The End Of An Era At The Enquirer

Sep 6, 2016

Credit John Kiesewetter

It's a sad day in Cincinnati Enquirer history. The President & Publisher office at 312 Elm Street is empty. Closed. Decommissioned for now.

On Friday, administrative assistant Marianne Navin moved downstairs to the Human Resources department. Last week, Gannett transferred her boss, Enquirer Media President & Publisher Richard A. Green, to New Jersey. He's now vice president/news and editor of The Record newspaper in Bergen, and supervising the newly acquired North Jersey Media Group.  No new publisher was named when Green was re-assigned Aug. 29.

Richard A. Green

The wood paneled 20th floor publisher's office overlooking the Ohio River and Paul Brown Stadium -- literally the seat of power when the big boss conferred with top editors before publishing a blockbuster story or an editorial position -- might be empty for a long time. Or forever? The victim of another newspaper industry downsizing?

Eliminating publishers is the latest trend in the shrinking print world, which some of my friends call "Dead Tree Journalism."

In a story called "Are publishers obsolete?," Poynter Institute media business analyst Rick Edmonds reported last month that Time Inc. eliminated the title "publisher" at its magazines in July, and Tribune Publishing (before being renamed Tronc) combined the titles of publisher & editor at all newspapers. Edmonds says the trend "seems to be more evolution than revolution."

And then Edmonds wrote this:

"Gannett, without ceremony, re-titled the executives in its 100-plus local markets from publisher to president early this year. It 'is more indicative of the role they play running a local business,' spokesperson Chrissy Terrell wrote me.

"The duties now include overseeing several websites on multiple platforms, other new revenue initiatives and coordinating regional cooperation among titles and the build out of the USA Today Network."

Green, who was listed as President & Publisher on the masthead through Aug. 29, also oversaw Gannett's 10 other Ohio media sites. Those duties were given to Enquirer Media Editor & Vice President Peter Bhatia. In doing away with publishers, Gannett changed the chain of command, with editors reporting to regional news executives instead of the newspaper's president.

"In addition to being editor of The Enquirer, I also am Ohio editor for Gannett and have content responsibility for the 10 dailies the company has in the state. In the Gannett system, I now report to a regional executive editor. I will, of course, work very closely with Rick's successor, who is yet to be named," Bhatia told me in an email.

Someday the Cincinnati Enquirer may have another President – but probably never a publisher again. The trend for newspapers is not replacing eliminated positions. They're gone. Just like the copy desk; assistant managing editors; Sunday editor; art director; page designers; assistant local news, businesses, and sports editors; the 10-person Butler-Warren bureau; the nine-person Kentucky bureau; editorial cartoonist; theater critic; movie critic; rock music critic; and the TV/Media writer. (Full disclosure: I was an Enquirer reporter or editor 1975-2014, the last 30 years as TV/Media writer.)

The continued downsizing has resulted in The Enquirer about to finalize a news partnership with Fox affiliate WXIX-TV. Last week, Enquirer Media's Cincinnati.com posted a breaking news story by Fox 19 reporter Jennifer Baker  -- who was The Enquirer's best breaking news reporter before hired away by Channel 19 two years ago. Details of the news sharing agreement, first reported by me in May after Channel 19 credited the Enquirer reporting on the Rhoden family murders in Pike County, will be announced soon, I'm told.

The Enquirer's publishers in my lifetime have included former Congressman Bill Keating; businessman Carl Lindner Jr.; and lawyer Francis Dale, who while publisher (1965-73) led the group which bought the Cincinnati Reds from Bill DeWitt (1967), pushed for construction of the downtown Riverfront Stadium, and served on President Richard Nixon's Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP).

Now The Enquirer doesn't have a publisher, five months after Rick Green celebrated the paper's 175th birthday in April. Turn out the lights, the party's over.