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East Bay Express Lays Off Most of Editorial Staff in Latest Blow to Alt-Weeklies

Category: Business,Finance

Alternative weekly newspapers have struggled in recent years. The Village Voice, the left-leaning independent weekly in New York, ceased publication in August after more than six decades. Nearly all the journalists at LA Weekly were laid off in November 2017, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Because weekly newspapers are typically free, they do not have the subscriber base that could make up for lost advertising revenue, said Jason Zaragoza, executive director of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia. Some weeklies, he said, were experimenting with new revenue streams, such as a membership model or event hosting.

There has been a steady decline in association membership for about a decade, Mr. Zaragoza said. Last year, Pew Research Center reported that the average circulation of the nation’s 20 largest alt-weeklies had fallen to 55,000 in 2017, down from 87,000 five years before.

Alternative weeklies on the East and West Coasts had been hit particularly hard by declining advertising revenue, Mr. Zaragoza said, and the layoffs at The Express were a blow to Oakland.

“It’s a huge loss for the community,” he said.

Mr. Buel, who bought The Express in 2017 with his wife, said it was not making any money at the time. He became its publisher and considered holding a community fund-raiser to generate new revenue.

“The paper’s economics have been poor,” he said.

Mr. Buel resigned as publisher in July 2018 after a former co-worker accused him of kissing her inappropriately. A day earlier, he had apologized in a statement following revelations that he had used a racial slur in a staff meeting and had taken down articles he said “did not live up to my editorial standards.”

Mr. Buel said on Saturday that he was again serving as publisher because there is “no alternative” given the staffing changes. The Express will begin soliciting donations from people in the community, he said.

“I’m still optimistic about the paper’s future, and I don’t believe that print media is dying,” he said.

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