CL Gets New Publisher

Michael Sigman, a former top executive of the L.A. Weekly, has been tapped to replace Scott Patterson as publisher and president of Creative Loafing in Atlanta. Ben Eason, CEO of Creative Loafing Inc., announced the change Monday.

The move comes just six months after Patterson was named successor to Scott Walsey, who retired in November after 26 years with CL. But Patterson's family had been reluctant to make the move from their home in Pittsburgh to Atlanta, according to Eason.

"We weren't sure if this was the right fit for him," Eason says.

Patterson, like Walsey before him, came from a background primarily in advertising sales. Sigman, however, has a different pedigree.

A former editor of the now-defunct music magazine Record World, Sigman joined the L.A. Weekly in 1984 as its general manager and went on to become publisher, president and CEO. In Sigman's 18 years at the Weekly, revenues quintupled and circulation almost tripled, making the paper the biggest alt-weekly in the country. The paper's stable of writers won numerous journalism awards. Along the way, Sigman also helped to launch O.C. Weekly, a sister paper to the L.A. Weekly that serves Orange County.

Sigman's tenure at the Weekly was not without controversy, however. In 1993, he fired then-Editor Kit Rachlis, saying the paper had become too "intellectualized" and humorless. Five writers quit in protest; two eventually returned. Rachlis is now editor-in-chief at Los Angeles Magazine.

"If I had to do it over again, I would have handled it better," Sigman now says.

In 2002, Sigman himself was fired by David Schneiderman, president of Village Voice Media, which owns the L.A. Weekly. Schneiderman told an L.A. Weekly reporter at the time that "I wanted to bring in somebody new to look at what we do in alternative journalism from a business point of view." Sigman says he was "completely surprised" by the dismissal.

For the past three years, Sigman has run Major Songs, a music publishing house that includes the catalog of his late father, songwriter Carl Sigman. The elder Sigman's repertoire includes such classics as "Pennsylvania 6-5000," "Ebb Tide" and "What Now My Love?"

Sigman said on Monday that he wasn't looking to return to alternative weeklies until he heard from Eason. But, he said, the prospect of joining Creative Loafing as publisher is "unbelievably exciting."

Sigman's hiring signifies a shift in tradition among CL publishers. He will be responsible only for the Atlanta operations, and will not hold any corporate-wide position. "We want somebody who can unite all departments of the newspaper and bring them behind our mission," Eason said Monday.

Said Sigman: "This is a very good paper with very good staff. My goal is to bring all that stuff together so it meshes as well as possible."

Sigman added that he wants to make CL the kind of paper where "most of the people most of the time think it's the best job they've ever had."??

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