CQ Roll Call Forges Ahead Amidst Major Changes

All eyes are on CQ Roll Call Associate Director Keith White to step into the shoes of Managing Director and Executive V.P. Laurie Battaglia. Battaglia’s sudden departure from CQ Roll Call was announced Tuesday. She had been with the company for 23 years.

“It’s been a great time,” Battaglia said by phone Wednesday afternoon, saying she felt she wanted to keep things positive. “The people are fantastic. Sometimes it’s just time to move on.”

White has made it clear he wants her position. The search is underway, but if The Economist Group’s CEO Andrew Rashbass agrees, it’s his. It was Rashbass who tipped employees off that White is up for the job. FishbowlDC has requested comment from White.

Battaglia has not announced where she will go next. “I don’t think she has laid her plans out yet,” said Editorial Director Mike Mills in a phone interview with FishbowlDC Tuesday afternoon, who said Battaglia’s departure “seemed sudden,” but “wasn’t as sudden as it seemed. I think it sort of crept up on everybody.”

Mills said he was not involved in Battaglia’s departure, though it is clear he was heavily involved in Editor Charlie Mitchell leaving the publication last fall, a move that triggered much grief throughout the newsroom. “I was not a part of any negotiation,” Mills said with a sigh that sounded like relief. “Refreshingly distant on the editorial side.”

He sung Battaglia’s praises effusively. “I gotta say though, I’m really going to miss Laurie,” he said. “She has been a terrific boss and a legendary leader over these 23 years.” He said he had spoken to her since the news, but didn’t want to characterize the conversation or say whether she was upset. “I can’t say enough about how much she brought to the company. The Economist gets  a third of its profits from CQ Roll Call. That was all her. She was a pioneer int his market. She has also been an inspiration as a woman leader. We just celebrated her being chosen as women who mean business by the Washington Business Journal a few months ago. Obviously I wish her the best and we’re friends and we’re going to continue to be friends. I’m very, very sad to see her leaving. She always wants what’s best for the company. I just feel badly.”

Editorial staff, meanwhile, was shocked by the news…

As one employee described it, “Most people seem to be reacting to this in two ways. On a personal level it will be tough as Laurie is beloved in the newsroom – especially at Roll Call – and it augers an era of less autonomy for the company as Economist takes greater control. On a business level, however, this seems like it will better position us to thrive in an increasingly competitive market environment.”

As explained Tuesday in an internal memo written by Rashbass…the company is shifting its ad strategy and “reach” to New York and London, where The Economist Group is based. Mark Walters is the group publisher and will be Washington-D.C.-based. His team, estimated to number less than 12, will be here. “It’s still going to be run from Washington,” stressed Mills. “What it does is bring The Economist and (as it is called) the Americas, which is based in New York, it brings their advertising reach closer to what we do.”

Excellently spun. But what does that mean?

For one thing, it means a reorganization at the very top level. For another, Rashbass appears to be running a tight ship where management is concerned. Mills and White are being instructed to report directly to Rashbass for the time being until Battaglia’s successor is named.

Mills says the restructuring is a normal part of any merger. “When any two companies merge there is going to be upheaval,” he said.

Finally, what does CQ Roll Call need to do better? Mills explained that whatever it is CQ Roll Call needs to do in the future has nothing to do with the daily work of reporters and editorial staff. Instead, they need to seize business opportunities, he said.

Then he said something that’s likely to irk the management of every single other Capitol Hill publication: “We’re different,” Mills insisted. “We do things different than other publications. We cover Congress more deeply than anyone else. If we need to get better in any way, we have to strive to do what we do best, to explain Congress and government to anybody who wants to understand.”

Mills declared that the changes that are happening will not affect editorial staff whatsoever.

Stay tuned…