Local Weekly Offers Naming Rights; Competitor Calls It "Panhandling" 

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST/FILE

Urban Views Weekly says it's looking for help to expand. But the weekly publication isn't talking about writers, editors or account executives — it wants donations.

Contributions to the privately held company can be made through the paper's website, though gifts won't qualify for a tax deduction. Donors can expect something in return. For $50 they'll be considered a VIP; $100 gets their name on a page of the paper; $500 gets the publication named after them for a week.

"With your help, we can become a larger company that supports our community in a mighty way," says an explanation on the paper's website about the fundraising campaign. The peculiar attempt at revenue enhancement is referred to as the Neo Legacy Project in a recent issue.

Richmond Free Press Publisher Raymond H. Boone has another name for it: panhandling. "Because we can't compete, we're ... panhandling the public," he says of the newspaper's approach. "We're begging."

Michael Spear, associate professor of journalism at the University of Richmond, jokingly suggests that other newspapers might want to copy Urban Views' approach, considering the current economic climate.

"I can't imagine why a publication would seek funds like that ... unless it was in financial trouble," Spear says. "But maybe my imagination fails me here."

Urban Views Publisher and Owner Ervin B. Clarke didn't return a call from Style Weekly seeking comment, but left a message with its publisher declining to provide further information about the project other than what was in his paper or its website. "I have no intention of giving another newspaper my story," he said.

Ray Kozakewicz, a spokesman for Media General, which publishes the Richmond Times-Dispatch, confirms that the company prints Urban Views Weekly, but declines to comment on the company's relationship with what he called its customers.

Urban Views Weekly seems to be more than a Media General customer. Callers seeking to place a classified ad in Urban Views are provided with a number at the Times-Dispatch. The daily newspaper's flag, website and address appear on the front page of the three-year-old weekly. And according to the Urban Views site, 75,000 of its papers are delivered each week to "nonsubscribers" of the daily newspaper.

So far, Urban Views indicates it has raised $600 toward its $100,000 goal, according to its page on indieagogo.com, a fundraising Web site. The names of two donors are listed on the site, one of which is the publisher, Clarke. On Monday the paper had 46 days until its fundraising effort on the site was scheduled to end.

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