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'AJR' Facing Major Debt -- But 'CJR' Says It's In The Black
Posted: 8/22/2007  |  By: Joe Strupp
While American Journalism Review is apparently $200,000 in debt with threats of closure, its counterpart, the Columbia Journalism Review, is having its best financial year ever, according to Executive Editor Mike Hoyt.

Hoyt, who has led the newsroom for four years, says his publication is about $50,000 in the black, with estimates of a $40,000 surplus in 2008. "We feel like we are on a roll," says Hoyt, noting the economic turnaround is based on a mix of some staff cuts and fundraising increases. "We didn?t replace three editors, but we have been able to add some reporters and we've done a lot of fundraising."

Hoyt's assessment follows a report in The Washington Post today that AJR is about $200,000 in debt and may face closure if the deficit is not reduced.

Both AJR and CJR have benefited in recent years from a fundraising project led by former Philadelphia Inquirer executive editor Eugene Roberts, who has headed a group of news veterans in raising some $2.5 million for both publications since 2004.

Roberts was not surprised at today's report that AJR was in trouble, saying the publication will always struggle given its continued advertising revenue battles.

"It is an ongoing thing," Roberts told E&P.; "Neither magazine gets enough advertising to be self-sustaining, they need to be supplemented each year."

Roberts, who launched the fundraising effort three years ago as part of a group that included former Associated Press President and CEO Louis Boccardi and Time Inc. Editor-in-Chief Norman Pearlstine, said the initiative has so far raised about $1.25 million for each, with more likely to come. The group also helped increase circulation efforts as the magazines went to alternative monthly production schedules.

Tom Kunkel, AJR president, told the Post it is "more likely" that the magazine will be able to continue publishing next year, but that he must close the deficit, which represents about one-fourth of its annual budget.

"It's always been 'The Perils of Pauline' with the finances of a journalism review," Kunkel, dean of the journalism school at the University of Maryland, whose foundation has owned the review for two decades, told the Post, adding that there is "no guarantee" of survival but "we haven't been given a drop-dead date or anything like that."

Hoyt reserved comment on AJR's operation, other than to say, "we wish AJR the best, I think they are very good." As for his magazine and Web site, he says the economic news is the best in the magazine's history. "As far as I know, this is the first time we have been in the black," he said, noting the publication's $2.3 million budget and eight-person staff. "The first time in history."

He said that the magazine and Web site had both undergone redesigns this year, adding that a subscription drive helped bring in some 6,000 student subscribers in the past two years. The bi-monthly publication's circulation is about 19,000, he said.

"Advertising revenue has been stable in print, and online we have a single source advertiser for the first time," Hoyt said.

AJR faced another challenge this year, after Santa Barbara News-Press owner Wendy McCaw, embroiled in a year-long labor battle with employees, sued the review after it published an article in 2006 about her paper's problems.