Is proprietor Rick MacArthur the solution for Harper's or the problem?
an article in the New York Observer by Kat Tossel. It brings up to date the firing of the literary editor and de facto second in command Ben Metcalfe, scapegoated by patron and publisher Rick MacArthur for unionizing the magazine. [See previous posts here and here.]
MacArthur pumps considerable part of his personal fortune into the magazine to cover its losses every year ($4.4 million in 2009) but resists new ways of making the magazine substainable, as two of the other "thinkies" -- The Atlantic and Mother Jones have done.
"Harper's doesn't have to be run at such a terrible loss," says former editor Rick Hodge, who was fired a year ago over disagreements with the owner. "The fight is over whether Rick MacArthur is going to continue to be the sole owner or whether Harper's is owned by American history, you could say. Whether it's something bigger than him or not. Harper's is bigger than that, and the American public will keep it alive if it is allowed to do so. Rick believes that only he can save the magazine."
Of some interest are the comments appended to the NYO story from former interns and staff. One example:
"It sucks not to feel valued at work, and I feel bad for the editors who had to go through that. But as the article said, many Harper's staffers have only worked at Harper's - I did get the sense while I was there that it was seen as a job for life, as long as you were one of the chosen few. Which was nice for the chosen few, but apparently didn't produce the most dynamic magazine as compared to those which used to be its peers."