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Home:  >News & Events   >News Archives   >2003

Back from the brink, Oxford American magazine to publish ‘relaunch issue’ this month

Jan. 16, 2003

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — When Oxford American editor Marc Smirnoff announced last May that the magazine had two weeks in which to find a new owner or face shutting down for good, things did not look promising.

The struggling “Southern magazine of good writing,” acclaimed for its annual music issues and for a talented and various array of writers and contributors over its ten-year run, was on the brink of financial ruin because of poor subscription sales and low ad revenues. The Spring 2002 issue of the magazine had been completed and sent to the printer, but could not be printed or mailed to subscribers because of a lack of operating funds.

Now, the magazine is back from the brink, thanks to a new owner, a new home in Arkansas, and a new editorial and business staff. Still unchanged is the magazine’s name and its editor, Smirnoff, who founded the magazine in Oxford, Mississippi, in 1992.

The magazine was saved from ruin when At Home Media Group, Inc., an Arkansas-based publisher, teamed up with two local entrepreneurs to purchase a majority interest in the Oxford American. Now based in Little Rock, the magazine will continue to offer its eclectic blend of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction for which it has been noteworthy.

According to a FAQ on the magazine’s web site, the magazine’s editorial content was what attracted the new owners in the first place. “I think it would be a significant mistake to tinker with the editorial content of the magazine,” says At Home Media’s Russ McDonough. Because the magazine has “such a devoted following,” the new publisher’s challenge is “to make that a profitable model without alienating our readers.”

The magazine will publish a regular issue every two months, along with special music and food issues each year, for a total of eight issues per year.

The magazine is no stranger to financial troubles. In 1994, the magazine nearly folded from a lack of funds, until bestselling novelist John Grisham rescued the magazine from ruin by purchasing an interest in the magazine and becoming the publisher. Grisham’s relationship with the magazine dates back to the very first issue in 1992, in which Grisham contributed an essay titled “The Faulkner Thing,” about how his own works were frequently compared to those of William Faulkner simply because both of them lived in Oxford, Mississippi.

The magazine also published Grisham’s first published short story, “The Birthday,” in 1995, and a serialized novel, A Painted House, in 2000.

The magazine’s most recent financial troubles ironically came as an anthology of the best articles and stories from the first ten years had just been published. The Best of the Oxford American: Ten Years from the Southern Magazine of Good Writing was published by Hill Street Press in 2002 and featured previously unpublished works that appeared in the magazine by such writers as Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, Larry Brown, Barry Hannah, Rosanne Cash, Steve Martin, Donna Tartt, Susan Sontag, Rick Bass, and others.

More information about the magazine, including subscription and submission information, is available from the magazine’s web site, Also featured on the site are articles from the so-called “Lost Issue,” the issue that had previously been stranded at the printer for lack of funds.

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