City Paper News & Movement

First a recent announcement from Erik Wemple:

    Dear Staff: One of the things we’ll be doing more of in the future is themers, or special issues. A little background: I have been working with Amy Austin to identify topic areas that fit our editorial philosophy and goals and that at the same time the people upstairs can use to boost their revenues. Two areas that we agreed on are education and food. We have a long tradition of reporting on both of these areas, and the sales staff can do well by selling advertisers on issues that are organized around these themes. In other words, these are theme issues that can help our company on the bottom line while not impinging one bit on our editorial integrity.

    Accordingly, we’ll be doing several special issues next year: Three education specials and two food pullouts, in addition to the fall arts guide.

    The education specials won’t require the herculean lift that the food issues do. They are just basically going to be our usual news presentation, just with education running through the stories. In other words, an education special issue will kind of go like this: There’ll be a stamp on the cover and some kind of presentation that denotes it’s a special issue. Then, inside, all of our good people will be focusing on education. Loose Lips will do a schools column; DL will be all schools; a B feature and the cover will continue the theme. The first of these issues runs on 2/23. So that means that columnists and editors should begin thinking about what goes in these spaces.

    The first food issue runs on 4/13.

This memo, as you can probably imagine, caused a few CP purists much dismay.

And then, today, came some more news:

  • Copy Editor Anne Marson is leaving.
  • Features writer John Metcalfe, who had been serving as interim arts editor, is leaving (we hear that he’s heading to the Seattle Weekly).
  • Chicago Reader staffer Mark Athitakis has been hired as our new arts editor.

    Wemple’s emails when you click below…

    On Anne Marson:

      From: Erik Wemple
      Date: November 21, 2006 2:45:04 PM EST
      Subject: Marson: Gone

      It is with a spinning head and dread that I announce the imminent departure of valued copy editor and office all-star Anne Marson. This is tough news to break. Marson has been with us since 2003, and during that period she’s progressed from a staffer trying the learn the ropes to an anchor, filter, and conscience of this place. Over the past year or so, I have pulled Marson into more and more management discussions and personnel interviews, in large part to mine Marson’s mastery of our voice, style, and raison d’etre. She unleashed those sensibilities on each piece of copy that she edited here, and the paper has been the beneficiary over and over again. Anyone who reads greens knows the classic Marson style: A line coming out of the copy, opening into a box, with a cutting question or comment from Marson, in her inimitable handwriting, inside that box. These queries and comments have saved us corrections and have helped our readers in ways that are very hard to quantify. Paper-schmaper, though: We’ll all miss Marson for what she brings to the office–a fabulous, cheery presence that has netted her a friend or two around here. (Her friendship with former Washington City Paper staffer Rebecca Corvino is one for the ages.) She also has perhaps the most unflappable disposition since ABC News Correspondent Jake Tapper. Marson will be making the transition to full-time content provider, a journey that’ll start with a stint as a freelancer. Don’t be surprised to see her witty and no-nonsense food writing in future Washington City Papers.

    On Mark Athitakis:

      From: Erik Wemple
      Date: November 21, 2006 2:44:30 PM EST
      Subject: New Arts Editor

      Washington City Paper editorial managers are excited to announce the hiring of Mark Athitakis as our new arts editor. Mark comes to us from a familiar place. The Chicago Reader has employed Mark as an assistant editor since October 2004, and in that time Mark has done everything his people have asked and more. He’s been involved in the Reader’s Web makeover and is a champion of clean, strong narrative copy. The guy came in here with barely a couple day’s notice and produced an outstanding critique of our arts coverage and showed a command of all that you must know to be an arts editor in a town like D.C. He’ll be starting shortly after the New Year.

    On John Metcalfe:

      From: Erik Wemple
      Date: November 21, 2006 2:43:47 PM EST
      Subject: Motorcycle Guy is Leaving

      Dear Staff: It is with surface-level regret and deep-seated relief that I announce the departure of John Metcalfe from Washington City Paper. Metcalfe, for those of you who may not have seen him around the office, has worked for years out of the far-southwest cube on the main staff floor. He has generally kept to himself in a way that has prompted a lot of gossip at happy hours and other rendezvous. No one really knows who Metcalfe is, what he does once he leaves the premises on that MadMax machine of his. What we all do know about him is that he has produced some of the best feature writing that this paper has seen. Just last week, an outsider professed that Metcalfe’s DL about mini-minibikes had stuck with her for years. That comment prompted a round of reminiscing about the story, with one staffer from here recalling a particularly poetic line from the piece: “The mechanic empties the tank and fills it with a more diluted concentration of two-stroke. Then he pulls the starter cord, straddles the bike, and guns it to an angry-lawn-mower roar. The machine leaps off the sidewalk and into busy Georgia Avenue, with the mechanic, like a bear riding a unicycle, teetering on top of it.”

      Metcalfe will pile all that talent into a vehicle and put it to work at the Seattle Weekly, an AAN paper that’s in the midst of a makeover stressing long-form narrative and investigative reporting. Metcalfe will leave us in much the same way he comes in and out–abruptly and without fanfare. This is his last day.