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AJR in debt.

The American Journalism Review, the influential but financially troubled media journal, could face a shutdown by year's end, according to Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post.

Tom Kunkel, AJR's president, said it must close a deficit of about $200,000, which is one-quarter of its annual budget. He is the dean of the journalism school at Maryland University, which owns the foundation that has published AJR for two decades. AJR counts on donors for about a third of its budget.

The bimonthly, launched in 1977 as the Washington Journalism Review, has been cutting costs as the economic downturn in print journalism has eroded its advertising base. Long-time editor Rem Rieder essentially became the only editorial employee. Even the design and artwork of the magazine are contracted out.

"What we've kept throughout is a terrific corps of writers whose work makes the magazine what it is," Rieder said.

AJR's situation has been made more perilous by a lawsuit filed by Wendy McCaw, owner of the Santa Barbara News-Press over an article published nine months ago about turmoil at the California paper. It was in connection with a labor battle the paper was having with employees.

McCaw's suit says her newspaper was defamed by the article, which described an exodus of staffers from the News-Press after McCaw's purchase of the paper. The piece was written by a freelancer, and AJR management was stunned to discover that its libel insurance did not cover freelance writers. AJR was not originally named as a defendant but agreed to pay the reporter's legal bills and indemnify her against any judgment.

There was a time when AJR, along with the Columbia Journalism Review, operated by Columbia University, provided much of the critical examination of an industry not known for self-reflection. But the rise of Web sites and blogs dedicated to critiquing and, in some cases, bashing the media has increasingly overshadowed magazines that publish six times a year.

Meanwhile, CJR is having its best financial year ever, being in the black by $50,000, executive editor Mike Hoyt told Editor & Publisher.

"We didn't replace three editors, but we have been able to add some reporters and we've done a lot of fund raising," Hoyt said.

Both AJR and CJR have benefited in recent years from a fund raising project led by former Philadelphia Inquirer Executive Editor Eugene Roberts, who has headed a group of news veterans in raising some $2.5 million for both publications since 2004.

"It is an ongoing thing," Roberts told E&P. "Neither magazine gets enough advertising to be self-sustaining, they need to be supplemented each year."

--From reports by the Washington Post and Editor & Publisher
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Title Annotation:off the record; American Journalism Review
Author:Malone, Roy
Publication:St. Louis Journalism Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2007
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