Updated: The newspaper’s publisher says it won’t close, but will be going paperless instead. See press release at bottom.
Chicago’s Free Press has closed after 11 years of operation in the Windy City.
Due to health problems, publisher David Costanzo is no longer funding the operation of Chicago Free Press. Consequently, the paper’s April 29 issue was not published, and it is not expected that any additional issues will be published. While this is unfortunate, I’d like to focus on the wonderful history of CFP.
Launched in August 1999, Chicago Free Press has been a major force in Chicago’s gay community for more than a decade. One of the largest GLBT newspapers in the country with a readership of 50,000, Chicago Free Press created and launched “Out at the Ballgame,” the Midwest’s largest “out” event in association with a professional major league sports team (the Chicago Cubs). Year after year, the paper’s annual Pride Series recorded where Chicago’s GLBT community was—and where it was going.
But it was CFP’s staff of talented and award-winning writers who gave people a reason to pick up the paper every week. Many of them—Paul Varnell, Jennifer Vanasco, Larry Bommer and Web Behrens—have been writing for the paper since its inception.
It has been my good fortune to have known and worked with many of these writers for more than 15 years. The fact that any of us chose to stay during these past few bumpy years is testament not only to the respect we have for each other, but to the dedication we have to serving Chicago’s GLBT community.
Kennedy, Chicago Free Press‘ managing editor, told The Chicago Tribune that publisher David Constanzo had been out of touch since April 15. She said staff hadn’t been paid since March 31.
“We just basically had to stop working because we weren’t getting paid,” she told the daily paper, which noted content for Free Press‘ next issue was “ready to go” and ad sales had been strong.
Chicago Free Press‘ closure comes less than six months after the shake-up of Window Media, the largest LGBT news chain in the nation. Window Media’s troubles closed news operations in Atlanta, Ft. Lauderdale and Washington, D.C. Staffs of the former Window Media papers have either started new publications or were picked up by competitors. In the nation’s capital, staff created DC Agenda, which rebranded back to Washington Blade last week.
Free Press’ demise leaves only one LGBT newspaper in Chicago. From The Tribune:
The loss of the Chicago Free Press leaves the Windy City Times as the last gay newspaper in Chicago. Windy City Publisher Tracy Baim said the newspaper has learned to adapt and is focusing its efforts online and toward social media. She said the paper’s Web site receives 90,000 unique visitors per month on average and recently launched an iPhone application.
“We certainly feel like we cover a range of the community, and we will continue to do so. Our competition is far beyond any one newspaper entity,” she said.
Update (May 6, 2010, 8:45 a.m.): Chicago Free Press publisher David Costanzo has released a back-dated press release:
April 30, 2010
CFP goes paperless
CFP Media Group, owner of Chicago’s largest GLBT newspaper, will cease publication of its weekly newspaper in printed form effective May 1, 2010. The company will continue to publish the newspaper in its online form.
Over the past 12 months, CFP, the largest GLBT newspaper in the Midwest, has come under increasing financial pressure due to the difficult economy. Although the newspaper has worked extremely hard to reduce operating costs, the extended length of the current recession has caused CFP management to decide that continuing to publish and distribute a printed newspaper product is no longer the most effective way to serve the GLBT community.
“This is something we have been discussing for some time,” according to David Costanzo, Publisher of CFP. “The past two years have been very difficult for printed newspapers. People increasingly receive their information online or via other forms of electronic distribution. We knew this was coming and had targeted the end of this year to complete this conversion, but events intervened and forced us to accelerate our plans to go 100% digital.” CFP has been hit particularly hard by the downturn in the real estate market. Real estate advertising has historically represented the largest percentage of CFP’s weekly revenues, and CFP has seen little recovery in real estate advertising from the decline that that began approximately two years ago.
“The economic environment remains challenging,” according to Costanzo, “but we have a very strong brand and substantial readership, and we are committed to remaining the leading source of news, entertainment, travel and other information for the Chicago GLBT community.”
CFP is evaluating the future of its GOGuide monthly magazine. The magazine, which is far less dependent on real estate advertising, is in its sixth year and is the only premium lifestyle publication serving the Chicago GLBT market. CFP currently plans to continue to publish the GOGuide and will do so as long as their remains strong interest in the product from readers and advertisers.