Folio closes its doors after 33 years

Siddie Friar, Intern Reporter

“A major piece of the puzzle that is the city’s culture has died,” wrote local historian and FSCJ professor, Tim Gilmore. He was writing about the closure of one of North Florida’s long-running tabloids, Folio Weekly. 

For 33 years, or 1,716 weeks, Folio Weekly left an imprint on multiple generations of readers in the North Florida area as one of the most widely circulated tabloids in the region. 

What Folio provided Northeast Florida is invaluable, immeasurable,” Gilmore said. “Folio was this city’s alternative voice. It was a home to the misfits who wanted to make Jax a better Jax. It was the place to find out about the punks and the poets, the strivings of indie businesses, and the self-righteous arrogance of local politicians. It was a vital, living, evolving organic piece of this community.” 

On May 1st, publisher Sam Taylor made the announcement that he was choosing this moment, in the ‘economic free-fall of the outbreak to retire and conclude business operations.’ When asked what he would remember most about his time at Folio, Taylor said it was “Folio’s readers, advertisers, and employees, who helped refine my values: peace, people and planet.”

This decision was met with remorse, shock, and a tender fondness for the legacy of memories still savored by those whose lives have been touched by the weekly rag. 

“I started reading Folio when I was in middle school,” local author, Hurley Winkler said.  “Growing up, Folio was a liberal beacon in a conservative town, a sign that there were way cooler things going on just beyond the suburb I grew up in. Folio taught me that Jacksonville wasn’t such a bad place to call home.”

Folio Weekly was one of the most well known publications in the area, as of 2019 the paper had a circulation of 15-20,000. By the time Taylor decided to shutter the doors the paper had run too many incredible stories to count. Like the one exposing a flawed plan to bring a co-generating energy plant to town, numerous investigative pieces on JSO cover-ups, headlines exposing environmental issues with big factories pumping toxic chemicals into the air and waterways. Folio also suggested new artists to watch, and kept our calendars full of all manner of events.

Photo courtesy of Hurley Winkler

During its run many reporters got their start and developed their style. Many difficult stories were told, but also many joyful ones. Folio provided both incredible news coverage and incredible arts and music coverage as well. 

“Folio gave so many artists the chance to see themselves in PRINT! It can be hard to know how to get written up in publications. I feel like Folio did the work to truly find artists in Jax and highlight them,” local activist and performer, Graciela Cain said. 

Folio’s reporters also did their part to help amplify the voices of historically underrepresented people and places of Jacksonville and the surrounding areas.

“They were the first to do a story of me and to see it in my Mami’s house meant the world to me,” Cain said. “I remember it like yesterday! It was so powerful to see my brown face IN PRINT and IN COLOR, it was amazing. I will appreciate Folio for that always.” 

Folio was so much more than just a weekly magazine to the countless people who picked up the free publication every week.  For some it was a lifeline, a familiar friend, an escape from work. For others, it was a trashy liberal mag not worth wrapping fish in. Loved or hated its lasting legacy is undeniable.

 “We did incredible work. We were a f***ing powerhouse, a wrecking crew, a progressive force in a painfully conservative market. We told the truth, we took risks. We took our work seriously. We received awards and we made a lot of enemies. We fielded death threats, faced violent reprisals, and we never backed down from a righteous fight. We gave a f***, and we put it in writing,” former staff member John Citrone said. 

Photo courtesy of John Citrone

Folio was a diverse magazine with a diverse and talented staff who worked hard to provide compelling, relevant, and meaningful content. 

“I think Folio did a lot for the community. We have always had a bit of a progressive orientation, as far as politics goes. We’ve also done a lot to provide in-depth coverage of the local arts and music scene,” columnist Shelton Hull said. 

There is an empty space in the community that this weekly once filled. Fans of the Folio may be pleased to hear that there are the slightest whispers of a return on the horizon. According to Hull, “there have been some discussions since the paper ended, and I think there’s a very good chance that the Folio brand will be rebooted sometime this year.”


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