Update: Founder Marc Smirnoff, Managing Editor Leave The Oxford American

by Kate Knable and Lance Turner  on Monday, Jul. 16, 2012 12:02 pm  

Oxford American Managing Editor Carol Ann Fitzgerald and founder Marc Smirnoff have left the magazine, according to its publisher. (File.)

"I plan also to approach these decisions creatively and with an open mind because I'd like to enlist as much creative talent as possible to inject new energy and vitality into the publication," he said. "... the organization itself is in really good health and the staff today is very positive and very motivated and very confident about the future.

"I don't think there will be any immediate plans to change anything about the character and ethos of The Oxford American."

Ups and Downs

Smirnoff, who founded the self-proclaimed "Southern magazine of good writing" in Oxford, Miss., in 1992, led the publication through three incarnations.

Launched as a quarterly, The Oxford American was a hit with fanatical subscribers, publishing pieces by literary notables including Charles Portis, Roy Blount Jr., and Kevin Brockmeier and unearthing unseen work by Southern writers including William Faulkner, Walker Percy, Zora Neale Hurston and James Dickey.

But it was a hard sell for advertisers. Arkansas native and author John Grisham helped support the magazine with personal funds through the 90s, but by 2002 the Oxford American was all but dead.

That's when Russ McDonough and At Home Media Group of Little Rock took the magazine under his wing, brought it to the River Market District and relaunched it as a bimonthly in 2003. The revival was short lived; the magazine shuttered after its July/August edition that year.

In 2004, UCA swooped and struck a deal to produce the magazine, providing 1,096-SF in on-campus office space as well as cash support the magazine plans eventually to repay. The university gave the magazine a total of $690,000 in cash over the course of five years, but ended the cash gifts in 2008 with $140,000 to help the magazine survive a case of embezzlement.

Now officially a nonprofit organization, the magazine has an office in Little Rock and at UCA. It has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and is planning to transform a 15,000-SF space on Main Street in Little Rock into a site for nightly cultural programs and a Southern restaurant.

In November, Arkansas Business cited IRS documents that showed the magazine had $1.4 million in revenue in 2010, and expenses of $1.3 million. Government grants from the Arkansas Arts Council, Arkansas Humanities Council and the NEA provided $94,120 of the revenue.

 

 

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