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Columbus Free Press Relaunches Weekly Print Format

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When The Columbus Dispatch announced that they would cease publication of The Other Paper back in January, a lot of people were upset. But none moreso than the current editors and staff of The Columbus Free Press – a local alternative publication that has existed in various forms for the past 43 years.

“Despite what The Dispatch said ‘on the record’ about what they did, I feel that they killed The Other Paper and Suburban News Publications just to get some of the other newspapers off the street,” says Michael Alwood, current Managing Editor of The Free Press. “The Dispatch was a frequent target of The Other Paper’s criticism.”

On Thursday, the Free Press will distribute its first new weekly print edition of the publication in attempt to fill the shoes of TOP. A circulation of 20,000 free copies will land at coffee shops, bars and other stores located throughout Columbus, carrying the same political coverage and investigative stories that the outlet is known for.

“We think Columbus deserves an alternative newspaper that isn’t a lot of fluff,” says Alwood. “The Alive isn’t anything substantial anymore.”

A prime example of the type of content the Free Press will feature is the lead story of the premiere issue, which focuses on the ongoing scandal surrounding the administration of Columbus City Schools.

“We asked everyone who’s read this story so far if they were mad after reading it, and every single person ends up smoking mad,” explains Alwood. “That’s the kind of thing we want to point out — the misdoings of people in power.”

Additionally, the new Free Press will also contain some arts and entertainment coverage to provide a more rounded read than some previous iterations that were focused more on political views and political cartoons.

“We’ll also have a crossword and sudoku,” says Alwood.

When asked if the new Free Press will be complimentary or competitive with Columbus Underground, Alwood explains that there are distinct differences between the missions of each media outlet.

“I was only made aware of Columbus Underground recently, but you guys obviously have worked up a pretty good base and wide range of readers,” he says. “One of our strengths comes from our contributors, including Bob Fitrakis, Harvey Wasserman and Jesse Jackson. What we’re doing is a little different.”

Of course, the biggest difference being the traditional printed weekly format that the Free Press will be implementing. With national trends showing a drastic decline in news print readership and advertising revenue, an aging of news print readers, and with rising costs associated with printing processes and delivery, the biggest question to ask is in regard to the timing of launching a traditional print publication headed into 2014.

“We have been asked that question a number of times, and in one of the first columns you’ll see the Editorial Board’s response to that question,” said Alwood. “Despite the climate, we do think it can be done. We have some other ideas for revenue generation that I think will work out for us.”

The Free Press has been operated by the Columbus Institute for Contemporary Journalism (CICJ) nonprofit organization since 1986. Under a new arrangement, the publishing is now handled by The Free Press Now, LLC, a joint venture between the CICJ and the Columbus Compact Corporation — a community development organization that has worked on residential and retail initiatives largely concentrated in Olde Town East.

The Free Press also has a crowdfunding campaign currently running on indiegogo.com. The group is attempting to raise $10,000 in donations by September 21, and as of the time of this article’s publishing, has a total of $510 with 17 more days to go.

To celebrate the new Free Press, a launch party is being held tonight at Little Rock from 6pm to 9pm, featuring free food from Mikey’s Late Night Slice and free beer from Four String Brewing Company. Members of the Free Press Editorial Board (Bob Fitrakis, Jonathan Beard, Connie Gadell-Newton, Pete Johnson, Suzanne Patzer, Joe Sommer and Julialynne Walker) will be on hand for a meet and greet.

Copies of the new issue will be available starting on Thursday, September 5th at drop locations throughout Columbus. Content will also be made available online as Alwood says that they hope to have a companion website relaunched on Thursday as well.

More information can be found online at www.freepress.org.


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