Race to replace Southern Voice heating up

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READ MORE | Gay paper defends editor over previous firing

imageThe race to pick through the carcass of Southern Voice and David magazine started almost immediately after the company collapsed and locked out its employees Nov. 16. But now it’s over. Or is it?

A 24-page Atlanta Free Press hit the streets Dec. 10, becoming the first LGBT print publication to surface in the wake of SoVo’s closing. The paper includes three local stories – a piece about a lawsuit filed in the wake of the Sept. 10 Eagle raid, a preview of the Miss Ruck & Maul Pageant and a preview of “Scrooge in Rouge” – and fills other pages with news briefs, non-local features and a column by Editor Zack Hudson.

It’s Hudson’s affiliation with the Atlanta Free Press that is already raising eyebrows. Hudson, a former reporter at Southern Voice, was fired for allegedly fabricating sources and quotes in at least two SoVo stories in 2007. The Atlanta Progressive News first reported the story Wednesday. Gay website Queerty weighed in with a post titled, “Will You Read Atlanta’s New Gay Newspaper That’s Edited By a Jayson Blair?”

Blair is the former New York Times reporter who resigned in 2003 after he was caught plagiarizing and fabricating portions of his stories.

Hudson declined to talk with APN about the allegations, citing a lawsuit he says he filed against the now-bankrupt company. Hudson also says the details of a settlement he allegedly reached with his former employer prevent him speaking publicly about it. But former SoVo employees say such a lawsuit doesn’t exist. APN’s search for the lawsuit failed to turn up any documentation and Hudson did not provide the paper with a copy of the suit.

The APN story includes details of the alleged fabrications by Hudson:

Southern Voice ran “A Note to Our Readers” on page 3 of the November 07, 2007 issue, regarding the alleged fabrication, according to a copy obtained by APN.

“An article in the Sept. 21, 2007, issue of Southern Voice (“Learning to give back: ZAMI honors gay students for community work”) contained quotes attributed to scholarship winners Naima Lowe and Charles Rice-Gonzalez,” Southern Voice wrote.

“Both Lowe and Rice-Gonzalez say they were never interviewed for the article and never said the quotes attributed to them.”

“An article in the Nov. 6, 2007, issue (“Same-sex unions become issue in Ga. congressional race”) contained a quote from a source identified as “Don Wilson, a political science and history professor at Georgia Southwestern State University.” According to the university, no such person was employed there,” Southern Voice wrote.

“Both articles were written by Zack Hudson, a staff reporter who was terminated Oct. 29, 2007,” Southern Voice wrote. “Southern Voice deeply regrets the incidents.”

Hudson is joined at Atlanta Free Press by Contributing Editor Xana Don’t. The paper is published by Nightlife Media Group, whose portfolio includes the weekly bar-oriented Gaydar and the monthly Gay Life Atlanta. The company pursued former SoVo and David employees, though none have joined the staff.

Other LGBT publications in the works

Atlanta Free Press is the first paper to hit the streets, but it could soon be joined by other publications. In fact, it may face a fight over its name.

Two men representing what they called the Atlanta Free Press stationed themselves in the parking lot of Southern Voice and David on Nov. 18 as former employees arrived to collect their belongings and meet with corporate executives. They pitched their newspaper as part of a chain of LGBT publications in several cities.

Two websites already share the Atlanta Free Press name. One — atlfreepress.com – is registered to City Media Group, which lists an address on Monroe Drive in Atlanta. The contact for the domain name is Matt Neumann, who is also Gaydar’s editor. The site includes content from the print version of Atlanta Free Press.

A 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.

A group that includes the founder of Southern Voice and its last editor have publicly announced plans to launch an LGBT publication early next year. The pair – Chris Cash, who founded SoVo and now lives in Texas and Laura Douglas-Brown, a SoVo staffer for 12 years – met with about 80 people during a public forum earlier this month. They voted to name the new paper GA Voice and are raising capital to fund the venture.

The group scheduled a Saturday fundraiser at WaterHaven in which 50 percent of food sales will benefit the new publication.

At least one other group of LGBT business people is investigating launching a new publication, though they haven’t yet publicly announced any plans.

An additional publication may be forming as well. Georgia Pulse has launched a website and Facebook page promising a bi-monthly publication “covering news and events that affect the LGBT community in Atlanta and the state of Georgia.” The site is registered privately through Arizona-based Domains by Proxy.

The Georgia Pulse Facebook page was created by Keith Gross, a gay man who was booted from a state legislative race in 2008 after Secretary of State Karen Handel ruled he didn’t meet residency requirements. Earlier this year, he announced plans to again run for the District 80 post in the state House in the 2010 elections.

Though Atlanta Free Press has already launched, the local efforts have made attempts to capture the ethos of the former SoVo. They’ve invited staffers from the former publications to their planning meetings and taken bolder steps as well to bill themselves as the replacement to SoVo.

The first issue of Atlanta Free Press was distributed in part by placing the publication in SoVo newspaper boxes in Midtown last week. The effort to create GA Voice first launched as Save SoVo and the early stages of organizing by former Southern Voice staffers included transitioning SoVo’s Twitter account and its hundreds of followers to SaveSoVo and later to TheGAVoice.

The effort’s Facebook page is called Save SoVo! and includes a past cover of Southern Voice as its profile image. Former SoVo staffers involved with the planning of GA Voice also continue to post updates about their efforts to the Southern Voice Facebook page, despite the company being closed and in bankruptcy proceedings. The GA Voice domain name directs traffic to SaveSoVo.

Project Q Atlanta launched in September 2008 and is the creation of two former SoVo and David editors.


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