Celebrated cultural mag Gadfly returns in online-only form

Guest post by Chelsea Hicks

About a decade ago, talk of the cultural magazine Gadfly graced the pages of the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune. Featuring writers like Rolling Stone darling David Dalton, as well as work by Nat Hentoff of the Village Voice, the magazine even snagged Utne Reader’s coveted award for Best Cultural Coverage in 1999.

The magazine caved due to funding in 2002, but this June, an intern at Editor-in-Chief John W. Whitehead’s The Rutherford Institute asked about starting it up again. Whitehead rallied a team of readers and has racketed in the submissions from a smorgasbord of perspectives this summer. Today the magazine has launched in online-only form as a platform for young writers.

“Gadfly hasn’t changed focus,” said Whitehead. It’s just back, with pieces on art, fiction, poetry, interviews—whatever—updated daily. “We’re not screening. We put up virtually anything. We’re here to give people a break.” Whitehead means to break down the impenetrable publishing wall that older, seasoned writers and the yet-unpublished alike face.

I ask Whitehead if he’s going to really get serious and hire paid staff. He says he’ll eventually look for a full-time editor, but, “It has to be the right person. Someone who lives and breaths art—or it won’t work.”

And does he think he’ll be criticized for what could be called lowering the literary bar in what he publishes? “Maybe some [will criticize], but—” he shrugs. One gets the feeling he doesn’t really care. This fall he’ll usher in 16 student interns to keep things going strong. Hope your Internet connection is working well—they’ll be keeping the refresh button relevant.