At what used to be called press time, LA Weekly was still scheduled to host a "Sips and Sweets 2017" event at the Petersen Automotive Museum this Saturday, where dozens of advertisers, potential advertisers and vendors were scheduled to gather to help the paper raise funds while providing good times to the public. But according to longtime LA Weekly columnist and renowned word weaver Jeff Weiss—who's now organizing the #BoycottLAWeekly campaign—the event has been canceled.
"I fully expect them to issue a statement saying the event hasn't been canceled," he tweeted today at 1:30 a.m. "They haven't said a single honest thing yet, and I don't expect them to start now."
As an alt-weekly employee myself, I can attest to how vital advertising dollars and events such as Sips and Sweets are to the well-being of a paper. Since Monday, however, Amoeba Records, Resident, Momed, Wanderlust Creamery, 71 Above/Darwin Manahan, Angel City Brewery, Fred 62, The Lucques Group, Roger Room,The Pikey, Angel City, Ococoa, Mello Music Group, The Echo/Regent Theatre, Art Don't Sleep and Drunken Cake Pops have pulled all their advertising and/or dropped their sponsorship of the event. That's enough money lost right there to cause most papers to fold—assuming they hadn't already wiped out most of their overhead by laying off 75 percent of their editorial staff.
"In the last 24 hours, the efforts of #BoycottLAWeekly have resulted in over 10 sponsors and print advertisers canceling their participation in events and rescinding ads from the pages of the newspaper," Weiss said in a statement to OC Weekly. "Thanks to their actions and the efforts of regular concerned citizens, it's becoming rapidly impossible for the LA Weekly to continue as a publication."
The past week has been a shit show for journalism and media in Southern California. If you’ve been on Twitter or Facebook, you’re more than aware that the beloved alt-weekly—and our former sister paper— LA Weekly was sold to mysterious entity Semanal Media LLC. Up until a week ago, no one knew anything about the group, except that a cannabis attorney named David Welch was involved in the deal.
Katie Bain, another well-known Angeleno music scribe and former senior music writer at the Weekly, has helped Weiss to organize a protest for Friday at noon at the LA Weekly building at 3861 Sepulveda Blvd. in Culver City. But unlike the average protest, this one has a theme: The funeral of LA Weekly. "On Friday, we remember our dearly departed
#LAWeekly with a funeral + protest in front of the building where the murder took place," Bain writes in a Tweet. "Join us." It's been requested that everyone wear somber attire, as there will be a full-on ceremony—with a coffin..
Since laying off nine of its editorial staffers—and amid a historic firestorm within city limits—LA Weekly has so far tweeted just three times, and one of those was an ad calling on people to contribute articles to the publication for free. (Excuse me—WHAT?!) They've since deleted the tweet and issued an email to freelancers explaining that those who were previously paid will continue to get paid and those who want to write for free are in a separate group. (The only non-embarrassing tweet, an update on the wildfires, was written by laid-off staffer and workhorse Dennis Romero, who accidentally used his old handle via TweetDeck.)
"These guys have no idea how to run not just the Weekly, but any publication," says Rebecca Haithcoat, LA Weekly's former assistant music editor. "They shrouded the purchase in secret and made a game show out of the owner announcement. Faith and trust in journalism is at an all-time low. Transparency is always an important tenet, but perhaps never more than now—and this is the time they choose to pull a cutesy 'Who’s behind door No. 3?' ploy? That tells me everything I need to know about why they have no business running LA Weekly."
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In an LA Times article, new Weekly owner and attorney Steve Mehr stated that the LA paper's coverage has been superficial (despite being nominated for 21 L.A. Press Club journalism awards this year). "You can lob plenty of criticisms at the Weekly, but 'superficial coverage' is not one of them," says Haithcoat. "When I was assistant music editor [January 2011-December 2012], we almost always passed on covering big and/or touring acts in favor of hyper-local stories and artists. I alone wrote about the unwelcome influx of tourists on Fairfax and the dearth of live music venues on the west side; other writers covered radius clauses and broke stories about venue closings. We wrote the first print profiles of now-huge artists like Odd Future, Schoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar, as well as uncovered trends like the East L.A. backyard punk scene."
The #BoycottLAWeekly team urged people to unfollow the paper across all social-media platforms. LA Weekly currently boasts some 716,000 followers on Twitter, but a cursory examination of them suggests that most followers are just bots. They either have no profile picture, are not following anyone, have no followers, or use as a main image a photo of a flower and have a random handle such as "@Susanco88692521."
In the wake of the most inept hostile takeover of a weekly newspaper in history, LA Weekly's laid-off staffers and their supporters in Southern California aren't giving up. "This is war," Weiss declared in a tweet. "They're counting on us to lose focus. That means we have to go twice as hard for #BoycottLAWeekly. Let's finish them."
Stay tuned, as the LA Weekly saga continues!