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Troubled Times.

July 23, 1983, was - as I wrote in this space at the time - a red-letter day in the annals of organized (or disorganized) athletics. It was the occasion of the First Annual Softball Grudge Match and Solidarity Celebration between the staffs of In These Times, the Chicago-based alternative biweekly, and The Progressive.

"First annual" was a bit of bravado on my part; neither publication was financially robust, and The Progressive faced a particularly severe crunch. Anyone who might have looked at our books that Saturday afternoon would have been entitled to conclude that the odds were against a second annual softball match.

In fact, a headline in The New York Times the next day - Sunday, July 24, 1983 - proclaimed, Financial Problems Imperil Progressive Magazine. The story got a lot of play around the country. A headline in the St. Paul Pioneer-Press read, Progressive Magazine on |Deathbed,' and the Philadelphia Inquirer announced, Progressive Magazine May Fold. Some of the papers that reported our imminent demise have since gone out of business.

Still, there's no doubt that it was the most acute financial crisis we had experienced since 1947, when a lack of money actually forced The Progressive to suspend publication for several months. But the gloomy outlook in the summer of '83 didn't dampen our enthusiasm - on the softball diamond or in The Progressive's business and editorial offices. We won both softball games that Saturday afternoon, and we went on to overcome our cash-flow emergency. On Saturday, August 21, 1993, the staff of In These Times traveled to Madison for the Eleventh Annual Softball Grudge Match and Solidarity Celebration.

(For a long time I thought the ITT-Progressive game was a unique institution on the Left, but I've learned that Britain's Fabian Society plays an annual cricket match against the leftist New Statesman & Society. One recent encounter was stopped by rain, but Fabian News reported that "NSS batted first and made 147 with Fabian Society 83-7." I have no idea what that means, but it sounds a lot like some of the grotesque scores In These Times and The Progressive have been known to rack up in softball.)

The latest softball encounter was, as they all have been, a joyous occasion. The Madison weather was wonderful. There were kids and grownups, beer and brats, home-run sluggers and enthusiastic bench warmers. The Progressive won the first game of a doubleheader and In These Times won the second. I can't report the final scores because no two people I consulted agreed on the figures.

This time, however, a pall hung over In These Times. I quote from a "refinance proposal" circulated this summer by editor-publisher James Weinstein:

"In These Times is at a crossroads. After sixteen precarious years of publishing we have gained recognition, in Utne Reader's words, as |an indispensable alternative to Time and Newsweek.' But because of longstanding debts, which we ate now paying off at nearly $10,000 a month, we barely scrape by. To survive, we've cut back our publication schedule, made drastic reductions in staff, and those of us who remain have taken pay cuts. This, in turn, has shackled our efforts to improve the quality of the magazine and to promote circulation growth.

"Under these conditions, continued publishing of In These Times is impossible. But we have no intention of folding our tents and going quietly into the night. Instead, we are seeking to raise $375,000 in loans and grants to pay off our back debts

and provide operating capital for circulation promotion and editorial improvements. We believe that this refinancing will not merely allow us to survive, but will also lay the basis for sustained growth and long-term stability....

"If we succeed in raising $375,000, we believe ITT can thrive well into the Twenty-first Century. If we fail to raise this money, we will cease publication in December."

At The Progressive, we know exactly what Jimmy Weinstein means by A "precarious"; we've been there any number of times in our eighty-four-year history, and we're not all that comfortable right now. We've had some tight squeezes this summer.

As of the end of August, Weinstein told me, he had raised about half of what it will take to keep ITT publishing. Recognizing the emergency at In These Times, I urge you to write to Weinstein at ITT, 2040 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647, to find out what you might do to help.

After all, we need to keep that softball series going.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:'In These Times' magazine financial woes
Author:Knoll, Erwin
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Oct 1, 1993
Words:747
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