New LGBT Paper Printed, Sovo Accused Editor of Fabrication

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(APN) ATLANTA — The first issue of Atlanta Free Press was distributed throughout Atlanta’s GLBT community on December 10, 2009. AFP is the first GLBT print news publication to emerge after the closure of Southern Voice [and David Magazine] a month ago.

As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, former Southern Voice editors and staffers have launched an effort to start a new publication, to begin circulation early in 2010.

However, AFP is separate from that effort. AFP is owned by Matt Neumann and Chip O’Kelley, the owners of Nightlife Media Group, which also owns Gaydar, a glossy publication that covers Atlanta’s GLBT club scene [similar to the former David Magazine].

The Editor is Zack Hudson, a former Staff Writer for Southern Voice, and Xanna Don’t, the publisher of an underground ‘zine called Don’t Label It.

Hudson was previously terminated by Southern Voice when the publication alleged that he fabricated sources and quotes in at least two articles, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.

When APN asked Hudson about the magazine’s claims, he said he could not talk about the incident because he had sued Window Media–owner of Southern Voice, David, and other publications nationwide–and because one of the stipulations of the settlement was that neither party could discuss the incident.

However, Laura Douglas-Brown and another former Window Media employee familiar with the matter say no lawsuit was ever filed by Hudson against Window Media to their knowledge.

APN searched the Dekalb County Online Judicial System (OJS) for all cases involving Window Media in any capacity, receiving a list of four cases, none involving Hudson. APN searched for Zack, Zackary, and Zachary Hudson, finding no search results.

When APN notified Hudson that there did not appear to be any lawsuit, Hudson said he would send APN a copy of the filing but would not be able to do so until next week. If Hudson does produce the documentation, we will post an update here.

HUDSON’S TERMINATION FROM SOUTHERN VOICE

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.”

While Hudson said he could not speak about it because of the alleged settlement, he said he did not fabricate any sources while at Southern Voice. Again, according to APN’s research there does not appear to have been any settlement.

VISION FOR AFP

“I’m really excited, it’s a great group of people,” Hudson said about AFP. “I think we have a lot of work to do but the good news is we’ve got the energy and the desire to accomplish that work. And from what we understand, gay men and lesbians in an Atlanta want a news outlet, and we have the ability to fulfill that.”

“The role of AFP is simply to offer news and information to gay men and lesbians that they can use or choose not to use as they will. It is grounded in my personal motto that knowledge is power,” Hudson said.

“The editors of the newspaper [Gaydar] contacted me essentially the morning that the news broke that Sovo and David had closed. They said when can we do a newspaper together. Frankly, I don’t know if they posed it in the form of a question,” Hudson said.

“We had two organizing meetings- one to hammer out the name of the newspaper, and the other one was to sort of develop some other issues. One was at Amsterdam [Walk], the other was at their office,” Hudson said.

“I don’t personally have any relationship with anybody who was on staff [at Southern Voice] at the time they closed. I think that competition is good for everybody, particularly the news consumer,” Hudson said.

“If the employees of Sovo regroup and start a newspaper, so be it and congratulations to them. I’d be surprised if that happens. They’re welcome to fight for ad dollars and to scoop people. It’s a free country and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t do it,” Hudson said.

“Right now the competitive edge is that we’re the only ones in print,” Hudson said.

“We have some different minds and different viewpoints,” Hudson said. “The aesthetic and the vernacular is frankly a little more modern and a little sharper.”

Xanna Don’t is the Contributing Editor. “Zack Hudson and I were offered co-editor positions for ATL Free Press. Zack and I met and he had more newspaper experience and I felt somebody needed to be in charge so I deferred to his experience.”

“Most of my experience is in a magazine context,” Don’t said.

However, the one full-length news article appearing in the first issue of AFP, regarding the Atlanta Eagle raid and subsequent lawsuits, is written by Don’t.

Don’t said she was interested in “the chance to contribute to a news and arts weekly in the gay community in a context that is very inclusive of everyone in the community.”

“There were a lot of things that Southern Voice didn’t cover. And some things that I’ve heard, part of the reason for that, is they didn’t always go out. They weren’t always out in the community. They wrote about the community, but they weren’t always out in it,” Don’t said.

Sources told APN that AFP’s owners met with several former staffers of Southern Voice to explain their mission regarding AFP. The former Southern Voice staffers were welcome to apply for jobs at AFP, but apparently chose not to.

When asked whether AFP had ever contacted Project Q Atlanta–an online GLBT news publication in Atlanta–regarding possible collaboration, Hudson said he was not aware of it.

FORMER SOVO STAFFERS REGROUP

Last month, APN broke the news that Sovo staffers were considering launching a new publication under a different name.

On December 03, 2009, interested parties held a meeting at First Existential Congregation to plan the new publication, which they have decided to call GA Voice, or Georgia Voice.

Douglas-Brown told APN they have received about $15,000, including a $12,000 private grant from the Lloyd E. Russell Foundation, and several smaller donations. They will be hosting a fundraising dinner later this month.

Douglas-Brown said she thought there were some good aspects to Southern Voice having been part of a media conglomerate like Window Media, in that Sovo was able to syndicate national interest stories authored by the Washington Blade.

However, she argued there would be a benefit to having a locally controlled publication because the GLBT community in Atlanta is different than GLBT communities in other parts of the country.

She also said she thought Window Media had too many overhead costs.

GA Voice has a PO Box, a website, a bank account, and a name reservation with the Georgia Secretary of State. They want to raise enough funds to launch the publication early in 2010. At first, they will not be paying writers, with the intention of paying them once they raise sufficient advertising revenue.

AFP’s first issue contained several pages of advertising, which suggests that the print advertising market for GLBT readers is still there. The question remains, how will advertisers respond to two print publications in the same market and whether they will be able to afford to advertise in both places.

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor of Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

Revised syndication policy:

Our syndication policy was updated June 2007. For more information on how to syndicate Atlanta Progressive News content, please visit: http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/extras/syndicate.html

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