- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Two venerable Capitol Hill news rivals have a new strategic alliance.

Roll Call announced Tuesday that it will buy rival Congressional Quarterly from the Florida-based Times Publishing Company, creating the CQ-Roll Call Group to compete in an already crowded field of niche publications covering Congress.

The merger could introduce a new powerhouse source of content for insiders and for those who aspire to be.

Laurie Battaglia, managing director of Roll Call Group, will become the executive leader of the new merged enterprise.

Times Publishing, which is itself owned by the nonprofit Poynter Institute, revealed in January that it was putting CQ up for sale, in large part to raise money and focus its energies on the St. Petersburg Times newspaper and other properties closer to home.

The merger process so far has been painted as fairly painless, minus the mass firings, buyouts and layoffs that have accompanied other recent media mergers.

“There are no current plans to eliminate any products. In addition, the great majority of the CQ staff will join the merged organization,” Roll Call said in a statement.

Robert W. Merry, president and editor-in-chief of CQ for the past 12 years, is out, however.

“As in many such instances of two companies coming together,” Mr. Merry said, “one CEO inevitably becomes extraneous. In this situation, that’s me.”

Mike Mills, Roll Call’s current editorial director and former editor of the Washington Business Journal, will manage the combined operations. Terms of the sale were not revealed.

Both publications were founded in eras when print news outlets were less troubled by financial woes and did not face the same degree of competition for a dwindling audience from broadcast and online sources.

CQ has been the “publication of record” for Congress since 1945; Roll Call was founded in 1955.

According to a study released by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism earlier this year, the number of American news organizations accredited to cover Congress has fallen by more than two-thirds in the past two decades. Filling the gap have been highly targeted publications that cover politics, the environment, defense, technology and energy issues.

Despite high subscription rates, the number of these smaller upstarts has jumped from 138 publications in 1986 to 223 by 2007, while trade magazines rose from 172 to 214.

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