Ruth Reichl stunned by Gourmet’s end

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In his story on Conde Nast’s decision to shut down the nation’s oldest major food magazine, Russ Parsons quotes the magazine’s editor (and former L.A. Times Food editor and restaurant critic) Ruth Reichl as saying she found out the news only this morning.

‘I can’t talk about it now, it’s too raw. I’ve got to pack up my office,’ she said.

There had been some recent speculation about the magazine’s difficulties, particularly given the fact that Conde Nast also owns Gourmet’s chief competitor, Los Angeles-based Bon Appetit. Not only did Bon Appetit have more readers, according to recent statistics from the magazines’ media kits, Gourmet had circulation of 950,000 copies while Bon Appetit had 1.3 million readers. Additionally, Gourmet had a reputation of being a very expensive magazine to run, featuring long articles by well-known writers while Bon Appetit was focused on much more economical, recipe-driven content.

But in retrospect, there were clear signs that all was not well when Reichl did a recent radio interview with Larry Mantle on KPCC-FM (89.3). ‘We’re struggling just like everyone else,’ she said. ‘It’s ironic because our circulation has never been higher. And yet advertising dollars are a challenge.’

Still, she put on a hopeful front: ‘I have to say that in the last week it felt like the recession ended. I mean, suddenly, our advertising picture literally in the last week changed really dramatically and ads started flooding in. It’s really very exciting.’

But for most of its readers, the idea of a food world without Gourmet to describe it is almost unthinkable.