LEO Editor Sarah Kelley Resigns Amid Editorial Staff Cuts, Art Department Partially Relocating

Update: See below for details on further cuts at LEO.

Louisville Eccentric Observer Editor Sarah Kelley has chosen to leave the paper rather than cut one of her reporters.

“Several weeks ago I was presented with the need to cut an editorial staff position,” Kelley says. “After thinking about it for several days I realized that’s not something I want to do. So I volunteered to be the person who left.”

LEO, a weekly publication, employs two staff writers, a music editor and a managing editor. Managing Editor Sara Havens will fill Kelley’s position in the interim.

Publisher Dave Brennan hopes to fill the position permanently, but he says advertising revenue must improve first.

“Our plan is to grow our revenue and meet our budget and our sales expectations every week,” he says. “Until we do that, we’ve got to manage our expenses. My plan is to build our company and have the strongest staff as we possibly can, but in the interim, we need to make some difficult decisions to work within our expenses.”

Kelley became editor in 2010 when previous editor Stephen George left to take a job at the now-shuttered Nashville City Paper. The City Paper was another weekly owned by LEO parent company SouthComm. SouthComm closed it last week. Brennan says there are no plans to close LEO or NFocus, another SouthComm publication in Louisville.

Kelley is the second editor of a Louisville paper to resign in the last few weeks. Last month, Courier-Journal Executive Editor Bennie Ivory announced his sudden retirement. A week later, staff cuts were announced across media conglomerate Gannett’s newspaper division, which includes The Courier-Journal. Ivory, 62, did not mention any impending cuts when he announced his retirement. The Louisville Paper, a monthly publication, also closed this summer, putting out its last issue this month

Kelley says she’s leaving LEO on good terms, and she hopes for a smooth transition for the paper. She had been on maternity leave prior to stepping down, with Havens serving as interim editor. Kelley says she wishes the cuts weren’t necessary, but she’s hopeful revenue will increase and a new full-time editor will be hired (though she says there has not been discussion she would return to the job if it was brought back.)

“Fortunately, I’ve not had to deal with the financial side of the business until now, until this was presented to me,” Kelley says. “I realize this is happening in a lot of newsrooms throughout the city, throughout the country. It just so happens I didn’t want to be a part of a decision I wasn’t in agreement with.

“I opted out.”

Update: Art Department to Shrink

Brennan has also confirmed that there will be a change in art department staff at LEO. Currently, there are two full-time positions and one part-time position. One of the full-time employees will be laid off. Another is leaving, but will be replaced. The laid off employee’s duties will be moved to Nashville, where parent company SouthComm’s home office is located.

Brennan says his sales staff has grown to six full-time and one part-time employees.

“SouthComm is investing in the Louisville market,” he says.

This sales staff, Brennan hopes, will generate the revenue necessary to hire a full-time editor again.

“My goal is to have this be a temporary issue,” he says of the interim editor situation. But when asked if increased revenue would bring some of the design duties back to Louisville, Brennan replies, “I don’t know if we need to.”

Among SouthComm’s staff in Louisville are two publishers: one for LEO and one for NFocus. In Nashville, the Scene, another weekly, and that city’s NFocus shared a publisher. 

“That’s not something we’re looking at here,” says Brennan. “Nashville’s our corporate office and everything they do there does awesome.”

The recent closure of the Nashville City Paper, however, has left many wondering about the future of LEO. Brennan again says there are no plans to shutter LEO. 

“We’re managing our expenses so we can get through this rough revenue time,” he says. 

Gabe Bullard

Gabe Bullard is the director of news and editorial strategy.

@gbullard

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