A Style story yesterday about the folding of Dossier magazine incorrectly described another publication, 10-year-old Mid-Atlantic Country. According to the most recent figures filed with the Audit Bureau of Circulations,Mid-Atlantic Country has a paid circulation of 119,250, and the magazine's ad pages climbed 11.2 percent last year. (Published 2/15/91)
Dossier, Washington's glossy chronicle of high society and diplomatic life, has become the latest casualty of a sinking economy.
The monthly's staff was told yesterday morning that the March issue will be the 16-year-old Dossier's last. Magazine President Linda Haan, who owns Dossier with her businessman husband, Ronald Haan, read the assembled editors and business personnel a statement citing the bleak advertising climate and the Haans' refusal to sacrifice editorial standards to weather the recession.
"We will not compromise quality or value," Publisher James Causey said afterward. "We choose to go out with our heads held high, with dignity."
Craig Stoltz, editor of Dossier for the past three years, said he had tried to nudge the magazine away from its origins as a monthly album of society features and party photos and "to deliver an intelligent, creative and amusing product."
While his success was reflected in editorialand design awards, and in such harder-edged journalism as annual efficiency audits of prominent local charities, Stoltz said Dossier's frothy heritage had become an albatross. "I think as the Zeitgeist shifted back in 1989 or so, that became a liability," he said.
Stoltz added, "I think the Dossier world is going into decline as well." He cited, by way of ironic finale, his "arm-twisting" efforts to persuade Linda Haan and Causey to "make a break from the past" by publishing a story he wrote titled "The Death of the Charity Ball." Stoltz's article will appear in the last issue, along with the Haans' formal announcement to its readers.
Dossier's collapse follows a spate of magazine foldings during 1990 across the country: Psychology Today, 7 Days, New England Monthly, Long Island Monthly and Memories. Since Christmas, Wigwag, Egg, Fame and Savvy Woman have ceased publication, and three weeks ago, Washington's Regardie's announced it would publish bimonthly until the economy revives.
Causey said yesterday that Dossier's national advertising had remained healthy in the face of recessionary forces, helping to hold the magazine's total ad pages at about 450 pages in 1989 and 1990. But the publisher said local advertisers -- "the real estate community, the financial community, the restaurant community, and the retail community" -- had been forced to curtail their print buys, to punishing effect at Dossier.
"It's my feeling there's more of a psychological recession in Washington than a real recession -- but unfortunately, that doesn't change the fact that people are not making decisions to buy ads," Causey said.
Washington's first-ranked city magazine, Washingtonian, has also suffered a decline in advertising pages, but its "robust" condition, Causey said, enables it to survive in tough times. "They can afford to drop from 1,900 pages to 1,600 pages last year and even to 1,200 or 1,300 this year. I can't," he said.
Washingtonian Editor Jack Limpert -- who said his magazine does not expect to publish fewer than 1,500 ad pages in 1991 -- also pointed out that Dossier lacked another financial bulwark, circulation revenues. As a controlled-circulation magazine, Dossier is largely distributed free of charge to about 50,000 selected wealthy individuals and addresses, a highly desirable demographic pool but one whose level of reader commitment is considered by most advertisers to be inferior to that of paying subscribers.
"If you don't have the strong roots that paid circulation gives you," Limpert said, "when the wind starts blowing hard it blows away a lot of controlled-circulation magazines."
The fate of other magazines published in the metropolitan area -- Museum & Arts Washington, Mid-Atlantic Country, New Dominion, all of them relatively young controlled-circulation titles -- will depend on their owners' and investors' willingness and ability to sustain promising but unprofitable operations through an economic slump of unknown duration.
Publisher Bill Regardie's decision to reduce Regardie's publishing frequency on a temporary basis is an effort to wait out tough times at the least possible cost; the Haans' decision to fold Dossier outright, perhaps, represents a less optimistic view of the market.
Sources said that Ronald Haan, a wealthy telecommunications and computer entrepreneur with businesses in Washington, Atlanta and Chicago, had subsidized his wife's magazine to the annual tune of $1 million or more in the first years.
Even though the subsidies were shrinking significantly as time went on and the magazine's advertising revenues improved, the sources said, Ronald Haan became convinced that the price of carrying Dossier through the recession was too high. His deepening involvement with the Chicago-based telecommunications company he runs constituted a further long-distance burden on the couple.
Dossier had been trimming its costs during the past few months and quietly exploring mergers with or acquisitions by other magazines, but the decision announced yesterday apparently came as a surprise even to Stoltz and Causey, who heard of it only minutes before the 9:30 a.m. meeting.
Apparently the Haans struggled until the final hours to salvage Dossier. Regardie said yesterday that Ron Haan recently had proposed merging the two magazines' publishing operations under Regardie's direction, and had sweetened that offer less than an hour before yesterday's meeting. Believing the magazines incompatible and the prospect of Dossier's revival unlikely, Regardie said he had declined.
The final meeting reportedly was an emotional one, not just for the staff but also for Linda Haan (who, as Linda Otto, was formerly art director of Washingtonian). Inundated with questions from the Dossier staff after she delivered the sad news, she excused herself and, leaving the room in tears, said she needed time to be alone.
Causey and Stoltz both said the severance package offered Dossier's 21 employees was "generous." Causey said he would be spending the next 60 days helping Dossier staffers find work.
Dossier was founded in 1975 as the Washington Dossier, 16 pages dominated by black-and-white society photos -- "media for the happy few, a confection," wrote co-owner Warren Adler at the time. These were the heady days of Tongsun Park, Henry Kissinger, Peter and Margaret Jay, Ardeshir Zahedi, Steve Martindale and Hamilton Jordan. "Our domain is where dreams are still alive with excitement, where a party is still a wonderful event, and the freshness and fantasy of a well-dressed woman delights the heart," Adler wrote, "where the talk sparkles with wit and repartee is still an art form."
Warren and Sonia Adler, the first mom-and-pop owners, correctly anticipated the era of luxe that Ronald and Nancy Reagan soon would shepherd into Washington -- and then, having become fixtures on the capital's social circuit, tired of it. They sold Dossier to the Haans in 1986 for at least $3 million, and moved to Beverly Hills, where Warren Adler devoted himself full time to novel-writing; "The War of the Roses" was adapted from his book of that title.