My Opening Farewell

JazzTimes’ longtime publisher and editor on his transition to part-time role

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Lee Mergner at 2017 Newport Jazz Festival (photo by Ari Frankel)

It’s never easy to find the words to say goodbye, especially when there are conditions to that goodbye.  Indeed, mine is loaded with conditions, but I have decided to step down as a full-time employee of Madavor Media, the owners of JazzTimes. I expect that my last day in that role will be Friday, January 26, 2018.  I’ve come to a stage of my life when it’s time to devote more time to my family, as well as to my own creative projects. In addition, I feel some obligation to be more of service to others, whether inside or outside of the jazz community that has been such a big part of my professional and personal life for 30+ years.  There’s also the beach at Emerald Isle, NC that calls for me.

I will remain strongly connected to JazzTimes as a contributing editor and consultant. In addition to contributing articles, columns (including ones in this particular Tangents space) and reviews on a regular basis to JazzTimes, I’ll continue to organize the Jazz Congress conference—in partnership with Jazz at Lincoln Center—that will be held every January in NYC.  The inaugural event, held recently on January 11-12 at the Jazz at Lincoln Center facilities, was a great success and we are already planning on growing the conference in 2019.

In addition, I will be consulting for JazzTimes on everything from cover stories to subscription campaigns. It’s pretty simple. After nearly 28 years in the trenches, I am getting out of the day-to-day operations of the magazine, as well as of the other publications at Madavor Media with which I worked during the last 8+ years. But I’m not abandoning either the magazine or the jazz community. My email and phone number remain unchanged. This goodbye is really more of a transition than a farewell.

When I joined JazzTimes in 1990, it had only three employees including the owner Ira Sabin, along with one computer – with no email or even voicemail.  The magazine then was a newsprint tabloid and I was a skinny single man with long brown hair. About the only thing that’s the same now is that I am still a man, albeit a much older one.  At the time I started working at JazzTimes, I (and the rest of the small staff) viewed Ira as “the old man” in the office and we even called him that, but recently I realized that I’m now older than he was then. Yes, that means I’m now the old man in the office, though thankfully no one called me that.  Or more accurately, I was the old man in the office. I’ve now ceded that crown, to whom I can’t say without checking IDs.

Glenn Sabin, Ira Sabin, Lee Mergner and Jeff Sabin
Glenn Sabin, Ira Sabin, Lee Mergner and Jeff Sabin

I was lucky enough to work alongside Glenn and Jeff Sabin for 19 years as we built the magazine together from a monthly newspaper to a glossy magazine and also produced several JazzTimes Conventions and published Harp, a terrific rock magazine. And for the last 8 1/2 years, I’ve worked for Madavor Media based in Braintree, Ma. and I’ve been a part of its growth to a portfolio of about a dozen publications, including BirdWatching, The Writer, Outdoor Photographer, Plane & Pilot, Diabetes Self-Management, Gluten Free Living and more.  The experience enabled me to learn much more about media and content creation. I’m grateful to Susan Fitzgerald, Courtney Whitaker, Robin Morse and the many people I worked with at Madavor for that opportunity.

Despite all the dark prognostications about the print media, I’m not worried about the future of the JazzTimes because, for one, in Evan Haga the magazine has perhaps the finest editor I’ve ever worked with.  Evan has been with JT for over 10 years and although people often attribute great stories or issues to me, all of the credit should go to Evan who envisioned them and saw them through from start to finish.  The writers he’s brought to the publication comprise a veritable who’s who of music journalism.

Lee Mergner and Evan Haga in audience at 2017 Detroit Jazz Festival (photo by Marek Lazarski)
Lee Mergner and Evan Haga in the audience at the 2017 Detroit Jazz Festival (photo by Marek Lazarski)

I also know that the magazine will evolve as it adopts new platforms and outlets.  Ultimately, it’s all about telling a story and I think JazzTimes does that as well as any music magazine or website on this planet and of that I’m proud.  There will always be a demand for those stories and for that content.  I hope to still contribute and develop stories about this music and community that I love.