Upward & Onward?

November 1991

There are many things for the New Oxford Review to be grateful about: We avoided raising our subscription rates for the seventh year in a row. We did not operate at a deficit during the last fiscal year (a rare feat!). Our paid circulation increased almost seven percent from what it was a year ago. And all this happened in the midst of a recession and while an alarming number of periodicals were either dying or in crisis.

How to explain it? We would point to Providence, to a judicious deployment of resources, to kind-hearted readers who make donations to the magazine, and to our superb writers of proofreaders who labor for free. (Speaking of our writers, with this issue Robert Coles resumes his much-loved column, "Harvard Diary," which began in our December 1981 issue, and which, for health reasons, he had to suspend after our December 1989 issue.)

If there's an Iron Law in today's journalism, it is this: You Can't Rest on Your Laurels. In spite of the fact that we will celebrate our 15th Anniversary early next year, and that the Los Angeles Times recently saw fit to characterize us as "influential," we cannot assume that all will be well in the future. (Anniversaries and kudos do not pay bills.) More precisely, we cannot assume readers will donate to our work, unless we ask them -- that is, ask you! And we must ask, not only because donations are indispensable to our viability but because there are troubling signs all around.

In our "post-literate" video-oriented culture, periodicals, especially the worthwhile ones, are an endangered species. Frankly, some recently expired periodicals won't be missed -- e.g., Fame and Egg. The demise of Business Month is probably no great tragedy. Our fascination with sports will survive the death of The National Sports Daily. And when the chic and cynical Spy was on the brink of folding last year, few tears were seen. But the recent death of Encounter, The Listener, and The Ecumenist was sad news for those who take ideas seriously.

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