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Between work and art: On little magazines today


At WDW Review, Ben Eastham, co-founder and editor of The White Review, considers the state of the “little magazine” today, providing a warts-and-all look into the economics of journal publishing. What emerges is a publishing philosophy that balances the sometimes contradictory demands of work and art. Here’s an excerpt:

The question I am sidling up to here is: What is the point of a little magazine? Is this art? Or is it work?

If it is work, then we need more money. We need to make a dash for the center; we need to professionalize further; we need to expand our readership and make editorial decisions based on that principle; we need a marketing budget; we need a dedicated advertising team; we need some big names to write about things that will appeal to a broad demographic.

But if it is art, perhaps we can retreat further from the economic considerations of being an employer. Perhaps people will contribute for free, happy and secure in the idea that their expressions are reaching an audience, that they are creating intellectual and aesthetic connections between people, that they are creating culture.

Neither is satisfactory. At risk of taking the easy way out, I contend that a little magazine is both art and work. It is neither exclusively, neither completely. This combination is part of what defines a little magazine.