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So we’ve had a couple of days over here to process the sale of City Paper to its first new owners in 25 years. For us in editorial, we’re still not sure what exactly this will mean—-we’re going to have to cut an already tight budget, but that was probably going to happen in any case. The most upsetting part of this is by far is that our local production operations are almost certain to be moved to Atlanta.
Say what you will about what actually goes in the paper (and you certainly will, judging from the comments on any CP-related DCist post), but never have I heard a sour word about the beautiful paper that the folks in our production department—-led by award-winning art director Pete Morelewicz and production director Mike Kalyan—-have put out over all these years. More than that, they’ve been wonderful friends and colleagues, and it’s heartbreaking to think we’ll no longer be sharing beer and snacks at our Wednesday closes.
So we’re going to enjoy our last few weeks together as much as possible. And when Pete sent this to me to post here, it was my honor to indulge him:
The recent sale of City Paper to an Florida-based newspaper chain cast a dark pall over the office here. Last night’s long-ago-planned staff weenie roast—-an event normally filled with blissful drinking—-felt a bit like a wake. There was still drinking, but it was more of the mournful type, the kind my Aunt Dorothy reserves for the passing of a loved one. And in a way, the party marked just that.
The new owners of City Paper have promised “efficiencies” by outsourcing creative operations to Atlanta and slashing the editorial budget. News stories are often shared among the different papers the company owns, so readers in six different cities can experience the same cover story. City Paper, of course, has always prided itself on unique, local coverage. But what good reason is there for that to continue?
D.C.’s sense of individuality—-its very spirit and passion—-has been under attack for some time. The serial D.C. haters, long complaining that D.C. is no New York or no L.A., have succeeded in stripping D.C. of its character. Chain stores and suburban implants have changed the city’s complexion. U Street, with its two Starbucks in a three-block stretch, is no longer the seedbed of local creative talent. Places like State of the Union and the Grand Poobah have yielded to a bland mix of chain stores and “luxury” lofts.
The new owners of City Paper obviously understand this changing dynamic. The new residents of U Street enjoy national chains. They like to have a dose of NYC or L.A. (or their own hometown) in D.C. They crave to be a part of a larger whole, sharing the common experience of a standard-issue latte with the millions of others who do the same each day. These people will respond well to a “local” paper whose vital parts will be made elsewhere and shipped back into the District.
There was a certain appeal to a local paper back when D.C. was a city of neighborhoods, with pride in its distinctiveness, however quirky. But the landscape has changed, and the comfort of the generic has set in. The time has come for our local paper to be just another mass-produced import.