I didn't recognize Creative Loafing.
Instead of the familiar newsprint cover with the newspaper's logo emblazoned across the top, I saw a stack of publications with a higher grade of paper and no visible name.
Not quite as glossy as a magazine, the cover showed photos of chicken wings, with a boldly colored headline splashed from top to bottom "the ultimate wing smackdown." Suddenly I realized that this must be Creative Loafing, seized by another misguided re-design experiment. A closer examination proved my suspicions correct. I found the logo hiding at the bottom of the page, printed in tiny type.
An editor's note on the first page disclosed that Atlanta's venerable "alternative newspaper" had switched from weekly to monthly publication, which explained why CL had been absent for a few weeks. The editor promised similar "content" to the old paper, along with a beefing up of daily online offerings.
The switch even moved the AJC to write a news story, penned by veteran scribe Rodney Ho. Ho ascribed the CL's success over the the years to its calendars of entertainment events. A lot of that information is now available on the Internet, Ho reported, making CL irrelevant for many. In recent years, stacks of CL have remained unclaimed on racks around town.
While CL did a fine job with entertainment listings, I want to praise its reporting and writing. The newspaper has had its ups and downs during my now 30-plus years in Atlanta, overcoming a bankruptcy and various ownership changes and shifts in coverage strategy.
But I've always found the paper an essential news source, especially since the AJC has retreated from its coverage of the city. I hope CL maintains its commitment to serious journalism, but the chicken wing cover raises doubts.
At its best, CL has given in-depth, imaginative coverage of the city's neighborhoods, politics, musicians, artists and writers. I always liked its restaurant and theater reviews and its annual Golden Fleece awards for best and worst legislators. The writing and editing were often quite good.
I'll also admit that I like its horoscope. Gosh, what will I do know without its weekly prognostications for my Taurus sign?
Creative Loafing established a distinctive personality, casting Atlanta as a hip, creative, funky city rather than its soulless corporate image. Writers like Thomas Wheatley, now moved on to Atlanta magazine, Curt Holman and Cliff Bostock made the paper enjoyable.
In recent years, I looked forward to work by Maggie Lee, my old legislative and Patch buddy. In a sign of new CL priorities, Maggie's knowledgeable pieces no longer appear in the newspaper. She still covers the state Capitol for the Macon Telegraph.
CL reached its highest level with the publication of Doug Monroe's column, one of the city's all-time best. Monroe understood the history of Georgia, Atlanta and the South. His words echoed the region's pain and beauty through his personal experience, and gave hope for a better future. Monroe later did outstanding work for Atlanta magazine, raising it above its usual mediocrity. Alas, Monroe's voice was stifled in his days at the AJC.
A few months ago, Monroe wrote a gripping piece for the AJC about his terrible health problems in recent years. A few scattered reports show that Monroe's in better shape these days, giving hope that his voice might return somewhere in Atlanta.
CL's monthly publication marks a shift from "long-form" pieces on politics, neighborhoods and social and economic issues to softer features on food and entertainment.
The new CL did have an OK interview with mayoral candidate Peter Aman, part of a series on the city's election. The AJC has provided little substantial coverage on the mayor's race.
I wish the CL well with the new monthly but will miss the old feisty weekly.