Economy

E&P's demise a loss for journalism's public service mission

No one saw this coming: The sudden demise of Editor & Publisher, the long-revered, trusted, occasionally insouciant, experienced watchdog of the newspaper industry. The Nielsen Company said Thursday it would shutter the publication. Some wags had thought financial considerations would kill off the monthly print edition but leave the vibrant online edition functioning.

But, no. After a tradition of reporting on the reporters dating back to 1884, E&P is done. And that’s sad, because the careful inspection of the media industries by a longtime, experienced staff led by editor Greg Mitchell has ended. Mitchell, who took over as editor in 2002, had revived a publication that had become moribund and almost irrelevant. To much criticism, he killed E&P as a print weekly and reintroduced it as a monthly. But his master stroke was diving headlong onto the Web, where E&P has prospered, at least in terms of timely analytical coverage of the industry.

I don’t have readership or page views, but given that newspaper staffs nationwide have been cut so drastically during the years of Mitchell’s editorship, I wouldn’t be surprised if circulation of the monthly had fallen.

The impending end of E&P was, as they say, all over the ‘nets today, rising to No. 4 as Twitter topic. For the time being, it seems, the good work of longtime E&P hands like Joe Strupp, Mark Fitzgerald and Jennifer Saba is at an end. I will particularly miss the pairing of Fitz and Jen, whose stories and podcasts on the economics of the media business have been prescient and accurate.

I have been reading E&P since 1970. If you’re in the news biz, it’s been a trusted companion and professor. If it has died solely because of financial considerations, we should be saddened. Even the industry watchdog, it seems, must make budget — or was E&P just not sufficiently profitable? In days and weeks to come, perhaps we’ll learn more details.

But the loss of E&P is just another bullet to the heart of journalism as a public service. Those who love, need, or appreciate good journalism will mourn its passing.

We’re losing, people. E&P’s end is just another symptom of the continued erosion of a democracy’s ability to closely inspect and monitor itself through its adversarial relationship with the press. E&P has been more than a mirror of the newspaper industry; it has been a teacher of how to press for information from governments and industries (and unions) that would rather stay uninspected.

Perhaps an institution that believes in that public service mission (Pew? Poynter?) could offer Greg, Joe, Fitz, Jen and company a new home. E&P still performs a valuable mission. Find a way to retain it.

[Disclosure: E&P has published commentaries I have written. Greg Mitchell is a graduate of the journalism program in which I teach.]

9 replies »

  1. What Denny said. E&P has served an important function and I find myself hoping against hope that it’s not fully dead yet after all.

    (More full disclosure: Like Denny, I’ve had my work pubbed in E&P – although not nearly as much.)

    If this is, in fact, the end, best wishes to the staff, especially Greg. I hope they land somewhere quickly.

  2. Wait, democracy isn’t synonymous with the profitability of investment banks and hedge funds?

    In that case, i’m getting a little tired of being choked by Smith’s invisible hand. (I’d also like to note that a system based on the belief that all humans will be rational actors and the belief that some supernatural mechanism will guide the system is, prima facia, the stupidest thing i’ve ever heard.)

    More full disclosure: i’ve never been published by E&P, but i’m saddened by the loss too. I’m even more saddened by the priorities that this country holds dear.

  3. From Rick Edmonds’ Biz Blog at Poynter today:

    Were he still here, [Leo] Bogart would certainly have had a clear-eyed view of what killed E&P: Its advertising base collapsed. The herd of vendors to the shrinking industry has thinned. Newspaper company image ads are an indulgence long since a casualty of belt-tightening.

    E&P had developed competitors (among them Poynter Online) for media news and for the currently depressed volume of job classifieds it once monopolized. The publication transitioned early and relatively gracefully to the Web, but like the industry itself, almost certainly found advertisers reluctant to follow.

    The fine ground-level hustle and smart reporting of Jen Saba, Mark Fitzgerald and Joe Strupp wasn’t enough to overcome these market forces. Breathing room for struggling enterprises is badly out of fashion right now.

    Read the rest at: http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=123&aid=174767

  4. Sad news, indeed, Denny. Another place where one can send students to learn about the people who report the news gone….

    But, hell, we’ve still got Fox News, right…?

  5. I worked on the same beats as Mark Fitzgerald in the early 80s – as a competitor – and am saddened to hear this news. Mark is the ultimate professional and what remains of print journalism takes a heavy, heavy blow with this news.

  6. I hope this closure isn’t due to the often fearless reporting of stories the MSM had little interest in, or in the steady criticism it leveled against the shortcomings of the media in reporting on Iraq, the financial crisis and more.

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