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Independent Weekly announces staff layoffs, cutbacks

This July, even as the N&O and Herald-Sun were announcing their latest rounds of layoffs in the wake of a tough print ad climate, we wondered whether changes at the Indy -- the departure of Mosi Secret, and a beyond-the-Triangle focus -- portended cutbacks at that paper, too.

At the time, Indy editor Lisa Sorg noted, the paper was expanding--

Sorg dismissed any speculation that the publication's newsroom was suffering in any way from the national print advertising malaise, saying the Indy was doing "remarkably well" in the business and advertising category, with web site advertising "well above" where it was last year.

The editor noted that despite Secret's departure -- to Pro Publica, an independent non-profit news organization focused on investigative journalism -- the Indy would not only be refilling his newsroom seat but expanding to a fourth full-time writer, with Vernal Coleman joining the publication later this year from Virginia's Port Folio Weekly.

Which made it the more difficult to read Sorg's column in this week Indy, announcing the layoff of two staff members, who've turned out to include editorial newcomer Coleman as well as promotional coordinator Marny Rhodes.

In an interview, Sorg noted that while the first half of the year had been a strong one financially for the Indy -- "up until that moment that we spoke, things were going well... we were kind of amazed, in terms of the advertising revenue, that things were going as well as they were" -- the second half "just did not go well" financially for the alt-weekly, with 2009 a question mark given the current recession.

Sorg noted that a number of managers, herself included, are taking paycuts as part of the belt-tightening at the Indy, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary.

The Indy's editor gave particular praise to Coleman, whose brief work with the paper included an expose on the efficacy of Durham's crime cameras, coming on the heels of over a month's worth of public records requests and research. "We think very highly of him, and whatever I can do to help him, I will do," Sorg said, noting that Coleman would be leaving the Indy at the end of December.

Sorg did add that the Indy's increased online presence would be a continuing and growing trend, with a redesign of their new Triangulator blog on the way, and with less story-aggregation and more new material from Indy writers.

"A lot of people do aggregation, so why would we pile on when we think original reporting is our strength?" said Sorg, who added that the Triangle Offense sports blog had already taken on a similar approach with staff-generated content.


Ellen Ciompi

OK, I give up. What's "story aggregation"? Is that something like, the main story plus sidebar features?

In my opinion, the Indy hasn't been the same since the departure of editor Richard Hart a couple of years ago. A real downhill slide in terms of content and editing. Hal Crowther's column (which, I assume, is not touched by editors) is about the only thing that keeps me reading, and it doesn't appear often enough.

Kevin Davis

Sorry for not being clear, Ellen! Story aggregation is the equivalent of BCR's Daily Fishwrap -- summarizing and linking to news elsewhere.


I wish the Indy would cover the local art scene as well as they cover music. Thats a big weakness in my opinion. Also, where the hell did the hilarious personals go? i know they're online..but its just not the same.

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