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Reichl: Sadness, Support Follow Gourmet's Closing

Reichl: Sadness, Support Follow Gourmet's Closing

Michelle Locke | Associated Press

Don’t tell former Gourmet editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl this week’s closing of the venerable food magazine reflects any sort of judgment on the food elite.

“It’s one of the things that drives me crazy,” Reichl said in a phone interview Thursday from Kansas City, Mo., where she was promoting the now-shuttered magazine’s latest cookbook, “Gourmet Today.”

“People keep talking about it as this sort of high-end place for rich people when we were the magazine that did articles about tomato workers being slaves and problems with how chickens were being killed,” she said. “We were running a lot of very serious journalism.”

Blaming the tough economy, Conde Nast Publications said Monday it was closing Gourmet, along with Modern Bride, Elegant Bride and parenting magazine Cookie. Conde Nast said it will focus its food publishing on Gourmet’s sister magazine, Bon Appetit.

As news of the closure spread, one refrain spread fast – the company’s decision to retain the more recipe-driven Bon Appetit was indicative of Gourmet being out of touch with how Americans eat.

Reichl disputes that. Gourmet’s circulation – around 980,000 – was up. It was ad pages that were down. That makes Reichl feel the decision was an economic one, not based on reader disaffection.

Magazine consultants have said Bon Appetit likely survived because advertisers have moved toward food titles that reflect the more affordable sensibility it has.

“Bon Appetit has a larger class within the mass audience where Gourmet has become more of a class by itself,” said Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi, School of Journalism.

What does the closing of Gourmet mean for the food scene?