Good News & A New Policy

May 2008By Pieter Vree

The recent across-the-board U.S. postal rate increases have been a huge financial strain for virtually all small Catholic publications, particularly for those, like the NOR, that rely solely on the support of readers, and not on foundation money. As you know, we have been trying to raise funds in order to withstand the postal rate hikes that have crippled, and even killed, some members of the Catholic publishing fraternity. (For details see our October 2007 editorial, "Opportunity & Crisis.")

We are pleased to report that we have reached our fundraising goal, and even slightly exceeded it. The response from you, our readers, has been overwhelming, as seen in the exceptionally long list of New Oxford Review Associates published in this year's March issue. The response was so great that we took the extra, unique measure of listing all those who've donated in response to our fundraising appeal -- including, in our April issue, the list of those who gave donations that didn't meet the criteria for membership in the NOR Associates, and whom we've dubbed Friends of the New Oxford Review.

Our most heartfelt thanks go out to you, our readers, for your immense outpouring of generous support, which in some cases was offered with great sacrifice. Without your benevolence, our apostolate would long ago have been buried six feet under.

As a result, we can now happily say that for the time being we will not have to resort to increasing our subscription rates. By keeping our rates low, compared to other monthly publications, readers will continue to receive the most "bang for their buck," and those with low and fixed incomes will continue to be able to receive the NOR. As we stated in our October 2007 editorial, we do not want to abandon any portion of our readership, as long as we can help it.

Life as a nonprofit, tax exempt, religious organization, however, remains fraught with peril; apostolates such as ours are always teetering on the precipice of financial freefall. We have taken measures to insulate ourselves as much as possible from that possibility, but running deficits and being stretched to the breaking point to make ends meet is the nature of our struggle. For our part, though, we are not in the business of making money -- which is good because there isn't much to be made in Catholic publishing anyway. The NOR exists to serve the Lord through a faithful proclamation of His truths as guarded by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

Nevertheless, now that we have a bit of "breathing room" as it were, we have made two enhancements to our website, www.newoxfordreview.org, that we have long been contemplating. The first is fairly straightforward; the second requires some explanation, as it involves the reversal of a previous policy.

First off, we have added a "Change of Address" feature to our website. Now, if you are relocating, registering your change of address with us is as simple as filling out a very basic online form. All you need do is click the "Change of Address" link in the left toolbar, fill in your old and new addresses, click "Submit," and it's done. No more envelopes, stamps, or phone calls (although these methods do remain in place for those who wish to avail themselves of them). You are free to pack for (we hope) greener pastures.

The second addition to our website is a "Letters to the Editor" feature. Up until now, it had been our policy not to accept letters to the editor via e-mail. Why not? Often, we'd found, e-mails were dashed off in a fit of unexamined emotion, only to be modified or retracted later. Better, we felt, that letter-writers should let their emotions settle, let their thoughts percolate, and then submit a clearheaded composition via stamped letter dropped into a U.S. mailbox. The extra effort, we reasoned, would ensure that the letter-writer was truly serious about making his point, and that he would produce a rational document. (Alas, this hasn't always been the case!) Our policy was expressed in an editor's reply to a rather incoherent letter titled "Why No E-Mail?" in our November 2004 issue, and was posted in truncated form at our website. We wrote then that "our experience with e-mail is this: E-mails are too often incoherent, garbled, and/or off-the-wall. They are often written off-the-cuff -- with great haste, ill-conceived and ill-considered -- and then the ‘send' button is pushed, and it's left to us to figure out what in the world is being asserted. In our book, e-mail is worse than junk mail, because at least junk mail is coherent."

Well, time and the generalization of technology have bred greater sophistication and user-ability, and what was once a new, standout attraction takes its place as simply one more feature of the communications landscape. So, like the phone and fax before it, we have come to accept e-mail as one of a variety of convenient methods of modern communication. (Hey, who are we to stand in the way of "progress"?) Those who would like to submit a letter to the editor electronically may now cruise over to our website, click the "Send a Letter to the Editor" link in the left toolbar, fill out the form (your name, address, e-mail address, etc., are required fields), and let us have it.

We truly do want to hear from our readers -- your reactions, rejoicings, and rebukes regarding the material we publish. This new feature is our good-faith effort to make it easier for you to reach us. And it will save you postage -- although the long-term effect may be to lead the U.S. postal service to increase postage rates again as mail volume decreases. As always, those who prefer the stamped-and-mailed letter may continue to use that tried-and-true method. Faxes, too, are still accepted.

Another reality of life as a nonprofit is that our office staff is shorthanded and overworked. Each letter to the editor submitted via our website will receive an automated acknowledgment; in certain cases we will be able to provide personal replies to specific queries; but, unfortunately, we simply do not have the manpower to reply to all the queries we receive -- and that goes for non-e-mail com­muni­qués as well. And, of course, we can't print every letter we receive.

Many people have told us that they find our letters section to be their "favorite," to be the most "fun," part of the magazine. That is because you have made it so. We want as many of you as possible to have your voices heard and your ideas considered, and we want to keep this section vibrant and engaging. Our hope is that this new letters feature will do just that.

We would be remiss if we didn't take the opportunity to thank you one more time for your participation in furthering the reach and witness of the NOR. To all the members of the NOR family -- Friends and Associates, as well as fellow travelers: May our days be filled with the work of building up the Body of Christ; and may our voices be joined in praise of our savior's Holy Name, here and in the hereafter.

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