LGBT media war is officially on

The LGBT media war is heating up as the editor of Atlanta Free Press resigns amid allegations of fabricating sources while an employee of Southern Voice.

There had been "developments" since the Nov. 16 closure of longtime LGBT news publication Southern Voice and nightlife magazine David, such as the recovery of the last issue of David and plans by former SoVo staffers to start a new publication, but surprisingly little "drama."

Enter drama---and on the one month anniversary of SoVo's closing no less.

Atlanta Free Press was the first LGBT print news publication to emerge after the SoVo closure, hitting the streets on Dec. 10. It is part of the Nightlife Media Group stable of local LGBT publications which include weekly bar-oriented magazine Gaydar and the monthly Gay Life Atlanta. Nightlife Media Group is owned by Chip O'Kelley and Matt Neumann.

Problem number one: on Dec. 16, Atlanta Progressive News (which is not an LGBT-specific news outlet but does cover such stories) posted a story about Atlanta Free Press revealing that their editor, Zack Hudson, was fired from SoVo in October 2007 for fabricating sources and quotes in two articles he had written for them.

When APN asked Hudson about the magazine's claims, he said he could not talk about the incident because he had sued Window Media — owner of Southern Voice, David, and other publications nationwide — and because one of the stipulations of the settlement was that neither party could discuss the incident.

Hudson told APN he would send them a copy of the filing. Enter problem number two: no such lawsuit exists.

Project Q Atlanta ran a story the next day about APN's findings, then Atlanta Free Press publisher Matt Neumann fired off a 1,500 word response in Project Q's comments section blasting both the local media for not covering the launch of Atlanta Free Press, and former SoVo/David staffers for not taking job offers to come work at Gaydar and Atlanta Free Press. Neumann made an appeal to readers:

It is my goal to have The Atlanta Free Press serve ALL members of our community to the best of our ability as Gaydar has for almost a year. We will be fair and honest and respectful of all opinions. Perfection... We will strive for it.

Neumann then went on to reveal that his editor, Hudson, lied to APN about the lawsuit.

As for the infamous "I can't talk about it because of litigation" comment by Mr. Hudson to a "reporter", that was a bold face lie. A lie from a man who had just worked a day job for eight hours and completed a 14 hour layout marathon to get this weeks issue to press and who had been hounded for hours for a comment on the situation. To me it's just like when the telemarketer calls to sell you a subscription to the AJC and you reply, "Oh no thanks....I already get it" Anything to get them off of the phone.

Neumann also stated that Hudson had offered his resignation from Atlanta Free Press but that he would not accept it and that he stood by him. But the next day, Dec. 19, came word from APN that Atlanta Free Press contributing editor Xanna Don't was not on the same page as Neumann on that issue, and that she never would have agreed to work with Hudson if she knew about the SoVo fabrications.

Don't said she has told Neumann that she does not intend to continue working at the same publication as Hudson and that she expects resolution to the impasse within the coming days.

And that resolution was delivered today, when Atlanta Free Press accepted Hudson's resignation, Don't was named Interim Editor and co-owner Chip O'Kelley took over business operations of the newspaper from Neumann.

"The Atlanta Free Press now falls completely under my realm," O'Kelley told CL tonight.

He confirmed reports that they did not know about Hudson's SoVo fabrications until reading about it from APN, saying, "We knew he was let go and that there were differences, but nothing that was an issue to that extreme."

O'Kelley made it clear where the focus is now, after five long days of drama.

"The situation is unfortunate but we still have a great team," he said. "We're moving forward."

DISCLAIMER: I wrote two stories for Project Q Atlanta in May 2009 and one story for Gay Life Atlanta in July 2009. These were non-paying assignments.