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Home:  >News & Events   >News Archives   >2004

Oxford American magazine signs deal with University of Central Arkansas

May 26, 2004

CONWAY, Ark. — The Oxford American and the University of Central Arkansas announced a partnership on Saturday that will establish the critically acclaimed Southern literary magazine in Conway, Ark.

The magazine began in 1992 in Oxford, Miss., and was bankrolled by author John Grisham for years. Financial troubles led it to cease production in 2002, but it was revived briefly after At Home Media Group purchased the magazine and moved it to Little Rock.

The university said it signed a three-year, $490,000 contract with Oxford American founder Marc Smirnoff on May 17. The contract calls for an initial infusion of $300,000 to get started and then an additional $190,000. The university’s auxiliary revenue will be the funding source.

“Having a magazine of the Oxford American’s caliber on our campus will benefit not only our students and faculty, but the entire state as well,” said university president Lu Hardin. “Not only will our English and writing students learn from this, but our business students as well (by seeing how a publication is run).

“The UCA Honors College of 600 students with an average ACT score of 31, coupled with the literary excellence of the Oxford American, further affirms UCA as a university committed to academic excellence.”

The magazine will be housed in Main Hall on the campus and publication, at four issues a year, is expected to start in November. The plan is to operate the magazine as a nonprofit entity, the university said.

The Oxford American stopped publication in July, but this month it won a National Magazine Award for its Sixth Annual Music Issue, finishing in front of Rolling Stone, National Geographic and Wired in the single-topic issue category.

Dubbed “the Southern New Yorker” by The Washington Post, The Oxford American has published the works of Charles Portis, William F. Buckley Jr. and Donna Tartt, among others.

University officials said the contract would not be funded with state money or money from student tuition. Instead, Hardin has said the goal of the project is to generate revenue through subscriptions and advertising to help pay off the university’s initial investment.

The agreement between UCA and Oxford American is for three years, but it can be renewed, according to Jack Gillean, vice president of university relations.

The magazine is currently owned by Brothers and Sisters Holding Company , Inc. with Smirnoff as president. Once the nonprofit entity is established, the magazine will then be transferred to that entity.

A faculty member (not yet selected) from the UCA business department will make sure the magazine is viable, according to Gillean. UCA students will serve as interns, although they will not be writing for the publication.

Terry Wright, the university’s associate dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication, said in an earlier interview, “Having the Oxford American — undeniably one of the finest literary and fiction magazines in the country — here at UCA shows the university’s serious commitment to creative writing and literary arts.”

The magazine’s new governing board includes President Hardin, Smirnoff, Rex Nelson of Gov. Huckabee’s staff, Alan Leveritt of the Arkansas Times, William Whitworth, a former editor at The New York Times and former editor of Atlantic Monthly; and Warrick Sabin of the Arkansas Times.

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