Thursday, December 10, 2009

If the presses stop and. . . .

If a newspaper dies and Editor & Publisher isn't there to tell us about it . . . does that mean everything's OK?

We're about to find out.

But I wouldn't bet my severance check on the whole "see no evil, hear no evil" thing working out for ink-stained wretches.

After either 108 years or 125 years, depending on how you count things, the bible of American newspapers
has become obituary fodder. I guess that about says it all, doesn't it?

Well, no, actually.

But you'd need a history the size of William Manchester's biography of Winston Churchill to say it. No doubt, there would be a few chapters about talented people suddenly deemed useless by society and the captains of the economy.

There would be others touching on betrayal, and yet more about meaning lost and "right-sized" professionals struggle to redefine themselves.

THESE ARE the stories Editor & Publisher no longer will be telling us in real time. Amid the apocalypse, the live feed has gone dead. We're trying to establish alternate means of communication.

For now, though, this is a bit of how E&P
reported its own demise:
Editor & Publisher, the bible of the newspaper industry and a journalism institution that traces its origins back to 1884, is ceasing publication.

An announcement, made by parent company The Nielsen Co., was made Thursday morning as staffers were informed that E&P, in both print and online, was shutting down.

The expressions of surprise and outpouring of strong support for E&P that have followed across the Web -- Editor & Publisher has even hit No. 4 as a Twitter trending topic -- raise the notion that the publication might yet continue in some form.

Nielsen Business Media, of which E&P was a part, has forged a deal with e5 Global Media Holdings, LLC, a new company formed jointly by Pluribus Capital Management and Guggenheim Partners, for the sale of eight brands in the Media and Entertainment Group, including E&P sister magazines Adweek, Brandweek, Mediaweek, Backstage, Billboard, Film Journal International and The Hollywood Reporter. E&P was not included in this transaction.

As news spread of E&P's fate, the staffers have been inundated with calls from members of the industry it covers, and many others, expressing shock and hopes for a revival. Staff members will stay on for the remainder of 2009.
CALLING Romenesko . . . CQ . . . CQ . . . requesting status report . . . CQ . . . calling CJR . . . is CJR on the air?

There was a time when I lived and died by my copy of Editor & Publisher.
I wasn't the only one. Another was T.J. Sullivan:

Like a lot of journalists, I wouldn't be where I am without Editor & Publisher. I'd still be a journalist, of course, but I definitely wouldn't have followed the same path, which means many of the important stories I fought to report might never have been reported. I might not have met the same friends. I might not have even met my wife.

No joke.

I'm in Los Angeles today because E&P sent me to Idaho ... and then New Mexico ... and then ...

I'll explain.

As I approached graduation in the late 80s, the classified section of E&P Magazine was the most valuable item in the newsroom. It was to me, and every other journalism grad hoping to land a job at a newspaper, the only link to our future, the only publication that listed what few jobs the industry had to offer.

Unlike most of my friends, I applied to all of them. Regardless of whether I met the qualifications, I wrote each and every newspaper that placed an ad.


But, the job I did take also resulted from an E&P classified. It was in Ketchum, Idaho, a weekly with an editor who let me crash in a spare room at his house for a few days until I found a place of my own.

Less than a year after that, still in Ketchum, I received a phone call at work from an editor in Santa Fe. He said he'd kept my letter of application for a job they'd advertised in E&P long before I took the job in Idaho. He'd tracked down my whereabouts by calling the references I'd listed. He said they'd already filled the investigative reporter slot, a post for which I clearly wasn't qualified, but they had an opening in sports and wanted me to fill it.

Sports? The closest I'd ever come to sports reporting was to take agate while working the late-night shift on the sports desk at the Lexington Herald-Leader. I wasn't a sports writer. I was an investigative reporter, or, well, I was going to be.

The editor didn't care about that. "You don't belong in Idaho," he said. "You belong here."

Two weeks later, I was again packing everything into my little, gray Chevette and driving hundreds of miles to live in a place I'd never been, all because of a job I'd found through E&P.

AMID THE triple whammy of the Internet, the economy and stupid, stupid management, whole modes of mass media are collapsing atop newly useless people like . . . well, myself.

I know newspapering . . . which is about gone forever. I know radio . . . ditto.

And I know "new media" is the place to be . . . just as I know that very few are getting rich in new media, and just as I know there probably isn't room for all us fossils in that brave new world.

By the time you're hearing that Editor & Publisher is biting the dust, you know that it surely must be the End of the World as We Know It.

And I don't feel fine.

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