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

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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.] 

xpost: Scholars and Rogues


Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

December 10, 2009 at 10:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. We are losing
    Still wrapping my head around this one — such a shock!


    December 15, 2009 at 6:01 pm

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