Chris Ferrell

Chris Ferrell

In late July we told you SouthComm CEO Chris Ferrell was in Louisville to meet with LEO Weekly staffers.

At that time, we asked Ferrell both in phone conversations and in emails about information we had from LEO insiders about pending cuts. He declined to discuss the changes on the record, and, as we say, off the record is off the record.

We also contacted LEO staffers about the cuts, but no one would go on the record.

Today, WFPL’s Gabe Bullard reported LEO Editor Sarah Kelley has chosen to take a bullet rather than to layoff colleagues.

From the WFPL post:

“Several weeks ago I was presented with the need to cut an editorial staff position,” Kelley says. “After thinking about it for several days I realized that’s not something I want to do. So I volunteered to be the person who left.”

The alt weekly has two staff writers, a music editor and a managing editor, with Managing Editor Sara Havens now the editor, according to WFPL. Publisher Dave Brennan told Bullard he’ll replace Kelley when advertising revenue improves. And Brennan added LEO management will have to make “difficult decisions to work within our expenses.”

This is far from the only challenge for SouthComm. The Nashville-based media chain shuttered the print version of The City Paper one week ago after 13 years. Two other SouthComm weeklies in Nashville remain including the LEO-like Nashville Scene.

Starting in May, multiple sources including former LEO staffers told Insider Louisville SouthComm would shutter LEO, which they say loses money each issue. SouthComm executives plan to concentrate on nFocus, according to those sources, a fashion and high society-focused quarterly printed on heavy, glossy stock, with high quality images and art.

At the time, Ferrell told us, “None of that is true.”

As we told you last month, SouthComm owns a national portfolio of alt weeklies including the Washington City Paper in Washington, D.C. and Creative Loafing in Charlotte and Tampa. It acquired CityBeat in Cincinnati in March, 2012.

The alt weekly sector is struggling, with the Boston Phoenix closing last March after 47 years. The Phoenix was losing more than $1 million a year, according to Reuters.

Alt weeklies have been hit hard by the migration of classified advertising to on-line platforms, the dominance of iTunes and YouTube in the music industry, which has reduced print advertising budgets, and a drastic reduction in advertisements for tobacco products.

More as we know more.