I'm Here Because of E&P

Editor & Publisher is closing.

I know this because it was reported by The New York Times.

So far, The New York Times is still in business. But Editor & Publisher isn't going to be for much longer, and, ridiculous and sappy as it seems to get emotional about a trade publication, well ... I am.

Like a lot of journalists, I wouldn't be where I am without Editor & Publisher. I'd still be a journalist, of course, but I definitely wouldn't have followed the same path, which means many of the important stories I fought to report might never have been reported. I might not have met the same friends. I might not have even met my wife.

No joke.

I'm in Los Angeles today because E&P sent me to Idaho ... and then New Mexico ... and then ...

I'll explain.

As I approached graduation in the late 80s, the classified section of E&P Magazine was the most valuable item in the newsroom. It was to me, and every other journalism grad hoping to land a job at a newspaper, the only link to our future, the only publication that listed what few jobs the industry had to offer.

Unlike most of my friends, I applied to all of them. Regardless of whether I met the qualifications, I wrote each and every newspaper that placed an ad.

In addition, I tapped the E&P Yearbook for the addresses of newspapers that didn't have jobs posted, but which were publications that I respected, and hoped to someday join.

I must have typed more than 60 letters on my Remington portable typewriter that spring, and maxed out my credit card on photo-copied clip sets, 9x10 envelopes, and first-class postage.

Thanks to E&P, I received five jobs offers, including one on the British Virgin Island of Tortola. The editor of that one apologized for not being able to pay my moving expenses, but, by way of consolation, she assured me that both rent and rum were very cheap. Needless to say, I didn't take that particular job.

But, the job I did take also resulted from an E&P classified. It was in Ketchum, Idaho, a weekly with an editor who let me crash in a spare room at his house for a few days until I found a place of my own.

Less than a year after that, still in Ketchum, I received a phone call at work from an editor in Santa Fe. He said he'd kept my letter of application for a job they'd advertised in E&P long before I took the job in Idaho. He'd tracked down my whereabouts by calling the references I'd listed. He said they'd already filled the investigative reporter slot, a post for which I clearly wasn't qualified, but they had an opening in sports and wanted me to fill it.

Sports? The closest I'd ever come to sports reporting was to take agate while working the late-night shift on the sports desk at the Lexington Herald-Leader. I wasn't a sports writer. I was an investigative reporter, or, well, I was going to be.

The editor didn't care about that. "You don't belong in Idaho," he said. "You belong here."

Two weeks later, I was again packing everything into my little, gray Chevette and driving hundreds of miles to live in a place I'd never been, all because of a job I'd found through E&P.

Like many of my colleagues, I continued to refer to E&P's classified section many times in those pre-Internet years, usually in response to some newsroom nonsense that had pissed me off. At one newspaper the editor eventually took to hiding the company copy of E&P, an apparent response to the many pay raises he was forced to offer to keep his best staffers on staff.

But E&P has always been far more than a collection of classified ads. As my experience in this industry increased, so did my appreciation for E&P's reporting, and its role as a watchdog of the industry. E&P has been the first place many journalists turn to report unethical behavior in their own newsrooms, situations that would probably never get dealt with were it not for the watchful eye of E&P.

Times change. Life goes on. There are now and will continue to be watchdogs to keep the journalism industry honest. But we owe a lot to E&P.

I don't know where I'd be without it.

-- TJ Sullivan is the author of the novel Boon.

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