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Jax Daily Record Friday, May 8, 202005:10 AM EST

'It’s like a friend is gone:' former editors remember Folio Weekly

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Publication is ending after 33 years in circulation.
by: Katie Garwood Staff Writer

For former Folio Weekly staffers and editors, the alternative magazine’s closing leaves them wondering not only where journalists can find a footing in the industry, but where readers will be able to turn for its brand of community coverage.

“We’re certainly losing the most robust arts coverage the area has,” said former Folio editor Claire Goforth, who left the publication in 2018 and is a freelance journalist. “A lot of people, probably like me, are losing an opportunity to see their work in print and work their way into journalism.”

Denise Reagan

Publisher Sam Taylor announced May 5 on Folio’s website the magazine would cease publication after 33 years. Taylor said in a text the COVID-19 virus “killed our ad revenue.”

Closing Folio Weekly after 33 years is “kinda like a loss of a friend, but Folio clearly made a difference,” Taylor texted. 

Denise Reagan spent 25 years in journalism before joining Folio as its editor for two years. Reagan now is executive director of the Garden Club of Jacksonville. 

“Many people have appeared in those pages over its long tenure, and no matter what part of the career it represented for them, it was a highlight for pretty much everybody to be a part of Folio,” Reagan said. “It certainly remains a big highlight for me.”

Folio Weekly joins a long list of alternative publications that have folded in the past several years. According to Nieman Journalism Lab of the Nieman Foundation, alt-weeklies have “been in some version of crisis mode for the past decade.”

At Folio Weekly’s highest point in 1999, it had a circulation of 40,000. Most recently, it was 10,000 and ad rates were cut to match the publication’s circulation, Taylor said. 

The free publication was distributed in Duval, St. Johns and Clay counties. Taylor said he employed four part-time staff and 20 independent contractors. 

Anne Schindler

Anne Schindler, an executive producer at First Coast News, spent 17 years at Folio as a reporter and editor. She said she has been watching the decline of alt-weeklies since Craigslist began to grow in the early 2000s. 

She started at the paper in 1995 as a reporter and left in 2012 as its editor. 

“Folio used to be well over 100 pages regularly,” she said. “It became very skinny in recent years and I admire them for hanging on as long as they did.”

 Reagan said it was not surprising to see the publication shut down.

“There were a lot of signs on the wall this was going to happen,” Reagan said. “But it doesn’t make it any easier. It’s still very disappointing, sure. It’s like a friend is gone.”

In its 33 years, Folio “wanted to be a counterpoint” to local media coverage, Schindler said. It covered the arts communities, environmental stories and LGBTQ issues.

“It was for a number of years a real outlier in terms of presenting perspectives that weren’t mainstream or were contrary to the dominant narrative,” she said. 

Folio was home to hundreds of writers throughout the years, many drawn to the publication as an avenue to write more freely and creatively. 

Schindler said there was seemingly no limit to what could be written in the magazine. Writers could be funny, outrageous, vocal and “explore the boundaries of (their) voice.”

“All of those things were great for a young and spirited and creative bunch of writers,” she said. “It helped also to further the conversation in the community. It felt valuable, and was valuable and it was something we enjoyed playing a role in.”

Former Folio Editor Claire Goforth, second row from bottom, second from left, and the publication’s staff at a holiday party in 2017.

 

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