The publisher of the Atlanta Free Press, the first paper to hit the streets in the wake of Southern Voice’s closing, fired back at allegations about his editor being fired from a previous job in the news industry.
Matt Neumann, publisher of the AFP, Gaydar and Gaylife Atlanta, offered a defense of his editor, Zack Hudson, in a lengthy post early Friday in the comments section of Project Q Atlanta and other media outlets. He was responding to reports this week that Hudson was fired from his job as a reporter at Southern Voice in 2007 for allegedly fabricating portions of two stories.
“I stand firmly behind Zack Hudson,” Neumann writes. “He has done a super job at putting a paper together from scratch and getting it out on the street in just a few days. None of us are perfect. None of us [are] without blemish. I am a firm believer in second chances. After all who has more to prove and more motivation than someone given a second chance. I was aware of the prior drama with him and SoVo. Having worked with him on Gaylife and after many meetings, I decided we had our man.”
Neumann also writes that Hudson lied to the Atlanta Progressive News when he told the paper that he sued Southern Voice over the firing and that a settlement prevented either side from discussing the details of his termination. The Atlanta Progressive News first reported the details of the termination Wednesday.
“As for the infamous, ‘I can’t talk about it because of litigation’ comment by Mr. Hudson to a ‘reporter,’ that was a bold face lie. A lie from a man who had just worked a day job for eight hours and completed a 14-hour layout marathon to get this weeks issue to press and who had been hounded for hours for a comment on the situation. To me it’s just like when the telemarketer calls to sell you a subscription to the AJC and you reply, ‘Oh no thanks. I already get it.’ Anything to get them off of the phone,” Neumann says.
Neumann says Hudson has offered to resign since the allegations surfaced this week, but he won’t accept it.
“Zack has offered his resignation to me several times today, I have refused it. I believe he shares my vision for a strong, independent and fair publication for our community. He has demonstrated a level of commitment and passion that I rarely find these days. He has not let me down,” Nuemann says. “Second chances? Have you ever gotten one? Where would many of us be if someone hadn’t stepped up and given us a chance?”
Atlanta Free Press criticizes outlets for lack of coverage
Atlanta Free Press is the first paper to hit the streets, but it could soon be joined by other publications. One of the other possible publications has secured a website and is using the same Atlanta Free Press name. Project Q reported Thursday that the second site—atlantafreepress.com – is registered to JSW Media in Altamonte Springs, Fla. It pitches itself as “the premier publication for the gay and lesbian community,” but offers only a brief introduction and no details about any publication. The Florida Department of State does not have any information about JSW Media in its listings of corporations.
“I have no idea who the heck has our name in Altamonte Springs. We are a registered Georgia corporation. We own the name, they have a web site with our name and we have asked them to cease and desist,” Neumann says.
The publisher also takes aim at GA Voice, a publication in the early stages of organizing that is the creation of Laura Douglas-Brown, SoVo’s editor when the paper closed Nov. 16, and Chris Cash, who founded Southern Voice in 1988 and now lives in Texas. He also criticizes other outlets, including Project Q, for covering the development of the GA Voice without including mention of the Atlanta Free Press and existing publications including Gaydar and Pocket Rocket.
“I have to wonder what the real motivation for this could be?” Neumann writes. “We didn’t seem to matter at all when we announced our launch of our paper and even after we actually came out with a paper. It has been out for a week without comment from anybody.”
“A true journalist would check out both sides of a story and present both sides to the reader, for the reader to decide. This is more like commentary than news. This site, Project Q, seems to be more impartial than the others but once again we were never contacted for our side of the story or a reaction to it. So, if we wish to talk about a bad reputation, let’s ask the many folks who paid for ads in David and SoVo just days before the publications demise, what do they think?” Neumann adds.
He also criticizes the lack of mention of his publications, or other LGBT outlets, during a Dec. 3 public meeting in which Douglas-Brown and Cash pledged GA Voice to represent all aspects of metro Atlanta’s LGBT population. “Inclusion is very important to us,” Douglas-Brown said at the meeting.
“Let’s review the facts from the Save SoVo town hall meeting and let’s be truthful about what went on there. What was the attendance? 80? Or more like 60 and once you subtract the 30 plus former David/SoVo employees and the church staff what was the real turn out?” Neumann writes.
“Perhaps a dozen folks had a chance to comment or question Chris Cash and Laura Douglas-Brown about the new paper. What was the question most asked? ‘Will you do a better job representing the entire community?’ ‘Will they be more fair and balanced?’ Will they?” he adds.
“At that meeting, despite having been invited to the meeting, the statement was made to the attendees several times by Ms. Cash and Ms. Brown that Atlanta needed them so much because there were ‘no’ other LGBT publications in Atlanta, since Labrys folded all that remained was Project Q. Again a surprise to us since we had already announced the launch date for the Atlanta Free Press, Gaydar’s 10 months of being in existence along with Pocket Rocket as well. Truth and honesty in reporting? Honestly,” Neumann adds.
Neumann also writes that he and his company invited former Southern Voice and David staffers to a lunch just days after the publications closed Nov. 16 and offered to hire them. During the session, he says he would step aside as editor of Gaydar to make room for the new staff who could run both Gaydar and Atlanta Free Press.
“I stated to them that our community had been through enough this past year. Let’s join together and provide our community with a fine magazine and newspaper. Let’s not start a media war,” Neumann writes. “Anything you need I offered. Just to be turned down a day later. A few staff stated they would but by the next day declined our offer. So much for a desire to see a newspaper come out.”
Read Neumann’s full post. (View it below the linked post.)