Scene and Cleveland Free Times Merge

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Times-Shamrock Communications, which owns the Baltimore City Paper and other alternative free newspapers, has been shopping Scene and Free Times since February. The sale -- for an undisclosed sum -- will be final June 25.

"Free Times" publisher and part owner Matt Fabyan will run the new Scene. He says editorial content will mix the strengths of both papers.

Matt Fabyan: "I think the Free Times has better arts coverage, a better music section, which sounds funny since the Scene was always a music paper, in its past life. And I think the Scene does some very good investigative journalism."

The average Scene and Free Times reader is 39 years old. Many of those readers have watched the papers trade staff over the years -- even at the top. Fabyan was Scene's first intern, then worked his way up to sales and marketing director during the 1990s. In 2003, he put a group of investors together to relaunch the Cleveland Free Times. At that time, the paper was closed for anti-trust violations following a buyout by Scene's previous owner.

Each claims a readership of about 300,000, but sinking circulation made joining the two print rivals seem sensible to Don Farley, chief of Times Shamrock's alternative papers.

Don Farley: "Cleveland is a top 30 city, and I think that Cleveland is the size where one alternative paper could serve the city to its best."

The first issue of the new Scene will be out July 23.

Kymberli Hagelberg, 90.3

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