2 Editors Resign at Web Site Linked to Journalism Review
The managing editor of CJRDaily.org, an online adjunct of The Columbia Journalism Review, and his deputy both quit yesterday after the dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism told them he was cutting the site’s budget nearly in half.
The dean, Nicholas Lemann, said in an interview that the amount of money raised for the Web site could not sustain the online staff, and he was using a portion of the magazine’s discretionary money for a direct-mail campaign to try to increase subscriptions to the print magazine. The journalism review, which comes out six times a year, has a circulation of 20,000.
Mr. Lemann said he was faced with the same quandary confronting most news organizations today — how to pay for an online staff when the site is free to readers.
The Web site will soon start to sell advertising, hold conferences and sell archival material, he said, but even that revenue will not support the cost of the staff. He said he had been “out fund-raising every day,” but had not scraped together enough to finance the site at full strength.
As a result, he said, he has decided that a campaign to gain subscribers for the print magazine, while expensive, will result in more income, which will help maintain an online staff that he said would still be bigger than that of most other magazines.
“I have the same issue that everyone else in journalism has, and this is our best lunge toward a solution,” Mr. Lemann said.
The decision prompted the site’s top editors to quit, reducing the staff from eight to six.
Both Steve Lovelady, 63, the managing editor, who had been managing editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer and deputy Page 1 editor of The Wall Street Journal, and Bryan Keefer, 28, the assistant managing editor, resigned in protest yesterday.
“It’s a fundamental policy dispute about the allocation of resources,” Mr. Lovelady said. “Nick has decided to spend the money on a direct-mail campaign for the magazine, in hopes of saving subscription revenue. To me, that sounds like something out of the 19th century. He’s taking the one, fresh, smart thing he has and gutting it.”
Mr. Lovelady said the size of his staff could not be compared with those of many other magazine Web sites, because CJRDaily produces its own original content, while many other such magazine sites simply put print content online. Mr. Keefer said that, like Mr. Lovelady, he did not want to preside over the shrinking of something that he helped build.
“I appreciate the position Nick is in,” Mr. Keefer said, “but I don’t want to be a part of the direction he’s taking things in.”
The journalism school started the Web site in 2004, with the help of foundation grants, to scrutinize the mainstream media’s coverage of the presidential campaign.
The site, which was originally named campaigndesk.org, was supposed to last for the duration of the campaign. But its cheeky tone and its quick, often-incisive analysis of political news proved so popular that Mr. Lemann and others decided to extend its life and broaden its scope to cover the entire media landscape. Thus was born CJRDaily.org.
(The journalism review has its own Web site, CJR.org, which essentially reprints the magazine. Mr. Lemann said he planned to merge CJRDaily with the magazine’s Web site, making them one brand.)
In 2005, CJRDaily.org received an honorable mention from the National Press Club in the category of “distinguished contribution“ to online journalism. It now receives nearly 500,000 page views a month, Mr. Lovelady said, up 30 percent from the beginning of the year.
Mr. Lemann’s decision to transfer money from the site to a small-circulation print magazine would seem to run counter to some of his own writings on the importance of the Web.
He wrote recently in The New Yorker, “As journalism moves to the Internet, the main project ought to be moving reporters there, not stripping them away.”
In the interview, he said redirecting money to the magazine did not contradict that view because he was still maintaining a relatively large online staff.
“We’re making a powerful commitment to the Web because we really believe in it,” he said. But he said he also believed in print.
“I don’t think print is going away,” he said. “Keeping the print magazine brings in revenue, and print can do some things that the Web can’t.”
Jay Rosen, a blogger and journalism professor at New York University, said the move was a “strategic error” and that the review should drop its print version to reduce costs and go entirely online.
“I’m sure their current subscribers want it in print, but you have to look at your potential subscribers,” he said. “Since the profession is going toward the Web, in the long run, that’s the smarter move.”