B. THE DEBTORS EXECUTED FORBEARANCE AGREEMENTS
9. On or about July 24, 2007, Washington City Paper was acquired by CLI. Over the next five months, the paper underwent a staff- and cost-cutting program that left it with a diminished editorial department. On or about Dec. 12, 2007, the editorial division signed a forbearance agreement with its readers. The purpose of the agreement, signed by reader representatives and City Paper executives at Tryst Coffeehouse*Bar*Lounge, was to give the paper’s reporters and editors time to execute a plan to deliver decent journalism with a depleted resource base.
10. Subsequent to the execution of the Forbearance Agreements, the Debtors complied with all material covenants and requirements therein, ensuring, for example, that popular features such as “Savage Love” and “News of the Weird” would continue to be easily findable in the paper.
11. Debtors sought to preserve customized coverage of local news and arts. Among the first costs cut were the $8,000 per annum spent on comic strips and comic illustrations, a decision generally unremarked upon. However, the paper did hear a backlash from fans of Savage Love illustrator Robert Ullman, who called upon readers of his “blog” to mount a letter-writing campaign.
Some of the resulting complaints criticized City Paper for no longer being “alternative,” an attack that weakened the paper’s standing among “hipsters.”
12. City Paper attempted to repair this relationship with the July 12, 2007, publication of “Members Only,” a humorous cover story about the social network Late Night Shots, which reassured “hipsters” that City Paper was still on “their side,” repositioning the paper as a source of “alternative” news and snide commentary and resulting in a spike in Web traffic courtesy “blogs,” some of whose authors sarcastically suggested irate Late Night Shots members “sue [author Angela Valdez] for being mean!”
13. Subsequent City Paper stories attempted to woo back other disaffected readers with sex (“Sorry, No Russian Whores Here,” 8/15/07), nostalgia (“Home Games,” 11/19/07), and a close relative of the Late Night Shots story (“No One’s Going to Stop Me,” 12/5/07). Further, the paper broke news in late December 2007, when it reported on suspicions surrounding the Eastern Market fire (“Was This Really an Accident?”).
14. In April 2008, City Paper published its first “Best-Of” issue in 21 years. In doing so, the editorial department bowed to intense pressure from ownership, the advertising staff, and the Fairfax-based band JunkFood, which was hungry for its third “Readers Choice”-style competition for “Best Local Band.” The paper’s foray into “service journalism” was mocked by readers who contended that Wawa, not Sheetz, was the best place to stop while on road trips. Others held that JunkFood had engaged in ballot-box stuffing.
15. A second attempt at service journalism, the June 20, 2008, the “Hoods and Services” issue, was mostly ignored by advertisers and drew criticism from the copy-editing community for the conscious decision to omit an apostrophe before the “H” in “Hoods.” The edition was headlined by a map of the District of Columbia containing satirical nicknames for its neighborhoods. The paper has since put the map onto very attractive T-shirts that are unavailable for purchase on washingtoncitypaper.com.
16. “Hipsters” who viewed the service journalism as a sellout to corporate America tended to leave their expressions of disapproval on the Web sites of other publications, thus denying City Paper the Web-page views (“pageviews”) that are the currency of the new media landscape.
17. City Paper editors are nonetheless resolved to lure back such readers and have determined to subject them to fewer of the paper’s long-form narratives and more “stunt” stories (a true and correct copy demonstrating reader reaction to this plan, DCist’s 9/26 post “Washington City Paper Changes Include End of Cover Stories,” is attached). Further, the paper is prepared to offer Sudoku puzzles in addition to its long-running crossword and has commissioned several “blogs” of its own, including one about real estate and another about sex.
18. Following the news of its plans to reduce long cover stories, readers are now asserting that long cover stories are in fact why they like the City Paper and that “the reprinting of blog posts is weak.” These contradictory messages have forced City Paper to assert that readers refuse to act in good faith to lower their expectations until such time as it can at least get its sex blog linked by Fleshbot.