Dec. 10, 2008 12:00

WHITE NOISE

WHITE NOISE News and Views from inside the Media Bubble

Sunday in Charlotte?

Things are getting a bit cut-throaty in the altweekly business (like that’s a real shift). Here’s how it’s playing out at Creative Loafing, the alt-weekly chain with papers in Charlotte and Atlanta, and Sarasota and Tampa, Fla. as well as recent acquisitions The Chicago Reader and the Washington City Paper in DC, both bought with a loan in 2007. The Loaf’s recent spending spree put the company about $40 million in the hole, and recently the paper was unable to meet a six-figure interest payment on the loan, forcing Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings and a bit of… tension… in the Atlanta home office. Creative Loafing CEO Ben Eason fired Atlanta editor Ken Edelstein, who had been on the job 11 years, after a “heated” editorial meeting in November. Now a little backstory: Patrick Best was once advertising director for Creative Loafing Atlanta from 1996-1998. In 2000, he launched a competing weekly, The Sunday Paper. And just a day after the firing of Edelstein, Best made a $1-million offer for the local Loaf — though he chose to make the offer to a reporter for Atlanta Magazine and not Creative Loafing itself. Now Best says he plans to launch similar weeklies in Charlotte and Tampa — yeah, basically right in the Loaf’s backyard. “While we have a great deal of respect and admiration for the staff of the Creative Loafing newspapers in these markets,” he said in a Sunday Paper story, “we don’t believe their parent company can provide them with the resources to be successful in the current economic climate. And we have the funding, the experience, the talent and the products to quickly be successful in these markets.” Mee-ow. What this means for the Queen City is open to interpretation. “I’m not sure if Patrick Best is serious or not,” Creative Loafing Charlotte Editor Carlton Hargro told YES! Weekly via e-mail, “From a business standpoint it makes sense for his company to expand, but there has been speculation about his real resources. At the very least, this is an opportunity to raise his profile.” — BC

Anarchist housing solution

Anarchists adhere to a dictum of supply and demand that is common sense, if potentially criminal: With a large number of foreclosed houses and a large number of homeless people, it reasonably follows that the homeless people should move into the foreclosed houses. “Take Back the Land… asserts it is immoral to maintain vacant homes for the purpose of profits in the future, while human beings are forced to live on the street today,” writes Max Rameau, the founder of the Miamibased organization in a Dec. 1 post on his blog. “The madness of such a policy is only compounded when one considers the owners of these vacant homes are not other people, but banks, the same banks receiving billions of dollars in bailout without having to trade in the foreclosed homes for use by some of the people financing the bailouts.” An Associated Press story, also dated Dec. 1, presents Rameau as a kind of unconventional realtor: “Max Rameau delivers his sales pitch like a pro. ‘All tile floor!’ he says during a recent showing. ‘And the living room, wow! It has great blinds.’… But in nearly every other respect, he is unlike any real estate agent you’ve ever met. He is unshaven, drives a beat-up car and wears grungy cut-off sweatpants. He also breaks into the homes he shows. And his clients don’t have a dime for a down payment.” — JG

Our industry in crisis

As of Monday, Dec. 8: The Tribune Co., owner of the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune (as well as the Chicago Cubs!) has filed for bankruptcy. The New York Times Co. has borrowed $225 million against its new Manhattan office building.

Web-only publications are now eligible for Pulitzer Prizes. The Paper Cuts blog lists more than 15,000 US newsroom jobs lost so far in 2008. And Arianna Huffington was voted Media Person of the Year by the website I Want Media. That is all. — BC

Daily News ‘steals’ Empire State Building

The New York Daily News nearly pulled off one of the biggest heists in American history Dec. 1. The newspaper “stole” the $2 billion Empire State Building by drawing up a batch of bogus documents, making a fake notary stamp and filing paperwork with the city to transfer the deed to the property in order to shine a light on a gaping loophole in the city’s system for recording deeds, mortgages and other transactions. The loophole: The city registrar does not require clerks to verify information. The News tried to make it obvious to the bureaucrats processing their fake paperwork, listing King Kong star Fay Wray as a witness and the notary as bank robber Willie Sutton.

But less than 90 minutes after the fake documents were submitted, the agency rubber-stamped the transfer from Empire State Land Associates to Nelots Properties LLC. Nelots is “stolen” spelled backwards.

The News returned the building on Dec. 2. A number of deed fraud cases in the New York area spurred the News to pull of the hoax. Armed with a fraudulent deed, criminals can take out big mortgages and disappear. The FBI says suspicious activity reports filed by financial institutions increased 31 percent from 2006 to 2007. Nationwide, lenders’ losses totaled $813 million and New York was one of the top 10 mortgage fraud states. A News investigation revealed that mortgage brokers, bankers, lawyers and others in the mortgage process often failed to verify identification provided by thieves. — KB

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