“He fired the whole staff,” he told me last week. “All of them.”
Minutes later a press release — long since scrubbed from Facebook — appeared on the Loaf’s page announcing the sale of the paper from owner Charles Womack to his eldest son Alex, who in pursuit of a new, digital strategy immediately ceased print publication, closed the offices and bid the staff a long goodnight.
Reaction on social media was… not positive. And speculation ran rampant as to why on earth anyone would take a decades-old brand in the state’s largest market and burn it to the ground in half a day.
I have some insight into this.
Longtime readers might remember that I worked for Womack from 2004 to 2013 as the editor of Yes Weekly, where my staff and I were subjected to whims like this all the time, culminating — for me, anyway — in my dismissal on Election Day 2013, exactly five years ago.
The timing was terrible. We had been planning to put together most of the issue before the results came in, and then quickly write news pieces for the next day’s publication. Instead I had my first Election Day off in a decade.
I remember, as I made my way for the door, a frazzled Jordan Green turning to his publisher and saying, “Charles, are you sure this is a good idea?”
I didn’t stick around long enough to hear his reply.
I’ve gotten a few calls from former Creative Loafing staffers and Charlotte reporters over the last few days, all of them looking for some explanation of what happened.
I told them the same thing I told Green months later, after he and our colleague Eric Ginsburg left Yes Weekly to start Triad City Beat, when they were trying to make sense of it all. It’s the same thing I told my staffers dozens of times under Womack’s leadership, the same thing I would tell my wife after describing yet another outrageous decision made at the executive level.
In the aftermath of decisions like this, I would say, one has to consider the possibility that not a lot of thought went into it.