O n the afternoon of Friday, November 3, hundreds of thousands of cheering, flag-waving baseball fans lined the streets of downtown Houston to catch a glimpse of the newly crowned World Series Houston press personals, the Houston Astros, as they rode firetrucks through a shower of orange and blue confetti. Many businesses closed early for the day to allow their employees to watch the parade; Houston ISD canceled classes. That morning they had received an summoning them to a 3 p.
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Staff writers Dianna Wray and Meagan Flynn arrived at the conference room in a sweat after running some 15 blocks from the parade route. They found the rest of the staff already sitting around a table loaded down with pizza boxes and six-packs of beer.
Perhaps it was an office party to celebrate the Astros, Wray thought. Flynn, who had been dreading the meeting since receiving thewas momentarily relieved.
Folb, the publisher, began the meeting by announcing that the Press had sustained severe advertising losses due to Hurricane Harvey and would be ceasing print publication immediately. Visibly emotional, he then informed the staff that everyone in the room other than himself and Downing — a total of eight full-time and two part-time editorial employees — was being laid off.
This would be their final day of work. As the staff sat in shocked silence, absorbing the news, Wray reached over to the pile of beer, grabbed a can of 8th Wonder Weisstheimer and loudly cracked it open. Following the business model of other alt-weekliesthe Press gave its issues away for free at heavily trafficked locations, making money solely from advertising revenue.
By the paper was struggling financially. Wilburn recalled occasionally deferring his own paychecks so that other staff members could be paid.
Under Wilburn, the paper had refused to run the kind of racy sex that were a staple of many alt-weeklies, because he worried they would scare away mainstream advertisers. Margaret Downing was hired as editor-in-chief in and recruited a series of ambitious young journalists, many of whom would go on to top national publications. The Press established a reputation for punching above its weight.
Full disclosure: Lomax, Walsh, and Wilburn were former colleagues of mine at Houstonia magazine. Its music and arts listings were more comprehensive and reliable than those of the Chroniclewhich often seemed painfully out of Houston press personals, and it had the best critics in the city. Weekly features like Hair Balls, a raunchy miscellany of weird Houston news, gleefully skewered sacred cows from City Hall to the energy industry to the Chronicle itself, whose stodgy conservatism the Press never tired of mocking.
If the Chronicle was the king of local media, the Press was the court jester. In the end, of course, the dot-com boom proved at best a mixed blessing for the journalism industry, as Craigslist siphoned off classified advertising revenue and readers became accustomed to reading stories for free online.
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Into compete with Craigslist, the New Times launched the online classified ad site Back. It had purchased the Village Voice and its five sister papers in Actually, it would be more accurate to say that Back spun off Village Voice Media. L ike the rest of the journalism industry, the Press had been dealing with advertising declines and staff layoffs for years.
But under the management of the newly reconstituted Voice Media Group, it entered what appears in retrospect to be its death spiral. In the Press moved from its spacious downtown office to a smaller space in Midtown.
Its print edition became slimmer and slimmer. Editorial positions were consolidated or went unfilled. Still, the Press continued racking up accolades. When the Voice Media Group put LA Weekly up for sale in January, it issued a press release ; no similar announcement was made about the Pressleading some former staffers to question how hard it tried to find a buyer.
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Interview requests to the Voice Media Group corporate office in Denver were not answered. Downing and publisher Stuart Folb persuaded the company to give the paper a reprieve by allowing it to live on as a web-only publication, with Downing as the sole editorial employee managing a team of freelance writers.
Only a few weeks after the Press massacre, LA Weekly suffered a similar fate. The Los Angeles alt-weekly had in fact managed to find a buyer — a mysterious outfit called Semanal Media that turned out to be a consortium of Southern California investors. On November 29, the day the deal was officially finalized, Semanal Media laid off all but one editorial staff member. The Press is hardly the only media outlet in Texas facing financial pressure. Arts coverage — a traditional strength Houston press personals alt-weeklies — has been especially hard hit, with the Statesman recently laying off its single arts writer and the Chronicle parting ways with its classical music critic.
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The Chronicle and the Dallas Morning News have now partnered with a San Francisco-based nonprofit to support their classical music coverage. Many of the laid-off Press employees expressed concern about stories falling through the cracks in what is now a one-newspaper town. But the Houston Press had a really unique kind of fit. Former staff writer Dianna Wray said the paper filled a crucial niche in the Houston media ecosystem.
Maybe it will come back in some other form, but it Houston press personals never be what it was.
The company also purchased the Village Voice and its sister papers innot Most Recent in Education: 1 Reation Letter. Merwin, Honorary Texan. Requiem for an Alt-Weekly. The strange and sudden demise of the Houston Press.
Margaret Downing Folb, the publisher, began the meeting by announcing that the Press had sustained severe advertising losses due to Hurricane Harvey and would be ceasing print publication immediately. A Houston Press piece from A Houston Press cover from The Houston Press newsroom in Dianna Wray L ike the rest of the journalism industry, the Press had been dealing with advertising declines and staff layoffs for years.
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A scene from BrewFest, one of the many social events hosted by the Houston Press. Do you think free access to journalism like this is important? The Texas Observer is known for its fiercely independent, uncompromising work—which we are pleased to provide to the public at no charge in this space. That means we rely on the generosity of our readers who believe that this work is important. You can chip in for as little as 99 cents a month. Houston press personals you believe in this mission, we need your help.
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