Trash-Talking and the Weeklies

Indie writes: If you were to read Jeff Peyton’s editorial in this week’s Observer, you might think the most pressing issue of the day is the “trash-talking” that goes on behind-the-scenes in the local print advertising world. Doesn’t his editorial do the same thing he accuses the others of doing ie. badmouthing the competition? In a related item, what of the recent exodus of staff from the Observer? It also appears that the Observer’s recent expansion to several sections has imploded. Once there were only two weeklies, The C-Ville Weekly and The Observer. Will The Hook replace The Observer as the second weekly, leaving The Observer to die out?

Every time we run a meta-news story about a weekly, things tend to get ugly. Please, folks, let’s keep this civil.

24 thoughts on “Trash-Talking and the Weeklies”

  1. I haven’t read that editorial. And in fact I never read the Observer, but the style (writing and otherwise) has me convinced that they do have a certain market niche that will probably keep them in business for a good time to come, though some contraction could be in order.

    But I’m all for anything that might grab the attention of the local rag editors and make them stop airing their dirty laundry. I’m completely sick of it and find myself skipping over the first five pages of any weekly just because it’s sure to be laced with some kind of underhanded garbage. The C-Ville in particular has an enormous chip on its shoulder and an undying obsession with getting the last word.

    I go out to lunch every weekday and am grateful for the surplus of reading material I get from the weekly papers, but I’m beyond tired of them thinking they can keep dishing this childish stuff and keep (or even build!) readership.

  2. Well, personally I think the Observer sucks! I pick up an issue every now and then just to see if they have gotten their act together and they still continue to write about meaningless, "let’s see how much space we can waste this week" garbage. This paper may be ok for the little old lady who looks for religion in everything she reads or is looking for the location of the upcoming bazaar, but other than that it is a waste of paper. Hey, when I moved here, I actually made an attempt to locate their FOR RENT section of the non-existent classifieds. I know I speak with a sharp tongue, but there’s no sense beating around the bush. And NO, I am not affiliated with any MEDIA whatsoever, so I speak without a hidden agenda!

  3. I don’t read any of the local weeklies as I only rarely find them useful or pertinent to me. Generally I’m in touch enough with the local things I’m interested in that I don’t need them to rehash those to me. I also find all their infighting and attitudes towards one another and towards the Progress to be very trite and sophmoric, so I only care less when they do this sort of stuff.

  4. The media trash talking has spilled out of the usual boundries and has even begun attacking innocent bystanders.

    In the last issue of the Cville Weekly, many of you may have noticed an article about local ‘zines.’ Of particular note in that article was discussion of a publication being anonymously mailed to local papers with the title ‘Iron Times Irregular.’ This publication features frequent use of expletives and a rain of (undeserved) lies and insults against Hawes Spencer and other figures in local media.

    Many of you may know that several years ago I put out a local weekly satirical publication called the ‘Iron Times Irregular.’ While many of the articles were ‘copylefted’ allowing unlimited credited reproduction, that title is my copyright. My name always appeared on every issue. I was the sole author and editor. In short, I became identified as responsible for content released under my copyrighted name, ‘Iron Times Irregular.’

    Whoever is putting out this new, low-quality rip-off publication has nothing to do with me.

    Reading the text of the articles in the rip-off, it is clear that the author is or has been an employee of both the Cville Weekly and the Hook. The writing style tells me that it is someone who is accustomed to writing short, blurby, ‘Fishbowl’ type content. The double hyphens are also a dead giveaway of someone who has had to answer to Mssrs. Strunk and White. Someone who has reason to feel slighted by Hawes Spencer. To this person (who is undoubtably a regular reader of, I would like to say that you had better find me and fess up before I find you. You are guilty of copyright infringement and slander. Making fun of Hawes is one thing- he is a public figure. I, however, I am not. You have inadvertantly picked a fight with the wrong guy. If you come to me first and apologize, it will end there. If I have to find you first (and I can — you leave a sloppy trail), it won’t be pretty. You can be held legally liable for this.

    To the Cville Weekly, shame on you. You guys knew perfectly well that this was a copycat publication and made no effort to make that clear in your article. What you did was no different than if I put out an article calling Jeff Peyton a crook, titling it ‘The Cville Weekly’ and then having run a story on the fake article without mentioning that you are a victim rather than the responsible party. Shame on you. The Hook, George Loper and other local media figures all took 5 minutes to confirm that I had nothing to do with those mailings.

    I publicly request that the Cville Weekly run a correction in their next issue clarifying the matter. My reputation has suffered as a result of this fraud in the first place and the Cville Weekly is only making the situation worse.

    Any of you local media kids out there who would like to toss in your $0.02 on this, please take a minute to create an account and respond here. If you know who the culprit is but you don’t want to say it on this forum, please email me at

    Thank you.

  5. I’m not affiliated with any local publications, rarely read the Observer, often read the C-ville and the Hook, and occasionally read other free papers distributed around town. I don’t find any of the infighting particularly interesting, and I think it really points out what a small town Charlottesville still is.

  6. I’d be shocked if there were any substantial competition for ad dollars between C-Ville Weekly/The Hook and The Observer. The core audience of The Hook and C-Ville is, I assume, those who believe themselves to be the movers and shakers in town, the artsy downtowners. The core audience of The Observer appears to be people that I expect would be more likely to describe themselves as regular folks: retirees, "soccer moms," people who have no interest in coming downtown.

    As with all generalizations, I’m sure I’m being either far under-inclusive or over-inclusive, but hopefully you get the idea. I’m in the midst of the flu right now, so I’m not firing on all cylinders.

  7. Which only makes the occasional potshots against The Observer all the more bizarre. To their credit, The Observer has mostly stayed out of that sort of thing and refused to respond to the various bits of gossip posing as news that have appeared in the other weeklies.

    I suspect a general dislike of the Observer among many downtowners due to their conservative editorial bent. A word of advice to the hipsters: you will learn nothing by reading only opinions that you agree with. Let your dissent breed thoughtfulness. Read The Observer now and then.

  8. I agree that people should take a look at other media that challeges their personal ideologies–however I can’t stomach the self-righteousness that comes with the Observer.

  9. More on topic, trash-talking between any publications makes me crazy, particularly between the weeklies. I wish somebody would play Ghandi here and refuse to retaliate or even acknowledge the stones being thrown. (I’d hoped it would be Jeff Peyton, but, as per this story, he’s finally responded, which I believe is a first.) This behavior makes these publications and their editors look small, and the whole thing is embarassing to merely witness. (Particularly C-Ville, now The Hook, going after The Observer.) It’s all so petty, mean and small minded, and I certainly wish that it would stop.

  10. Despite profound disagreement with the editorial slant of THE OBSERVER, I pick it up often.

    Of "the three" it’s the only one that makes a regular effort to list upcoming local government meetings (City Council, Board of Supervisors, School Boards, etc) and to regularly report on what happened at them. Until one of the other two hipper free weeklies covers local government reliably, I think the Observer will survive.

  11. C-Ville Weekly has had a feud with WNRN going on for several weeks lately, following an editorial that wasn’t particularly kind to NRN. Their Letter to the Editor section has been full of this lately, from harmless letters from the staff to Mike Friend’s angry letter to the publisher informing the paper that they couldn’t underwrite anymore. C-Ville printed that after being denied permission. It’s become a war of radio stations now as everyone seems to have something to say after slightly negative portrayals of other stations in NRN’s letter. WNRN and Mike Friend are considering suing the paper, so this controversy over almost nothing may go on for a while.

  12. I gotta say, <em>Cville</em> was asking for it with that incredibly weak story they did about local radio a couple weeks ago (which gave rise to Friend’s complaints about libelous inaccuracy).

    I’m not NRN’s biggest fan, but I was way underwhelmed by the research, thinking, and writing that went into that piece (Kathryn somebody….Goodson? am I confusing her with someone else?). A lot of hasty, hackneyed complaints about how noncomm radio (gasp) has underwriters who get thanked on the air, gosh there should really be a radio station out there that does Random Things X, Y, and Z That I Happen to Like, etc. Poorly pulled together, no common thread except "here’s things that occurred to me! be interested because I said so!"

    I think this person is supposed to be the media commentator for <em>Cville</em>, but she seems to have only the faintest acquaintance with modern media practices. I think she may have been the same person who wrote the (lame) Cville piece on local internet sites, the one that addressed Us Truly at cvillenews. the one that showed that she’s never actually spent much time on the Internet. (correct me if I’m wrong and there are actually two people writing for <em>Cville</em> who write, research, and think this poorly).

  13. Is there any irony here? the thread starts off talking about silly sniping and in-fighting amongst local media insiders, and this post is all about putting a personal dispute on the table for all to see (and implicitly inviting them to participate).

    Not that I wouldn’t be pissed, too, in your position, but it does seem like there’s something about this town that makes many of us tend towards the public spat.

  14. This could almost be its own news item here…

    That "editorial" wasn’t. It had all elements of a typical news report stating facts. It actually were opinions of the author of that article, and were nowhere marked as such.

    Anyway, why WNRN and Mike Friend make such a big fuss over this, eludes me a bit.

    This whole thing blew up (in my opionion) because we seem to have stubborn captains at the helms of both C-Ville and WNRN, and none of them wants to let it go because their are oh-so-proud of their respective babies.

    I am not sure on the legal issue at hand, if C-Ville is allowed to publish a letter without permission, since Mike Friend is more or less a public figure. I guess we have to wait and see unless there is a settlement.

    (Disclosure: I am a DJ at WNRN and perform other duties there, as well)

  15. I think the Observer will last because it might be the only of the Charlottesville weeklies that truly believes its a useful paper.

    Im usually not impressed with the Observers stories, and even less impressed with how well theyre written. With the exception of the worthless classifieds, the Observers content always seems earnest to me. The Observer crossword is the best puzzle available in a local paper.

    The Hook and C-ville Weekly provide better local coverage than the Observer, I think. I wish theyd do away with most of their sydicated content (I relalise an alternative weekly is nowadays obligated to run News of the Weird, Tom Tomorrow, Lif in Hell, &c). I especially dont understand why I dont find a local essay in place of a featurewell article. More annoying to me is that both the Hook and C-ville suggest they want to be the peoples weekly, but their papers often come across like clique newsletters. I like it better when inside jokes and backscratching are written in subtly enough that an outsider doesnt notice them.

  16. I disagree. Once the Cville Weekly ran that story, they turned what was a private dispute into a public one by putting me in a situation where I had to clear my name. You can not correct the effects of public slander through private means. With that in mind, my post was both topical and appropriate.

    By simply writing a private letter of complaint to the Cville Weekly, I would have been depending entirely on the goodwill of a paper that had already screwed me over (Bill Chapman had confirmed the fraudulant nature of the rip-off a week previous- yet that fact never made it into his papers story). Not a smart move by any standard.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that Cathryn Harding (editor of the Cville Weekly) has made an effort to contact me in regard to this. I would also like to say that I am not accusing the Cville Weekly of slander per se. Just fanning the flames.

  17. That whole thing seems ridiculous to me.

    In the first place, I agree with Kathryn Goodson’s basic premise that WNRN has all the trappings of a commercial radio station. I mean, they don’t just run down a list of sponsors- they’ll read a whole paragraph of text plugging a business that seems to have been provided by the business and they get money in exchange for it. By any reasonable definition, that is an advertisement.

    The twist of irony comes when immediately following the paid advertisement, the DJ delivers a little spiel about how WNRN provides, ‘modern rock and no commercials.’ That just isn’t true.

    I also listen to and enjoy WNRN during certain hours. But I give Goodson credit for pointing out how very naked the emperor really is.

    WNRN’s big mistake was their eagerness to start a pissing match over a matter of opinion rather than fact (as many others without grace have been doing over music reviews of late). If they had just ignored it, it wouldn’t be news any more and we would have forgotten all about it. Instead, WNRN’s concerted campaign to not shut up about the whole thing has extended the shelf life of the issue from a week to months. Which can only hurt them.

  18. "With that in mind, my post was both topical and appropriate. "

    I did not and am not calling your post off-topic or inappropriate; I called it "ironic," because it (still) appears to be ironic–more public infighting amongst members of the media community.

    All you’re saying is that you chose to take your beef with Cville public instead of pursuing private means, for what you believe are good reasons. That’s fine, but that’s also my point exactly–it seems that there are a lot of media insiders who are choosing to conduct their disputes publicly. I recognize that you feel you have good reasons. That doesn’t mitigate the irony.

  19. Well, I suppose you are right about the irony, Cecil. It is a reasonable irony, but an irony nevertheless. I think that I misunderstood your comment as a criticism. My mistake.

    As long as I’m posting here, I will mention that Katheryn Harding called me back a few minutes ago. She didn’t seem to think that the Cville Weekly had done anything wrong and in the end I think that we agreed to disagree.

    Along the way she made a point of insulting, calling the original Iron Times Irregular an underground paper (it was very much above ground, thank you) and generally implying that smaller media outlets in Charlottesville have lesser rights than the Cville Weekly. For my part, I think that I interrupted her too often and could have been a bit more patient.

    Anyhoo, she invited me to write a formal letter to the Cville Weekly for publication. I’m thinking that would probably be a bad move. After all, why bring the arguement to their turf, where they buy ink by the barrel?

    Besides, that would only lead to a rebuttal and letter from friends and so on. Just like this whole mess with them and WNRN. Going on a crusade against a single mistake like that would just be childish.

    So it’s best that the whole thing end here on Where we all have a barrel of ink.

  20. Chill out, my boy. I don’t think your name or your publication are as widely known as you think they are.

  21. I am pretty chill and I’m not your boy. I have no illusions about how widely my publication was distributed or how well-known I am. There are probably only a few hundred people in town (out of 40,000 or so souls) who are familiar with both the Irregular and myself. But they are well-placed people and I think that anyone ought to defend their reputation against public fraud whether or not they are a public figure.

  22. Jack…I have lived in this community most of my adult life and had no idea you used to publish ITI, and in fact, your name was never mentioned in the C-ville article, so what’s the beef? If someone has ripped off your title, publicly acknowledge that in C-ville, and shame them (the rip-off artistes) with your sharpened quill already! Don’t take it out on C-ville…they just reported what they’ve read, that’s fair journalism. Use C-ville now as your tool of revenge…and you deserve some of that. The Hook needs to have this all cleared up too, ’cause they’re tryin and strugglin just like the rest of us. (I too read the so-called ITI and The Hook data all seemed like crap to me).

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