Naked City

Off the Desk

What's this about Statesman owners Cox Enterprises buying up a string of Austin-area newspapers? We couldn't get official confirmation on this, but the buzz is fairly widespread that Atlanta-based Cox has its eye on several Westward Communications-owned papers, including the Westlake Picayune, the Pflugerville Pflag, and the Bastrop Advertiser. Another community paper, the Oak Hill Gazette (no relation to Westward), broke the story last week. The chain's editors, meanwhile, admit to being in the dark. "We haven't heard anything," said Pflugerville Pflag editor Mark Loyd, who joined the paper less than a month ago. He said some potential buyers were expected to visit the newspaper offices recently, but they never showed up. Statesman publisher Mike Laosa said Cox's policy is to neither confirm nor deny rumors of a prospective acquisition. A phone call to Cox's corporate relations office in Atlanta was not returned at press time. The Cox media empire already lays claim to dozens of dailies, weeklies, and TV stations, along with 80 radio stations, the Cox Communications cable system, and Cox Interactive Media...

Here's a newspaper buyout we're certain about: New Times Inc., the nation's largest alternative newsweekly chain, has acquired Fort Worth's FW Weekly, bringing the company's Texas holdings to three, alongside the Dallas Observer and the Houston Press. Financial terms of the sale were not disclosed. "I'm coming around to believing that this is a good thing," said FW Weekly editor John Forsyth, a former Austin resident and a Statesman page designer in the 1980s. In New Times fashion, the Phoenix-based publisher plans to infuse a healthy does of working capital into the little weekly, which means, among other things, fleshing out a bare-bones editorial staff with eight new hires, and increasing circulation from 40,000 to 60,000. Owner/publisher Robert Camuto, who founded the paper in 1996, will relinquish his post to a yet-to-be named New Times publisher, and stay onboard as a consultant for at least a year. The FW sale leaves only one independently owned alternative newsweekly remaining in Texas. That would be the one you're reading now...

You won't want to miss the Texas Public Policy Fund's 12th anniversary extravaganza next year in Houston, when Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher meets Iron Man James Leininger, the founder of the right-wing lobbying group and think tank. Thatcher will be the keynote speaker at the gala, to be held Feb. 15. Start saving now for your tickets. This may be your last and only chance to see Lady Thatcher, as the prime minister promises this will be her last tour ever, at least in Texas...

In a show of solidarity behind the UT Staff Association's fair-wage efforts, the Austin Film Society and the Cinematexas Film Festival will sponsor a benefit for USA with screenings of two documentaries enjoying a run as part of the national "McCollege Tour." The films are University Inc., in which Kyle Henry investigates the closing of the Union Film Program at UT, and The Subtext of a Yale Education, a look at the corporatization of higher education. The tour is underwritten by filmmakers Richard Linklater, Michael Moore, AFS, and the Detour Film Foundation. The benefit takes place at 7pm, Tuesday, Sept. 5, at the Alamo Drafthouse. Tickets are $7; $5 for UT staff, faculty, and students. For more info, turn to www.mccollege.org.

University Hills residents have a reason to celebrate this weekend with the reopening of the University Hills Branch library, 4721 Loyola Lane. The library closed early this year for a $500,000 renovation project. Doors swing open once again at 10am Saturday.

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    Triangle Square plans get approved by the Planning Commission, but not without some haggling and opposition.

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    A prominent Indonesian analyst believes it's time to investigate alleged payoffs to Indonesian dictator Suharto by New Orleans-based Freeport McMoRan.
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    Gary Bradley presented his latest land-swap deal to the Save Barton Creek Association this week and received mixed reviews from environmentalists, many of whom are wary of trusting the megadeveloper.

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    Council members' feuding bond proposals are sure to set off a major tectonic event at this week's council meeting.

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