Eightyone getting 86ed
For over three years, Deona Houff has edited the Shenandoah Valley’s only alternative paper. A twice-monthly tabloid, Eightyone, like the interstate, covers Harrisonburg and Staunton, with easy access to nearby Waynesboro.
In a letter in its current issue, Houff tells readers that March 19 may be the last issue of Eightyone— unless someone with jingle comes to the rescue.
“We are, simply put,” Houff writes, “out of money.” A Valley native and veteran of Style Weekly in Richmond, editor and publisher Houff says she has never paid herself a salary or seen a profit, and is faced with an ever-growing load of personal debt.
Eightyone has a circulation of 10,000, and for one Valley reader, “It makes me feel like I’m not weird.” Another calls it “an alternative to the right-wing, fundamentalist drivel that I usually have to read around here.” Houff thinks its departure will leave a huge void: “People will really miss us,” she says.
Almost all of Eightyone’s advertisers are small businesses, and Houff says revenue was down because of the recession. “Sometimes I’ve said that if the advertisers were as smart as the readers, eightyone would be fine,” Houff adds in her letter.
Houff says the Charlottesville-based Observer’s recently started Waynesboro/Staunton edition did not contribute to her paper’s current woes.
After March 19, Houff will finish paying the bills and wait to see what happens. At its biggest, her staff consisted of four full-time employees. Now she’s telling her remaining staff member and freelancers not to count on publishing past the 19th.
As Houff stares at the possible extinction of her paper, she calls herself “sad, but hopeful— maybe something will happen.”