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Friday, June 23, 2017

The Ind, once Lafayette's alt-weekly, ceases publishing

Posted By on Fri, Jun 23, 2017 at 5:30 PM

click to enlarge The Independent's final print issue ran earlier this year before it moved to online-only. Today, IND Media announced the suspension of its publications.
  • The Independent's final print issue ran earlier this year before it moved to online-only. Today, IND Media announced the suspension of its publications.
The publishers of IND Media announced today the suspension of TheIND.com, the Lafayette-based news website that housed the former alt-weekly and alt-monthly newspaper The Independent, which went online-only earlier this year. Publisher Cherry Fisher May also announced the suspension of the email newsletter The INDsider, business publication ABiz and the recently launched arts and culture magazine The Current.

The Current, which released three issues, will remain suspended while publishers are "exploring an ownership restructuring that would allow it to resume operations," according to the IND Media announcement. The final INDsider newsletter runs June 30.

The Independent launched in 2003 with a focus on smart, often-irreverent takes on hard news, investigative journalism and local arts and culture reporting. Its office on Jefferson Street in downtown Lafayette put the paper in the heart of the city. In 2012, it went from a weekly to a monthly. In 2017, the paper moved to online-only.

"It's a very sad day for Lafayette journalism," said Scott Jordan, a former Gambit editor who served as The Independent's first editor from 2003 to 2008. "The Mays have a long history of fighting the good fight and trying to do good things in the community, from investigative journalism, to philanthropy, to their events arm. It doesn't feel real that they wouldn't be around in publishing a newspaper."

IND Media's announcement on Facebook suggests the newsroom might continue under a different model. "Key personnel with the publishing group are exploring the possibilities of an online-only news product, potentially doing so as a nonprofit journalism organization," with details coming later this year, according to the announcement.

“The media landscape everywhere is being redefined,” May said in the statement. “We are certainly not immune to those challenges.”

The announcement said the IND may continue "limited" but continuing coverage on larger local issues on social media. May also told Gambit she's encouraged by nonprofit newsrooms like the Texas Tribune. "If it'll work in Texas, maybe it'll work in Louisiana," she said.

May attributes challenges in publishing costs to local economic downturns, particularly in the oil and and gas industry. “Our staff is among the best in the business, and we’re immensely proud of the work they do,” May said in the statement. “We also appreciate the tens of thousands of readers and loyal advertisers who have supported our mission. It’s time to close this chapter in our long publishing career while we explore potential options for our future.”

Lafayette's print news coverage includes The Daily Advertiser and The Acadiana Advocate. IND Media will continue to produce Bon Temps, The Lafayette Planner Guide, Acadiana Lifestyle and related publications. But Jordan says without IND Media publishing news, "it's obviously going to leave a pretty big hole in the investigative side and government coverage."

IND Media subsidiary INDEvents will continue to produce ABiz's annual Top 50 Luncheon in August, but the event will operate as a fundraiser for Moncus Park at the Horse Farm. May tells Gambit that INDEvents will likely continue producing events with nonprofit partners in the future as IND Media restructures. "The events division has been a very successful part of our franchise for a very long time, since the beginning," she said. INDEvents will be able to continue without the overhead of a larger company, she said. IND Media also will likely continue publishing content for such events and hopefully "maintain most of the audience that reads online."

Christian Maader, a longtime writer at The IND and editorial director of The Current, said in a statement he is "tremendously proud of what we've been able to do in just three issues."

"We've received overwhelming support for the magazine in a short time and produced high quality feature journalism on a shoe-string budge," he said. "I still firmly believe in the magazine's mission — to tell the story of Lafayette in transition and explore the city's non-traditional arts, culture and ideas. You deserve a better Lafayette, and Lafayette deserves a better media. Don't accept less."

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