Kummerfeldt, Irvan J.
M.A. (Master of Arts)
Department of Journalism
Oregon magazine||Underground press--Oregon
Advocacy journalism, with an emphasis on "Oregon Times," a left-wing periodical started in 1971* was explored. Case study and historical research found numerous trends in the alternative press. Most periodicals of reform were founded in times of social unrest, spanning the American Revolution to the war in Vietnam. Most had influence far beyond what their circulations would dictate. That was because they were read by people who could influence change: college professors, newspaper editors, lawmakers, intellectuals. The magazines prospered in troubled times, at least editorially. Few ever made much money. But as social climates cooled, as the status quo regained respectability, reform magazines found themselves struggling. The old formulas no longer worked. Readers had tired of the controversial. But changing editorial stride—even if it meant survival—was difficult for the alternative publications. Many, like William Lloyd Garrison's Liberator, were too intimately tied to their crusades to survive on any other terms. They folded. Others, like Cosmopolitan, readily adjusted to the market and prospered along the way. Changing with the times became a matter of course, but doing so without compromising editorial integrity posed some serious problems. Courting advertisers was no easy task for magazines that had built reputations in the trenches of reform. Oregon Times, a tiny Portland, Ore. (Throughout this analysis, "Portland" will refer to the city in Oregon.), monthly, was no exception. It began as a muckraker, molded in the image of I.F. Stone's Weekly. Circulation in its early years never surpassed 3,000, but the struggling periodical was considered important by people who mattered. Despite that, the magazine never made money. And as the troubled Vietnam era gave way to more conservative times, the magazine found itself between a rock and a hard place. It nearly folded three times in its first four years. But in 1975, the Times attracted the interest of a wealthy California businessman, who agreed to publish the magazine. He brought along his cash. In the next few years, Oregon Times went from a tiny newsprint journal to a slick regional magazine with circulation nearing 38,000. Still, something was lost. As the magazine changed, eventually calling itself Oregon, it dropped the muckraking approach for a life-style/entertainment format. Editors insisted the magazine was selling out. Ad salespersons said the editors were out of touch. In the end, the editors walked out and the ad director was fired. The battle left its mark on the magazine, which still is struggling to find that identity it lost when muckraking became passe. For two years after the walkout, Oregon's editorial formula was painfully confused. More recently, the magazine has named a new general manager, a new ad director and a new editor. Things, they insist, are looking up. The dilemma isn't unique to Oregon. It is a problem that seems to confront the alternative press endlessly: What do you do when readers lose interest, if temporarily, in the causes of reform? It was found that the answers to that question can be as varied as there are magazines.
Cekay, Thomas, "Oregon Magazine : a radical publication goes straight" (1981). Graduate Research Theses & Dissertations. 4222.
vi, 167 pages
Northern Illinois University
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