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Creative Loafing has new ‘benevolent overlords’

Mark Parker



Creative Loafing Tampa was recently sold for the second time in five years. Its editor-in-chief welcomes the change. Photo by Dave Decker.

For Ray Roa, editor-in-chief at Creative Loafing Tampa, the weekly publication’s recent acquisition is akin to lyrics immortalized by rock legends The Who: “Meet the new boss; same as the old boss.”

San Antonio-based Chava Communications recently acquired Creative Loafing Tampa (CLT) from Cleveland’s Euclid Media Group. Officials did not disclose terms in the Aug. 11 announcement.

Michael and Cassandra Wagner, who founded Chava in June, previously served as Euclid’s chief operating officer and vice president of marketing, respectively. Euclid bought CLT in 2018, and Roa told the Catalyst that he enjoys a good relationship with the husband-and-wife duo.

“It’s always good to be familiar with your new overlords,” Roa said. “But at the same time, they’re like our old overlords and really benevolent in a lot of ways.”

Roa believes the Wagners always planned to acquire Tampa Bay’s edgy alt-weekly that has covered area entertainment, arts and politics since 1988. He said the move “has been in the works for a long time” and “came as no surprise.”

Euclid officials laid off several staffers after acquiring CLT five years ago. Roa assumed the editor-in-chief position in August 2019.

Chava’s announcement pledged a seamless ownership transition with no disruptions to publication schedules. Roa believes that will extend to the newsroom.

“We haven’t received any edicts or anything like that from the new, old owner,” he added. “As far as the editorial goes, as far as I know … everything kind of stays the same. We’re still irreverent, surly and silly, and committed to all our verticals that we write …”

Ray Roa, editor-in-chief of Creative Loafing Tampa. Photo by Hames Ostrand.

Roa noted that the Wagners never told Colin Wolf, CLT’s digital editor, and Kyla Fields, managing editor, how to operate during their time at Euclid. Roa called not worrying about “ruffling feathers” in a board room a relief.

He said the Wagners believe alt-weekly publications have a bright future and bought CLT with the “right” intentions. The deal included three other alternative independent publications – the Orlando Weekly, Cleveland Scene and San Antonio Current – and marketing agency Local Culture.

Roa called the three publications staples in their respective communities. He looks forward to maintaining that familial vibe with the papers through an ownership change that “feels really comfortable.”

“I just don’t have that anxiety,” he said. “Maybe I’m getting older, or maybe the drugs I’m taking are better. I don’t know, but I feel great.”

Roa noted that James Howard, CLT’s publisher, remains his immediate boss and will serve as a liaison between the local publication and the Texas-based media group. Roa also credited Howard for transforming how he sells their product and maintaining connections and partnerships needed to remain successful throughout his 28-year tenure.

While CLT’s leadership continues looking for investors and philanthropists willing to support local journalism, Roa said he doesn’t “have a weird need to be owned by somebody who lives down the street.”

Local publications have faced well-documented challenges over the past decade, and Roa stressed the importance of writing about things affecting daily lives in a community. For CLT, that has meant highlighting often underserved and unheard creatives.

He noted that the publication now includes more “mainstream” news, and the area continues growing. However, Roa said the newsroom remains true to its – and Tampa Bay’s – “small and scrappy” roots.

“As an alternative weekly, I don’t think anybody is doing it the way we’re doing it,” he said. “We love serving this community … and we’re really lucky to do that.”




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1 Comment

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    Ed Hotchkiss

    August 16, 2023at3:34 pm

    So why are there never any weekly papers in the vending machines in downtown St. Pete any more.

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