Charleston City Paper is under new ownership for the first time in its 22-year history after the weekly alternative newspaper was purchased by City Paper Publishing LLC, a partnership of Georgetown lawyer and Charleston School of Law President Ed Bell and Charleston-based publisher Andy Brack, who has long served as the school’s spokesperson.
Brack said he would not disclose the financial terms of the acquisition.
“This is something Ed and I are doing, and, you know, yay to us,” he said.
Bell is also a co-owner of Garden & Gun magazine, a Charleston-based national publication focused on the South. Brack publishes the online Statehouse Report policy forecast and Charleston Currents and writes a weekly syndicated column that appears in the City Paper; he will serve as the paper’s new publisher, taking over from co-founder Noel Mermer.
“This is exciting news for our community because it will allow an experienced local ownership team to take the reins of what has become Charleston’s … news outlet for students and young families who want the best local information on arts, culture, music and more,” Mermer said in a news release.
The outgoing publisher did not return a voicemail left for him by press time.
Mermer founded Charleston City Paper in 1997 with advertising director Blair Barna and former editor Stephanie Barna. Blair Barna will remain advertising director, according to the news release, and Mermer and Stephanie Barna will serve as consultants to the newspaper.
“Our job is to do what we have been doing to grow the audience, grow our voice and to get even better,” Brack said.
Brack said Statehouse Report and Charleston Currents are joining the City Paper newspaper family, meaning that correspondents for Brack’s other publications will be able to contribute to the Charleston City Paper.
“That means the City Paper is going to offer a bit more news coverage, particularly things that have a Charleston and statewide focus,” Brack said. “So I think that’s going to better inform readers, and it’s going to expose them to what we’ve been doing for 18 years with Statehouse Report.”
Brack said City Paper readers shouldn’t notice much of a difference in the product that they’re accustomed to.
“One of the things that you do when you start running a business is you don’t change the magic sauce,” he said. “You keep doing things the same way and see if you can improve on them. And what we want to do is we want to reach more people, we want to reach more advertisers and do responsible community journalism.”
Bell said Charleston City Paper provides a valuable public service to the Charleston area, and he looks forward to ensuring that the paper continues to provide content “that will inform readers about what’s happening — out in the open and behind closed doors.”
Mermer, Blair Barna and Stephanie Barna wrote in a column that running Charleston City Paper and being a part of “Charleston’s modern renaissance” for the past 20 years “was the opportunity of a lifetime.”
“Selling our scrappy little newspaper to new owners has not been an easy decision to make,” the trio wrote. “Over the years, we’ve had plenty of offers to purchase the newspaper, but none of them felt quite as right as that of Andy Brack and Ed Bell.”
They added that their reasons for selling “are more personal than anything else, as life’s challenges have come our way.”
Mermer shared in a column last year that he had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, the more commonly known name for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
According to the release, Charleston City Paper has more than 110,000 readers weekly in print and reaches over 1 million users every month through its website and social media platforms.
“Having Ed and Andy at the helm provides outstanding stability for the City Paper’s dedicated team of professionals and for loyal readers who dive into the paper every Wednesday to learn what’s happening,” Mermer said.
Brack said he wants City Paper to continue to be “fun, and it’s going to be engaging, creative, and it’s going to provide some neat information to people over the next few years.”
“The product … has really just become an institution here in Charleston,” he said. “It’s more of a publication focusing on people from college age up to young adulthood, and it’ll continue to be that voice. But we’re going to make sure that there’s something in there for everybody.”