Plans for the Winter 2010 issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review were in place by April, around the time editor Ted Genoways received a Guggenheim Fellowship for a project on American poet Walt Whitman and the Civil War. While Genoways was on leave, two organizers of the annual LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph—co-founder Nick Nichols and managing director Andrew Owen—would guest-edit an issue devoted to emerging photographers.
In a letter signed by Matthew Power, Neil Shea and more than two dozen others, VQR contributors described editor Ted Genoways (pictured) as “professional, tactful, and respectful” and call for an impartial investigation of both Genoways and late managing editor Kevin Morrissey.
“When [Genoways] learned of the Guggenheim Fellowship and that he was going to be away, I think he thought it made perfect sense to have Nick and myself be guest editors to work on the Winter issue, and have it be devoted to 10 to 12 photographers,” says Owen. The pair decided on a short list of 25 finalists, according to Owen, and were waiting to share their selections with the VQR staff. Following the suicide of 52-year-old managing editor Kevin Morrissey, who struggled with depression throughout his life, “everything was sort of put on hold.”
Now, operations remain suspended at the 85-year-old publication while UVA conducts what it terms an “internal review” following Morrissey’s suicide and allegations of “workplace bullying” directed at editor Ted Genoways. Last week, UVA announced the cancellation of VQR’s winter issue. Full-time staff members Molly Minturn and Sheila McMillen are reported to be on paid leave, while web editor Waldo Jaquith has accepted a job with UVA’s Miller Center for Public Affairs. All three names have been removed from VQR’s online masthead. Genoways is also on leave for his Guggenheim fellowship, but remains editor of the journal, according to the masthead. Calls to Genoways for comment were not immediately returned.
“The University decided that it was in the best interests of the VQR staff for them to be able to take a much-needed break once the fall issue had been sent to the printer,” says Carol Wood, UVA’s Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs. Wood says that all VQR staff members remain University employees and adds that the goal for the break is to “give [staff] the time they feel they need.”
With staff on leave, it remains unclear how the nationally acclaimed literary journal might remain at the height of its powers.
UVA currently faces the task of dealing with VQR’s 2,400 subscribers, along with previously arranged assignments for issues through late 2011. “If you have thousands of subscribers, I don’t know how you just pause your distribution,” says Matthew Power, a VQR contributor who met Genoways at a writers conference roughly seven years ago. VQR subscribers pay $32 for four issues per year, with two- and three-year subscriptions priced at $56 and $72, respectively.
Nor do you easily pause the production schedule. Assignments for VQR are made as much as one year in advance. Power says issues of VQR through Fall 2011 were to feature reports from Kirguistan, Cameroon, Kazakhstan, Haiti, India and other countries.
“I had planned to travel this month to Africa for a story for the spring 2011 issue,” writes Neil Shea, another contributor, via e-mail. “Needless to say, events at the magazine have derailed that reporting trip.” Shea also says the magazine “owes me and at least a few others money for work that had been completed or that was nearing completion.”
Following the October release of the fall issue, Wood says UVA will contact subscribers to inform them of the next issue’s cancellation and the school’s plans for compensation—potentially, a bonus issue in 2011 or a reimbursement for the cancelled issue. As for contrbutors, Wood says UVA started the process of making all outstanding payments for previous assignments at the time the fall issue was sent to press. And while, at press time, both Power and Shea told C-VILLE they had not heard from UVA regarding their current assignments, Wood says all outstanding assignments will be honored by the journal.
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