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Another instance of bad economy meets bad industry: Editor & Publisher magazine folds

UPDATED with comments from E&P editor:

Editor & Publisher magazine, which has covered the newspaper industry for 125 years, is folding, its publisher announced today.

"We've made the decision to cease operations for Editor & Publisher and Kirkus Reviews," E&P owner Nielsen Business Media wrote in a letter to employees, which you can read by clicking here. Kirkus Reviews was founded in 1933 and has been a respected reviewer of some 5,000 new books per year. In addition to the two closings, Nielsen is selling several other magazines.

I just got off the phone with E&P editor Greg Mitchell, who said the closing came as a shock to him and his 10-person staff.

"We've been aware of the rumors about the sale for the past month, and some of the reports had us included...and in others we weren't mentioned at all," Mitchell said. "We thought there was a good chance we'd be included but we also didn't think that if we weren't included we'd be folded the same day. There had been no crisis talk, no talk about E&P being on its last legs, no 'You guys have to shape up or ship out,' no sense of impending doom. This really was quite a surprise."

Mitchell said it is unclear at this point if E&P's next issue, scheduled to be put to bed a week from Tuesday, will be published.

E&P's slogan can easily be its epitaph: "America's oldest journal covering the newspaper industry."

In cold analysis, this should surprise no one. When any industry goes down, it takes down all sorts of ancillary industries that depend on the main one. Remember it was auto parts makers who were lobbying just as hard for a government bailout as the Big Three.

You can think about the demise of E&P like this: When the first steam locomotives started chugging across the country, the days of Canal Boat Times were numbered.

Things started to really change for E&P in 2004, when it switched from a weekly to a monthly print publication, and amped up its Web presence.

As has been well-documented on these pages and others, average national daily newspaper circulation has been declining since 1987, as readers and advertisers turn to other outlets for their news and information and to reach customers.

Nielsen looks to be ankling the magazine business, as they say in Hollywood. In addition to shuttering E&P and Kirkus, it's selling Adweek, Brandweek, Mediaweek, The Clio Awards, Backstage, Billboard, Film Journal International and The Hollywood Reporter to a partnership of Pluribus Capital Management and Guggenheim Partners, two investment funds. Pluribus Capital includes James Finkelstein, owner of The Hill newspaper. Guggenheim is a large investment firm.

"As a result of these decisions, many of our friends and colleagues within these businesses will be leaving the company or will begin to transition to the new ownership immediately," Nielsen Business Media president Greg Farrar wrote in the letter.

For legions of young journalists, including yours truly a couple of decades ago, E&P was the best, and just about only, job guide coming out of college or trying to move up from a first job. You know, back when newspapers were thriving and hiring?

The job listings in the back of each month's print version of E&P were written in a sort of code understandable only to us, and the hiring newspapers were almost never mentioned by name, only by region of country. Of course, the best jobs rarely advertised, as we soon found out.

Your typical E&P hiring announcement read like this, with translation provided below:

"Zone 5 p.m. daily(1) seeks self-starting reporter(2) able to produce deadline copy and enterprise pieces(3) in diverse mid-sized city undergoing rapid change.(4) Two to five years' daily experience desired but not required.(5) "

(1) Believe it or not, at one point in the history of the United States, people read something called "afternoon papers" that were delivered to your house. And get this: "Dad" read them while "Mom" cooked dinner.

(2) Our editors are so incompetent, you will be expected to come up with all of your own story ideas.

(3) Yes, you'll be working 24/7. And wait 'til you see the size of your paycheck!

(4) Rust-belt capital besieged by white flight, Superfund sites and poverty. But hey -- we've got casinos!

(5) Yeah, we know we're only going to get entry-level applicants. But we can dream, can't we?

-- Frank Ahrens
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By Frank Ahrens  |  December 10, 2009; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: editor & publisher, kirkus reviews, nielsen, the hill  
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The end of Editor and Publisher is a serious loss not only for the world of journalism but for all concerned with public affairs---and, under Greg Mitchell, the journal raised just those difficult issues about our society which make both academic work and journalism worthwhile.
It is no consolation to E and P's staff to say that the academy is struggling with its own crisis or crises: one hopes that the talented E and P people will quickly find other and no less rewarding employment. Norman Birnbaum

Posted by: red21 | December 10, 2009 8:30 PM | Report abuse

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