the “Sordid Affair” editorial, she said that the reason the last two weeks’ issues never hit the streets was because no one was getting paid.

“They owe me money, they owe Loren [Hoffman, art director] money, they owe the printer money,” says Don’t.  “And that’s why there is no more ATL Free Press.”

Hoffman backed up that claim, while also saying that Nightlife Media Group co-publisher Chip O’Kelley misled her about why one of the issues didn’t get printed.

O’Kelley reportedly told Hoffman that the reason the issue didn’t print was because the file Hoffman sent to the printer was corrupt.  Hoffman called the printer, Chris Lewis, who reportedly told her that the file wasn’t corrupt and that the reason it wasn’t printed was that Nightlife Media Group had not paid him.

“The only thing they had to do was pay the printer and they couldn’t do that,” says Hoffman.

Lewis, the printer, refused comment to CL and directed all questions to Neumann.

Neumann disputes Don't and Hoffman's claims, saying, "They were operating well outside of the budget and I had to put a stop to it."

He claims Don't has been paid in full and that Hoffman is paid in full as well, with the exception of an invoice submitted last week.  He also says the printer is "fine" and that a new issue of Atlanta Free Press is ready to go and will hit the streets this Thursday, Feb. 4.

Neumann also said he is recruiting a new staff to produce content and is ordering new newspaper boxes adorned with the AFP logo.

Regardless of the particulars, this is the second major setback to Atlanta Free Press in less than two months in existence.  Until the third, please enjoy.  We'll continue to keep you posted on all the shenanigans.

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