Street Media LLC — the parent company of the Village Voice, LA Weekly, Irvine Weekly and Bay Area Marina Times — has acquired The Laker/Lutz News.
Diane Kortus, publisher of the Laker/Lutz News for 21 years, announced the sale during a companywide staff meeting on Nov. 9.
The newspaper and its website have a reach of 150,000 readers and followers in the communities of Lutz, Odessa, Land O’ Lakes, Wesley Chapel, Dade City and San Antonio.
Brian Calle, Street Media’s publisher and chief executive officer, said he was attracted to the newspaper and its website because of its quality community journalism and its tremendous potential to expand services.
“I am super excited about the Greater Tampa area,” Calle said. “The Greater Tampa area is just growing. I feel like that this community, in particular, has the most potential for growth.
“There are so many cool things that are happening. The opportunities are almost endless — you can see that just from driving around. You can see the construction and the new businesses coming into town.
“There’s just tremendous opportunities, an abundance,” he said.
The Southeast also is an interesting place for Street Media to look at, in terms of investing, he said.
The quality of community journalism produced by The Laker/Lutz News, was an important selling point, Calle said.
“You have a community paper with a clearly engaged community, so something is going really, really well here.
“I was so excited when I saw how thick the paper is. That is rare,” he said.
In many ways, Calle said, The Laker/Lutz News “could be a model for elsewhere.”
The newspaper was recognized in July by the Florida Press Association as its 2021 Top Weekly Newspaper in its largest circulation division.
During the companywide meeting, Calle assured the staff that there would be no personnel cuts.
He also explained the genesis of his company’s name: Calle means street, in Spanish.
Calle said he plans no massive changes to the newspaper’s content.
“I just want to help add things, particularly to make the digital product more accessible to both readers and advertisers, but while at the same time sustaining the print product,” he said.
When Calle’s company acquired LA Weekly, there were substantial layoffs, some former employees led an advertising boycott and even went on to launch a new publication.
As he assumes ownership of The Laker/Lutz News, he said: “There’s no ulterior motives. There’s no political ulterior motives. There’s no business ulterior motives.
“Anytime that you are trying to do something of consequence, you are going to get criticism.
“I think in our current climate, people will jump to conclusions, and frankly, make things up.
“Judge us on what product we put out, not on what people say about us, because people can say anything they want.
“We’ve delivered in L.A. We just won several press club awards in L.A.
“Irvine Weekly and the (Bay Area) Marina Times, in San Francisco, are both thriving community papers, and we revitalized Village Voice, which was one of the most iconic papers in the country that was completely closed.
“So, for me, I don’t pay much attention to naysayers or people who have opinions that are untrue. I say, just watch what we do and make up your own mind.”
Calle describes himself as approachable and super accessible.
Published November 17, 2021