In email Monday to “our wonderful contributors,” editor in chief Erin Meanley Glenny said the monthly magazine will cease publication.
“A companywide lay-off is happening today,” she wrote.
Publisher and CEO Jim Fitzpatrick didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. But Glenny said in her note: “Jim is optimistic that the magazine will come back in the hopefully not-too-distant future.”
Voice of San Diego quoted publisher Fitzpatrick as saying he intended to reopen when “the crisis passes.”
“San Diego Magazine is a 72-year-old brand and I will not let it die,” he wrote Voice. “This is hopefully a short pause.”
Fitzpatrick referenced shutdowns sparked by coronavirus.
“We cover what’s happening in San Diego, places to go, [things] to do, people to see. There’s not much happening, and what there is, changes day to day, hour to hour. Our wonderful supporters and clients have closed their businesses,” he said.
Staff designers also helped produce “custom media,“ including the semi-annual San Diego Visitor Guide (for the local tourism agency), Healthy Kids (for Rady Children’s Hospital) and Salute Journal (for the Hall of Champions sports museum).
“The shitty truth is that this is a historic crisis,” he wrote. “Health is the most important thing. Most businesses are doing exactly what we’re all doing — sheltering in place until the chaos subsides.”
In 2007, former editor Tom Blair quoted Oscar Levant as saying: “Imitation is the sincerest form of plagiarism.”
“Here at San Diego Magazine,” wrote the former San Diego newspaper columnist, we’re “up to our eyeballs in the sincerity of other magazines. … We were the first local publication to bring you an annual ‘Best of San Diego’ feature. … Now, it seems, everybody and their sister publication wades in with their take on San Diego’s best.”
Blair also noted the magazine’s Best Restaurants surveys and annual “People to Watch” list — “an elite group of San Diegans expected to make news — if not waves — during the coming year. Our crack record is enviable.”
Jamie Reno, who wrote for the magazine over two decades, called the closing “sad news both for journalism and for journalists — especially those of us who call ourselves ‘magazine writers.’”
He said he began contributing regularly in the 1990s when Blair was editor.
“I wrote mostly investigative stories at first,” Reno said. “That expanded to include some sports stuff and first-person takes, and for a while I was a regular (not staff) pop music writer.”
Founded in 1948 by married couple Ed and Gloria Self as editors and publishers, San Diego Magazine featured some of the best writers and critics in the region, including former San Diego Union sports editor Tom Cushman and restaurant reviewer David W. Nelson.
Sarah Pfledderer, a senior editor at the magazine, tweeted: “Devastated to be one of these 37 employees, but hopeful our magazine will return. Support your local news outlets and journalists. Whether you like what they’re reporting right now or not, they work hard to build up reliable sources and serve us—all of us, especially in crisis.”
Devastated to be one of these 37 employees, but hopeful our magazine will return. Support your local news outlets and journalists. Whether you like what they’re reporting right now or not, they work hard to build up reliable sources and serve us—all of us, especially in crisis. https://t.co/TPbdpxPyy0
— Sarah Pfledderer (@SPfledderer) March 23, 2020
In her note, Glenny shared no reasons for the closure. But she thanked contributors: “Some of you have been writing for San Diego Magazine longer than the 9 years I’ve been here.”
She signed off: “I will be following you on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. … And very soon in the future, I hope to see you out and about at some thriving restaurants and bars!”
In early 2000, the magazine’s Virginia Butterfield wrote of the city’s coming fortunes:
“Given no radical surprises — like a dramatic rise in interest rates or an international situation we can’t foresee — the prognosis looks healthy for the year 2000,” she wrote. “Slower growth. Modest gains in the stock market. Home values holding steady. Jobs plentiful. Tourists happy. Europe and Asia recovering.
“What more could we ask for?”
Professor Dean Nelson, director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University, said he was very sad to see the news and felt terrible for the staff.
“When I lived in Minneapolis, I wrote for Mpls/St. Paul magazine,” he said. “When I moved here I connected with San Diego Magazine right away and have written off and on for them for 30 years.”
Nelson said San Diego Magazine evolved as readers’ attention spans and the advertising business evolved.
“I did an investigative piece for them about who is really running the city of San Diego,” he recalls. “This was during the years when Jerry Sanders was mayor and Mike Aguirre was city attorney. It was a chaotic time, and the magazine gave me a lot of time and freedom to dig into it.”
He noted that city magazines became lists — bests of, etc.
“That’s not a criticism, just an observation, based, I assume on studies that said longer reads weren’t as viable,” Nelson said. “I love magazines. Some still do longer pieces, but many have gone the way of these metro magazines until there just wasn’t any financial support for them.”
He called Chief Content Officer Erin Chambers Smith and editor Glenny “amazingly smart and knowledgeable and professional in all ways.”
“If they couldn’t make the magazine work, then no one could,” Nelson said via email. “I hope the magazine comes back. I want to write for it again, obviously, but I mostly want to read it again. It was a way of knowing our city better. I hope someone figures this out before we’re all just watching YouTube videos!”
Other readers expressed sadness.
San Diego Magazine, the oldest city magazine in the USA, has announced it is closing and has laid off its entire staff. After 72 years! I’m heartbroken for my former colleagues and friends there. It’s a real loss to San Diego and journalism.
— Steph ???????????????????????????????? (@Stefaniya) March 23, 2020
San Diego Magazine has folded after 72 years and laid everyone off. This is very, very sad news. What a great magazine. With love, we send you off, @SanDiegoMag — thank you for it all.
— San Diego Broker @ ???? (@housesandme) March 23, 2020
My heart is breaking for San Diego Magazine and all of the wonderful writers I’ve worked with there: https://t.co/2L69eAhm3L
— Katie Burk (@itskatieburk) March 23, 2020
Updated at 10:25 p.m. March 23, 2020