Editors’ Divorce Adds Twist to ‘Buffalo News’ Magazine Closing

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By: Joe Strupp

When The Buffalo News folded its long-running Sunday magazine this week, it wasn’t just another case of a newspaper magazine biting the dust.

This one had a personal twist. Charles Anzalone, who has edited First Sunday since it launched 10 years ago, is married to Editor Margaret Sullivan. But the couple is currently separated and in the midst of a divorce, both say, although they decline to discuss it.

“I am not going to comment on that, we were married and are no longer married,” Anzalone, 51, told E&P Thursday. “She was very supportive of the magazine for many years.”

Sullivan, who like Anzalone began as a reporter at the News in the 1980s, declined to comment on the magazine’s closing, saying she had recused herself from any decisions about its future.

Anzalone, who resigned last week and is taking another job at a nearby health-related magazine, said he was offered another position at the paper, but chose not to accept.

Still, the move has some staffers at least wondering about the change.

“The magazine was making money and had won a number of journalism awards as well,” says John Bonfatti, a veteran reporter and Newspaper Guild leader who had written for First Sunday. “I think [Anzalone] felt strongly that he would have liked to continue the magazine.”

Managing Editor Howard J. Smith confirmed Sullivan played no part in the decision to close the monthly publication, which saw its last edition on Sept. 2. “None, absolutely none, it would not have mattered,” Smith said when asked if the couple’s marital situation played a role. “The magazine is just one of those publications whose time had come.”

Smith says Anzalone could have stayed at the paper in a post in which he “would have had the opportunity to write, which he does very well, and manage a group of reporters, which he does very well. But he got another job offer and he took it.”

Anzalone says he took an editing job with a media company nearby that publishes health-related magazines, including one titled “BP Hope,” for those who suffer from bipolar disorder. “I was offered a good job and decided to take a good job,” Anzalone said.

Still, Anzalone said he was sorry to see the magazine close, claiming it had “turned a six-figure profit” for its entire 10-year existence. “I regretted closing it for the opportunity to do long-form, in-depth journalism,” he said. “The magazine style allowed a greater voice, more points of view.”

In an e-mail to E&P, Anzalone added, “Its best stories were often a better fit for a Sunday magazine than the rest of the newspaper because of their strong point of view, more controversial subject matter, and depth that allowed writers and photographers more space than in the regular paper.”

Smith acknowledged the magazine’s positive attributes, but said the shutdown had less to do with profits and more with an effort to distribute such content into other parts of the paper.

“It wasn’t really a profit or loss thing,” Smith says. “It was for presentation reasons. If we have a great story we devoted a lot of resources to we would rather place it on Page One or in the front of the lifestyle section, not in the middle of 400 inserts in the Sunday paper. It outlived its usefulness.”

Anzalone had been the magazine’s only full-time employee, with other staffers and freelancers contributing to the monthly publication. It averaged about 24 pages per issue.

Bonfatti said he liked it for the writing opportunities. “Some of the reporters felt it was an outlet for long-form journalism we don?t have now,” he said. “You could devote staff time to it or just a freelance gig.”

Smith said some of the magazine features, such as a monthly Q&A and a fashion component would be kept and placed elsewhere in the paper.

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