Roll Call Buying Rival Congressional Quarterly

By Jonathan Starkey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Two Capitol Hill competitors are joining forces, with Roll Call announcing an agreement Tuesday to buy Congressional Quarterly from Times Publishing Co., the nonprofit-owned publisher of the St. Petersburg Times.

Neither side disclosed terms of the deal, which is expected to close next month. Roll Call, a subsidiary of the Economist Group, will create a new company called the CQ-Roll Call Group. The print publications of both companies will remain unchanged, said Laurie Battaglia, who is leading the new group.

"They have separate and distinct voices and we have no plans to change that whatsoever," Battaglia said.

Congressional Quarterly, founded in 1945, was put up for sale in January, as its parent company was struggling with the declining advertising revenues rattling the newspaper industry. It has 290 employees and publishes a weekly magazine and newsletter on days when Congress is in session. Governing magazine, which focuses on state and local issues, was not part of the deal.

While Roll Call and Congressional Quarterly often compete for advertising dollars, they differ editorially. Congressional Quarterly is known for its comprehensive coverage of legislative activity on Capitol Hill and its bill tracking, used by Hill staffers, lobbyists and others whose work requires close attention to legislative maneuverings.

Roll Call, which has 85 employees and was founded in 1955, focuses on the personalities behind the legislative process. It publishes four days a week when Congress is in session, and on Mondays when it's not. It's the "campus newspaper" of Capitol Hill, said Steve Elmendorf, former chief of staff to then-House Democratic Leader Richard A. Gephardt and now a lobbyist and "avid consumer of both." The publications compete with the National Journal, Politico and the Hill.

"It seems like a reasonably logical fit," said newspaper industry analyst John Morton.

Robert W. Merry, Congressional Quarterly's editor-in-chief, who has been with the publication since 1987, will leave, along with editor Mike Riley and executive editors Bruce Drake, of news, and Ken Sands, of innovation and publications.

"I love this company," Merry said. "And I think I turned it into an organization that was both vibrant and a good place to work. It's been a grand experience. I can't say I'm not sad about it."

No layoffs are imminent, Battaglia said, adding, though, that it's "unrealistic to say we wouldn't find some overlap."

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