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VicMan

Houston Press cuts almost all jobs and goes online only

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mkultra25    554

I can't say I'm surprised, as the Press' owner, Voice Media Group, has likewise cut staffing to the bone at the flagship Village Voice and ditched the printed version. I'm sure many will dismiss this development as inevitable economic realities catching up with an insignificant alt-weekly, but it's symptomatic of a far more insidious trend of independent local journalism being choked off in favor of a smaller and smaller number of monolithic media empires. The Press had certainly seen better days, when it used to publish serious in-depth investigative pieces with a lot more regularity, but its de facto demise is still something to be deplored. 

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Reefmonkey    33

Man, that's the end of an era for me. I remember as a suburban high school kid in the early 90s, discovering the Inner Loop on weekends when I got my license, and picking up copies of the Houston Press and Public News while I was down there was part of the process, how I learned about cool restaurants like El Meson (still a favorite), Cafe Artiste, music venues that would allow under 18 in, etc. I'd keep every issue I got until I could get back into town and pick up the latest issue, it was my connection to everything that was cool and urbane in town during my weekday exile out in Champion Forest.

 

I'm not terribly surprised this happened, after the parent company took the Village Voice off the newsracks. It wouldn't be such a tragedy to have to read it online only, but hearing staff writers are being let go and its only going to be freelancers sounds the death knell of Houston Press being a decent, readable, informative alternative newsweekly. The online-only HP content from freelancers I've seen so far has been terrible. I guess it's going to be more of Jef Rouner's self-congratulatory virtue-signalling and unhinged screeds about his daughter's school's reasonable dress code.

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mkultra25    554
9 hours ago, Reefmonkey said:

It wouldn't be such a tragedy to have to read it online only, but hearing staff writers are being let go and its only going to be freelancers sounds the death knell of Houston Press being a decent, readable, informative alternative newsweekly. The online-only HP content from freelancers I've seen so far has been terrible. I guess it's going to be more of Jef Rouner's self-congratulatory virtue-signalling and unhinged screeds about his daughter's school's reasonable dress code.

 

To be fair, most of the freelancers they're depending on now have been writing for them for a while, and some of them are fairly capable writers. But taken as a whole, I fear you're right about the suck factor increasing exponentially as a result of the staff dismissals. I think the music coverage in particular will suffer greatly without Chris Lane there. 

 

What may be even worse is considering how many writers got their start at the Press before moving on to bigger and better things, and wondering what will replace the Press as an incubator for such future talents now. 

 

Oh, and as to your assessment of Jef Rouner: :lol:

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IronTiger    775

The Houston Press is ending? But where will I find my smutty backpage ads for strip clubs and sex lines now? :P

 

(In all seriousness, I'm a little surprised it's the Houston Press kicking the bucket first instead of the 2013-founded Houstonia magazine)

Edited by IronTiger

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Reefmonkey    33
19 minutes ago, IronTiger said:

The Houston Press is ending? But where will I find my smutty backpage ads for strip clubs and sex lines now? :P

 

(In all seriousness, I'm a little surprised it's the Houston Press kicking the bucket first instead of the 2013-founded Houstonia magazine)

 

Is Houstonia doing badly? It seems to be popular in my area, judging from things like the number of people I see putting it on the conveyor belt at the grocery store.

 

What about 002 Magazine, is it still in business, devoting half its content to whatever parties Becca Cason Thrash throws or shows up at?

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IronTiger    775
39 minutes ago, Reefmonkey said:

 

Is Houstonia doing badly? It seems to be popular in my area, judging from things like the number of people I see putting it on the conveyor belt at the grocery store.

 

What about 002 Magazine, is it still in business, devoting half its content to whatever parties Becca Cason Thrash throws or shows up at?

I wouldn't know about Houstonia's prospects, but selling a monthly magazine with a limited demographic focus in this day and age is either a lucky shot that filled a void or someone's pet project that makes little to no profit.

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mkultra25    554
7 hours ago, IronTiger said:

I wouldn't know about Houstonia's prospects, but selling a monthly magazine with a limited demographic focus in this day and age is either a lucky shot that filled a void or someone's pet project that makes little to no profit.

 

I would be shocked to discover that Houstonia isn't financially healthy. Maybe my viewpoint is skewed by living in close proximity to the Greater Heights bubble, but from what I can tell the magazine is quite popular and they have a well-oiled, ubiquitous social media presence. I can just about guarantee their ad revenues are far superior than anything the Press could've ever dreamed of, but that's to be expected when you compare the types of advertisers that grace the pages of Houstonia with those in your typical alt-weekly. And in this day and age, revenues from subscriptions and newsstand sales are just a bonus - it's all about the ad revenue. Also, this isn't the publisher's first rodeo - they have previously established other monthlies with a regional focus. 

 

The editor used to post here, long before she successfully used her blog as a jumping-off point to a journalism career - I guess if she were still around, she could probably shed some light on these types of questions.

Edited by mkultra25

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IronTiger    775
1 hour ago, mkultra25 said:

 

I would be shocked to discover that Houstonia isn't financially healthy. Maybe my viewpoint is skewed by living in close proximity to the Greater Heights bubble, but from what I can tell the magazine is quite popular and they have a well-oiled, ubiquitous social media presence. I can just about guarantee their ad revenues are far superior than anything the Press could've ever dreamed of, but that's to be expected when you compare the types of advertisers that grace the pages of Houstonia with those in your typical alt-weekly. And in this day and age, revenues from subscriptions and newsstand sales are just a bonus - it's all about the ad revenue. Also, this isn't the publisher's first rodeo - they have previously established other monthlies with a regional focus. 

 

The editor used to post here, long before she successfully used her blog as a jumping-off point to a journalism career - I guess if she were still around, she could probably shed some light on these types of questions.

If I'm connecting the dots right, is that what @sheeats is up to these days?

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mkultra25    554
21 hours ago, IronTiger said:

If I'm connecting the dots right, is that what @sheeats is up to these days?

 

Yeah, she's the managing editor. 

 

I should've said "parent company" instead of "publisher" in my earlier post - poking around a bit, I see that they had a transition in the publisher role several months ago - the parent company is still the same:

 

Houstonia Magazine names new publisher as former publisher launches new media co.

 

The key quote, for purposes of this discussion:

 

Quote

“Of SagaCity’s 80 plus titles, Houstonia is near the top in profitability and circulation,” Vogel said in the statement.

 

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mkultra25    554
On 11/30/2017 at 4:45 PM, mkultra25 said:

 

Yeah, she's the managing editor. 

 

 

I hope I didn't curse her by posting that, but it appears that as of a few days ago she is no longer there and has been replaced by one of the recently-laid-off Press staffers. Not sure what happened, but I'm very sorry to see her go, as she was IMO a crucial element of what really made the magazine (and its online component) worth reading and distinguished it from the pack of anodyne competitors. And I say that with no slight intended toward her successor, who I'm sure will do a good job. 

 

At any rate, the Texas Observer posted a fine article yesterday which contextualizes the rise and fall of the Press better than anything else I've read so far:

 

Requiem for an Alt-Weekly

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Ross    677
5 hours ago, mkultra25 said:

 

I hope I didn't curse her by posting that, but it appears that as of a few days ago she is no longer there and has been replaced by one of the recently-laid-off Press staffers. Not sure what happened, but I'm very sorry to see her go, as she was IMO a crucial element of what really made the magazine (and its online component) worth reading and distinguished it from the pack of anodyne competitors. And I say that with no slight intended toward her successor, who I'm sure will do a good job. 

 

At any rate, the Texas Observer posted a fine article yesterday which contextualizes the rise and fall of the Press better than anything else I've read so far:

 

Requiem for an Alt-Weekly

Her Linked In page shows her working for Houstonia and for Rice University. 

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mkultra25    554
19 hours ago, Ross said:

Her Linked In page shows her working for Houstonia and for Rice University. 

 

Yeah, but it's not uncommon for LinkedIn profiles to not be entirely up-to-date (or entirely factual, but that's a different issue). She has been removed from the "About Us" page on Houstonia's website and someone else is now listed in the position she formerly held. 

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IronTiger    775

One of the things not covered in the weeping over Houston Press was how hacky the writing had become. John Nova Lomax stands out, half of his stuff is just stolen content ("hey, let me make commentary on this old article from 1982 I found") and the other half is just fluff ("hey, I'm going to drive down Katy Freeway, write an article, and make it sound really profound and unique to Houston").*

 

* A slight exaggeration, but not that far off. The articles below show what I'm talking about.

http://swamplot.com/one-of-houstons-keenest-witted-local-explorers-once-rated-houstons-top-convenience-stores-and-heres-what-became-of-them/2014-12-05/

https://www.houstoniamag.com/articles/2013/8/7/houston-by-night-1983-style-august-2013

www.houstonpress.com/news/the-sole-of-houston-6545147

www.houstonpress.com/music/houston-radio-still-sucks-6543898

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Ross    677
2 hours ago, mkultra25 said:

 

Yeah, but it's not uncommon for LinkedIn profiles to not be entirely up-to-date (or entirely factual, but that's a different issue). She has been removed from the "About Us" page on Houstonia's website and someone else is now listed in the position she formerly held. 

To be clear, it shows her starting at Rice December 2017, and there's no end date fro Houstonia - both entries on the page show the start date and "to Present". Rice media page shows her http://news.rice.edu/contact-us/

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Firebird65    54
On 12/8/2017 at 2:43 PM, mkultra25 said:

At any rate, the Texas Observer posted a fine article yesterday which contextualizes the rise and fall of the Press better than anything else I've read so far:

 

Requiem for an Alt-Weekly

 

 

Ironically, that story was written by... a freelancer.

 

The only things that were ever any good in the Press were the Hair Balls column when it went after overwrought Houston TV journalists and Robb Walsh's restaurant reviews. Both were long gone by the time the Press'  print edition went bye-bye. 

 

For the most part, the writers, while talented, tried too hard to be irreverent, gritty and vulgar. A lot of times,  it really distracted from their storytelling.  I won't miss the Press.

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IronTiger    775

Did it even have a time when it wasn't covered in ads? I have a copy from early June (a bit of a keepsake now I guess) and 16 pages (including half-pages of ads) were just advertisements out of 32 pages total. Inside was two "local Houston" articles, neither of which really had to do with Houston (stolen research and an auction of a bag of moon rocks), the front page article on nightclubs (Numbers, Neon Boots, Barberella, Dean's on Main, Boondocks, Alley Kat Lounge, Stereo Live) which was kind of interesting in a "reading about the lives of others" way though I think HP's demographics actually go to nightclubs rather than see them as some of exotic culture, some listings of local shows and other "arts and culture" events, a review of Wonder Woman that appears to be written by a radical feminist (though not without merit--her disappointment with it convinced me to see it with friends in a reverse psychology sort of way), a smaller review of a TV show, a full page on a review of a stage production of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, a small section on bar food, local openings and closings (boring but good from a historical point of view), an article on the suicide of a local musician, a few listings for concerts, and a small section called "Ask Willie D", which given the fact that it turned out that the Wonder Woman review was actually syndicated from Village Voice, I assumed that the small column was (I was wrong, it turns out that Willie D is sourced out of Houston). Like others, the "advice column" reads like its parodying daytime television (scanning a cursory Google search has the questions of "I'm in love with a stripper!" and "How do I tell my co-worker he has terrible breath"), with this one starting out as "Dear Willie D: I'm into S&M, whips, chains, latex, everything..." (the question was I guess a common problem where one partner wants to do kinkier stuff than the other, but it just seemed to come off as so over-the-top that it sounds like they made it up). Finally, there's the listings of some nightclubs, and after the infamous sex ads, there were some classifieds in tiny text. I'm pretty sure no one reads that.

 

I like print publications, but it just felt like HP was obsolete, and even the "front page" content amounted to little more than travel guide material. I read it as one would read an old issue of National Geographic where I could learn about and experience different cultures without being there or participating, but that wasn't the point. From what I guess of the readers that HP tries to attract, telling them about nightclubs they already go to just seems like filler. Even the "Houston News" just sounds like they pulled the most boring, most generic stuff you can imagine. Why not create original content, something no one else would report on, or at least go for interesting content? When watching national news, I want to give myself a lobotomy with a power drill, but local news tends to be interesting. Back when I worked in Houston, there was a good chance there would be something weird on the local news, like traffic stopped on Northwest Freeway as a woman danced naked on top of an 18-wheeler. A city of millions of people with untold stories and you went with moon rocks going on auction.

 

Hurricane Harvey was devastating, and it was expected that ad revenue would shrink (temporarily). But it honestly sounds to me like Voice Media Group took that as an opportunity to kill HP and deprive it of even the chance to cover the Astros World Series win (wouldn't that have made a bittersweet end).

Edited by IronTiger

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Ross    677

The Press was always full of ads. I don't recall a time when it wasn't, and I started reading it in the mid-90's

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VicMan    44
On 12/10/2017 at 6:40 AM, IronTiger said:

One of the things not covered in the weeping over Houston Press was how hacky the writing had become. John Nova Lomax stands out, half of his stuff is just stolen content ("hey, let me make commentary on this old article from 1982 I found") and the other half is just fluff ("hey, I'm going to drive down Katy Freeway, write an article, and make it sound really profound and unique to Houston").*

 

* A slight exaggeration, but not that far off. The articles below show what I'm talking about.

http://swamplot.com/one-of-houstons-keenest-witted-local-explorers-once-rated-houstons-top-convenience-stores-and-heres-what-became-of-them/2014-12-05/

https://www.houstoniamag.com/articles/2013/8/7/houston-by-night-1983-style-august-2013

www.houstonpress.com/news/the-sole-of-houston-6545147

www.houstonpress.com/music/houston-radio-still-sucks-6543898

 

Actually he walked down the whole stretch of Westheimer. A bit different from driving.

 

While we instinctively know what he observes, he got it all in print. That means it's in the record, and his commentary can be cited in online references about Houston.

 

As for the "stolen content" (writing an article on an old article) that's a good thing because (without the retrospect article) a lot of these things are only in microfilms and not online.

Edited by VicMan

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IronTiger    775
1 hour ago, VicMan said:

 

Actually he walked down the whole stretch of Westheimer. A bit different from driving.

 

While we instinctively know what he observes, he got it all in print. That means it's in the record, and his commentary can be cited in online references about Houston.

 

As for the "stolen content" (writing an article on an old article) that's a good thing because (without the retrospect article) a lot of these things are only in microfilms and not online.

 

The "driving down Katy Freeway" was supposed to be a slight exaggeration of what his articles often contain, and as for the latter complaint, the Texas Monthly snippets can be found on Google Books (search any of the quotes on that, you'll hit multiple 1983 volumes of Texas Monthly). It's okay to pull out these sorts of things, after all, there are whole blogs composed of newspaper clippings and others, and I know that I often use old ads and articles for discussion pieces in the Historic Houston section, but I don't pass myself off as a journalist while taking half of the content wholesale. (On the outside chance that you are John Nova Lomax under a screen name, I never said your content wasn't occasionally interesting).

Edited by IronTiger

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VicMan    44
11 hours ago, IronTiger said:

 

The "driving down Katy Freeway" was supposed to be a slight exaggeration of what his articles often contain, and as for the latter complaint, the Texas Monthly snippets can be found on Google Books (search any of the quotes on that, you'll hit multiple 1983 volumes of Texas Monthly). It's okay to pull out these sorts of things, after all, there are whole blogs composed of newspaper clippings and others, and I know that I often use old ads and articles for discussion pieces in the Historic Houston section, but I don't pass myself off as a journalist while taking half of the content wholesale. (On the outside chance that you are John Nova Lomax under a screen name, I never said your content wasn't occasionally interesting).

 

I'm not Lomax, but I did enjoy his work. I particularly liked the derivative article "Seoul of Houston".

 

Yes, Texas Monthly archives are available online, but many publications are not. Houston Chronicle articles before 1985 are not online, and Houston Post articles are not available online at all (due to legal issues).

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mkultra25    554
2 hours ago, VicMan said:

Yes, Texas Monthly archives are available online, but many publications are not. Houston Chronicle articles before 1985 are not online, and Houston Post articles are not available online at all (due to legal issues).

 

Translation: the Chronicle would prefer to let the memory of the Post remain dormant, so as not to invite unflattering comparisons with the Chronicle. I subscribed to both the Post and the Chron for years, and there was no question in my mind that the Post was the better paper. It's depressing to contemplate that with each passing year, there are fewer and fewer people around who remember when Houston was actually a two-newspaper town, and was the better for it. 

 

As to Lomax, I defy anyone to read this piece and tell me honestly that he is not a truly gifted writer. Lumping him in with all of the other web-content aggregators who like to claim the title of journalist does him a great disservice, IMO:

 

Of Unknown Origin

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IronTiger    775
29 minutes ago, mkultra25 said:

As to Lomax, I defy anyone to read this piece and tell me honestly that he is not a truly gifted writer. Lumping him in with all of the other web-content aggregators who like to claim the title of journalist does him a great disservice, IMO:

 

Of Unknown Origin

Having his mother be a drug-addled violent hippie may earn Lomax my sympathy, but even if that article wasn't a fluke (something about broken clocks), why are all of his other works clearly phoned in?

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VicMan    44
13 hours ago, mkultra25 said:

 

Translation: the Chronicle would prefer to let the memory of the Post remain dormant, so as not to invite unflattering comparisons with the Chronicle. I subscribed to both the Post and the Chron for years, and there was no question in my mind that the Post was the better paper. It's depressing to contemplate that with each passing year, there are fewer and fewer people around who remember when Houston was actually a two-newspaper town, and was the better for it. 

 

As to Lomax, I defy anyone to read this piece and tell me honestly that he is not a truly gifted writer. Lumping him in with all of the other web-content aggregators who like to claim the title of journalist does him a great disservice, IMO:

 

Of Unknown Origin

 

The legal issues are explained here: http://blog.chron.com/aboutchron/2005/07/houston-post-archives-permanently-unavailable-online-maybe-likely-really/

 

They did put Post articles online, but yanked them after New York Times Co. v. Tasini was decided by SCOTUS in 2001; it held that articles written by freelance journalists can't be licensed for online databases by newspapers. The Chron said they wanted to sift through articles to determine which ones were allowable and which ones weren't, but decided they weren't willing to do this with the resources they had.

Edited by VicMan

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mkultra25    554
18 hours ago, IronTiger said:

Having his mother be a drug-addled violent hippie may earn Lomax my sympathy, but even if that article wasn't a fluke (something about broken clocks), why are all of his other works clearly phoned in?

 

I don't think we're ever going to see eye to eye on this, so I'll leave it at that. I'm not surprised that we're having this discussion, though - the Lomax family's heritage in the field of music has long been a controversial subject, with some folks feeling that the family legacy is one of shining a light onto hidden treasures through persistent and skillful curation, and some holding an opposing view that they have unfairly feathered their own nests on the backs and through the efforts of others. 

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