Business

After 31 years, Creative Loafing Charlotte lays off staff, will be online-only

Creative Loafing Charlotte, an alternative weekly magazine started in 1987, has laid off its staff and will be a digital-only product moving forward.
Creative Loafing Charlotte, an alternative weekly magazine started in 1987, has laid off its staff and will be a digital-only product moving forward.

Creative Loafing Charlotte, an alternative weekly magazine started in 1987, has laid off its staff and will be a digital-only product moving forward.

Charles Womack, president of Womack Newspapers Inc. — which bought Creative Loafing from SouthComm Inc. in 2014 — has sold the Charlotte magazine to his son, Alex Womack, president of Womack Digital LLC, according to a statement Wednesday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The magazine’s future is unclear. Creative Loafing’s former editor in chief, Ryan Pitkin, told the Observer all seven full-time employees were told Wednesday that their jobs had been terminated as a result of the sale, which he said was unexpected.

“I have no idea what (Womack’s) plan for the digital platform is. He made it clear none of us have jobs anymore,” Pitkin said.

Creative Loafing’s last print issue was Wednesday.

The magazine was well-known in the Charlotte region as a quirky publication with a distinct voice that covered local arts and entertainment, as well as food, pop culture, social issues and breaking news. Creative Loafing last week, for instance, published its “Best of Charlotte 2018” series, including recognitions in areas such as best farmers market, best food truck, best hangover cure and best gym.

In a now-deleted tweet, Creative Loafing said Wednesday that the publication is going “green” and will have “the same talented contributors, the same alternative news; delivered digitally to the Charlotte community.”

Creative Loafing said in the statement that new owner Alex Womack, 28, studies “mind, spirit, & human growth” at Mindvalley University, which, according to its website, is “a month-long transformational event, for all ages.” Womack has worked as a business development consultant for a mobile app development firm in Raleigh called Kapok Digital for the last three years.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity to acquire Creative Loafing from my Dad & excited about changing the business model into a digital first alternative news multi-media company that exists to serve & create value for its employees, readers & partners,” Womack said.

Womack could not be reached for additional comment.

Alternative weekly publications have struggled mightily over the years. The Village Voice, New York’s beloved alternative newspaper, closed last month after more than six decades, for instance. According to a March 2018 story from the national monthly magazine Governing, roughly two-dozen alternative weeklies have shut down nationwide over the last decade. Others have cut pay for their staff and rely entirely on unpaid contributors.

Creative Loafing Charlotte was started in the spring of 1987 by Ben Eason, son of Debra and Elton Eason, who began publication of Creative Loafing in Atlanta in 1972. Eason, the magazine’s then-publisher, described Creative Loafing in an April 1987 Observer story as an “alternative” publication, “likely to do the unexpected or provide the coverage that other people do not do. Creative Loafing is like a suburban newspaper in town. It is urban, slightly liberal.”

Readers would find in the weekly publication, Eason said, “the neat things that tend to get buried in all the national news and local news” or are not even covered by the Observer.

Creative Loafing’s former owner, Womack Newspapers Inc., is based in Greensboro and also publishes Greensboro’s alternative weekly publication, Yes! Weekly.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta
  Comments