Friends Journal’s Ninth Month (September) issue just arrived here in the boondocks, and in it is a long letter from the clerk of their board, announcing that their Publisher/Executive Editor, Susan Corson-Finnerty, plans to take early retirement late next year.
With that, the Great Quaker Turnover continues to roll through the Establishment Quaker organizations.
Last winter, after FJ published a desperation “HELP! We’re drowning!” appeal, I asked in a post if the magazine could survive in its current, staff-heavy form, and expressing doubts about its long-term viability without drastic change. (That post was published on the in-groupy “QuakerQuaker” site, from which I was banned a few weeks later, so I can’t link to it. But it’s still worth searching out.)
In the August issue of Friends Journal, there was an announcement about the “big changes” to be made in response to this financial crisis — but the listed changes were, in my view, very small beer: cutting one issue, limiting the size of others, doing more on the web. These left untouched the elephant in the room, which is the large and expensive paid staff.
Now another shoe has dropped. Will Susan Corson-Finnerty’s successor have both of the titles, and the equivalent salary and bennies? Such transitions are a good time to make substantial cuts, as there is usually a long line of people eager to take such jobs.
And there is another consideration: will a new editor make an effort to break through the previously impenetrable layers of stodgy unimaginativity (if that’s a word) and chronic behind-the-curveness (ditto) which has characterized the magazine’s editorial ethos and corporate culture for so, so long? And if a new editor does, will he/she have a chance to bring it off?
From here, the odds of any breakthrough seem long, and are reinforced by the timidity of the “changes” announced thus far. One hopes there are additional shoes yet to drop.
What would constitute an adequate survival program for FJ? Well, besides learning to operate with about half the current paid staff (or even less), the prescription would include an ingredient also suggested for its near neighbor the American Friends Service Committee: pack up and move out of Philadelphia, the city where good Quaker ideas go to die.
My understanding is that the magazine owns its office, which could be sold for enough cash to afford equivalent space in, say, North Carolina, with lots of dough left over. Plus, such a move would provide them — at no extra charge — with another sizable Quaker population center, one with far more real Quaker “diversity” than Philly, not to mention much better winters. Plenty of new perspectives and ideas around here. (I admit that being so far away from the Phillies would be a drawback, but they’re available on the net.)
Phillies Monthly Meeting in an October threshing session
It’s likely that dozens of FJ readers are even now polishing up their resumes after reading this issue. I wish them well, but note that FJ values continuity (see “stodgy” etc., above) and often promotes from within. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are strong inside candidates this time.
With the Great Quaker Turnover picking up momentum, one wonders which will be the next body joining the list. Field reports are always welcome.