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CL's family affairs

We understand — appreciate even — when our readers tell us they're upset with us

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I don't know who frequent clatl.com commenter "metito" is, but he seems to be a typical reader: smart, passionate, engaged. He comments often on issues that we believe get too little serious coverage or commentary in other media (the Occupy movement, transportation, media, corporate shilling, etc.). He doesn't always agree with our take, but I enjoy his contributions to our ongoing effort to lead the discussion about urban life in Atlanta.

Oh, he also thinks we suck.

About two weeks after I'd come aboard as Editor in Chief this past September, the company announced it was selling two smaller papers in our five-paper chain. Nine people commented expressing concern, including "metito":

"Creative Loafing has really jumped the shark. It is a shell of what it was 4 years ago."

Last week, CL Atlanta announced on our Fresh Loaf blog the elimination of four staff positions, as well as a 5 percent companywide salary reduction. Gone were longtime writers Scott Henry (news), Besha Rodell (dining and online editor), Curt Holman (arts), and former managing editor Chanté LaGon. One hundred twenty-five commenters and counting expressed outrage. Among them, "metito":

"Why are you even bothering to publish anymore? Your paper is a shell of what it was 4 years ago."

The outpouring is understandable — appreciated, even. As I wrote on the blog: "Losing these people as full-time employees is a blow to our company and our community, and they cannot be replaced." Also, we carve our niche by being transparent with our audience. We ask our editors and writers to make themselves a part of the community they cover, to talk with readers in any forum possible, through online comments, social media interaction, and face-to-face. In that way, we try to make the connection between the paper and its audience intense and personal. That's why many readers reacted as though family members had been affected, because in a way they had.

I don't want to do anything to diminish the concerns expressed by those commenters. I do, however, want to make clear that, despite the bad news, we're still pushing forward, determined to be a more robust online conversation resource while making our paper a compendium of the best stories worth telling that week. (I outlined this in a January column.) We're completing a slight redesign that was already in the works. We're going to be adding more voices to the news mix, not fewer. (Henry, for example, has agreed to a bi-weekly schedule of writing a news column for the paper. Holman was paid to finish this week's cover story as a freelancer.) We'll be doing fewer "special" issues and more cover stories featuring our news and arts writers. We'll try to get better, not every week, but every day. And we'll continue listening to passionate readers like "metito," even when he says we suck. That's what families do.

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