Cityview, Iowa Living Magazines Suspend Publication, Citing Coronavirus Pandemic

The covers of the latest issue of Cityview and the last Ames Living magazine available online. Images: Cityview Magazine/Facebook;

Update, 4/26: Earlier this month, Cityview changed its plans to fully suspend publication, releasing a digital-only edition of its monthly for April.

Original post: Cityview, the Des Moines alt-weekly-turned-monthly lifestyle magazine, has suspended publishing for six weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic, its publisher Shane Goodman announced Monday.

“We depend on people coming together for events, concerts, food, drink, lectures, movies, festivals and more, and we rely on advertising from small businesses to pay our bills and, hopefully, show a profit,” Goodman wrote. “When most all of this goes away at once, we are left without options.”

The publication’s parent company, Johnston-based Big Green Umbrella Media, has published the hyperlocal Iowa Living magazines in 27 communities, including several in the greater Des Moines area and, until recently, Ames. On Monday, Goodman announced in a separate but nearly identical statement that they would also suspend publication for a six-week period in hope of “seeing life on the other side of this storm.”

When Cityview decided to morph its long-running alt-weekly into a monthly lifestyle magazine in July 2016, the Informer wrote about the publication’s decline under Goodman’s management, including examples of sexist and transphobic content as well as the conspiratorial ramblings of a former reporter he promoted to managing editor.

In their heyday, alt-weeklies thrived, serving an important watchdog role monitoring public corruption and acting as a thorn in the side of their cities’ daily newspapers by savaging their shortcomings with an edgy wit that flouted the conventions of mainstream reporting.

But in recent years, with newspapers struggling to survive amid increasing consolidation of the industry, alt-weeklies have been particularly hard hit, either shuttering entirely or, as with Cityview, shifting their focus away from investigative reporting toward lighter cultural coverage. The country’s original alt-weekly, the Village Voice, ended its print publication in 2017 after 62 years.

Although online news readership has spiked during the coronavirus pandemic, the crisis has threatened the revenue streams of print publications because of its impact on advertisers and the cancellation of sponsored events, among other reasons. (Cityview publishes its print content on its website but otherwise has a minimal online presence.) The news industry publication Nieman Lab a week ago described the crisis as “a nearly perfect weapon against alternative weeklies.”

Big Green Umbrella Media, Cityview’s parent company, has been solely owned by Shane Goodman since early 2015, when he bought out his business partner, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Michael Gartner, who writes the publication’s popular Civic Skinny column.

Gavin Aronsen
Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.