largest free weekly, The Cleveland Free Times, closed down abruptly
on Oct. 2.
The paper — known for its iconoclastic political commentary,
film and music reviews, back-pages bursting with lusty advertisements
running the gamut of sexual proclivities, underground cartoons and
off-beat feature stories — became a casualty in a national
media war between Village Voice Media of New York and New Times,
based in Phoenix.
Village Voice, which owned the Free Times, agreed to shut down its
operations in Cleveland in return for a similar move by the New
Times in L.A., leaving that city open to another Voice publication.
New Times’ Scene received dominion over the Cleveland alternative
Free Times employees and readers say the announcement came completely
out of the blue.
Senior Denise Grollmus interned with the Free Times over the summer
and planned to work freelance for the rest of the school year.
“Everybody went to work thinking it was a normal day,”
she said. “Then someone showed up from the Scene and said,
‘You’re done, you’re folded, we’re not going
to publish your paper.”
The news was especially shocking, Grollmus explained, because the
paper was, by many standards, doing good business. Advertising was
up and “returns” were under three percent, meaning that
for every issue published only three percent or less came back,