Mark Fitzgerald: Not Guilty — Romenesko Did NOT Kill ‘E&P’

By: Mark Fitzgerald

When a shocking death occurs in a family, survivors want nothing more than to find the culprit responsible. So it?s not surprising that working and former newspaper journalists stunned by The Nielsen Company’s decision to fold Editor & Publisher almost immediately determined who did us in — Romenesko.

A posting by John Temple — who since The Rocky Mountain News collapsed under him has offered no end of unsolicited advice to the newspaper industry — puts the argument neatly: “But the truth, in my view, is that Romenesko replaced Editor & Publisher long ago as the place where journalists turned to find out what was going on in their world. It’s not limited by one medium or industry. It’s timely. And it’s deep. The magazine couldn’t compete. And it’s not just Romenesko. There are many sites and blogs to turn to today to learn what’s going on in journalism. Which is why E&P couldn’t survive as a viable business.”

My friend and former colleague Kelvin Childs offered a similar argument, citing his own experience as E&P’s D.C. bureau chief just as Jim Romenesko first began his Web site as Media Gossip.

“Romenesko was this brand new thing that collected media news from publications from all over, daily, and for free,” Childs told Richard Prince’s “Journal-isms” column on the Maynard Institute Web site. “Before Romenesko, E&P largely had that field to itself. But Romenesko became — and still is — a daily must-read, and eclipsed E&P as a print weekly.”

Gentlemen, this is why newspaper publishers walk out of newsrooms shaking their heads in wonder at the insular environment.

Editor & Publisher is all about the newspaper industry — not just journalism or the newsroom.

Reporters and editors have no greater supporter in this nation than E&P, especially since we at last abandoned the decades-old editorial policy reflexively opposing labor unions. For all of its 125 years, E&P championed the independence and liberty of the newsroom.

But had E&P depended on reporters or editors for its business model, it would have folded long, long ago.

Reporters and editors don?t buy printing presses, or folders or inserters or ink or newsprint. Editors might give their two cents about the desirability of this or that editorial system over other brands — but they don?t sign the purchase orders.

E&P was wounded — though exactly whether it was a mortal wound is a matter of debate — by a newspaper industry that continues to contract its production footprint. Newspapers are consolidating printing and distribution plants and centers for back office and copyflow. Publishers and production executives are not greenlighting equipment purchases. They are outsourcing work, and mothballing or selling the machines they already have.

Those decisions — and the decision-makers who sit in the executive suites and not in the newsroom — have made for a brutal advertising and marketing environment for E&P?s advertisers.

No one would argue that Romenesko, by attracting scores of journalists with an idle curiosity about what?s happening at some other guy?s newspaper, killed the Newspaper Association of America?s Nexpo equipment show. The same forces were at work against E&P?s business.

Romenesko was and remains a brilliant game-changer in the newspaper industry. And all of us on the editorial side of E&P are just as addicted to it as newspaper journalists anywhere. We harbor no ill will towards Romenesko. It did not put us out of work.

E&P?s folding is a business decision made outside its offices for reasons that have not been well explained to any of us.

Anyone who wants to know who killed E&P should not track down Jim Romenesko as he works on his laptop in a coffee shop in Evanston, Illinois. Rather, turn your attention to 770 Broadway in New York City, world headquarters of The Nielsen Company.

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