New England Review Faces Budgeting Ultimatum

by Staff

The New England Review has until the end of 2011 to become self-supporting or it will lose its sponsorship, Middlebury College announced this week. The thirty-year-old magazine was included in a list of recommended cuts released on Tuesday by the Vermont college’s Budget Oversight Committee, which is aiming to trim $20 million from the school’s spending.

Middlebury College, which also hosts the prestigious Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, has funded the New England Review since the journal moved there from New Hampshire in 1982. The college not only provides office space and subsidizes production costs but supports most of the magazine’s staff: Editor Stephen Donadio is an English professor at Middlebury, while interns are drawn from the student body. Without the school’s financial backing, Donadio told Inside Higher Ed, the NER is unlikely to meet its operating expenses. 

Operating in the red is hardly out of the norm for small press periodicals, and the New England Review’s literary standing remains as solid as its finances are precarious. In 2008 The Boston Globe ranked it among the top ten journals in the region, with PEN/New England board member Elizabeth Searle calling it a “high-class lit magazine that also happens to be secretly sexy.” The prospect of cutting loose the much-beloved journal already has some experts rankled. Jeffrey Lependorf, executive director of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, told Inside Higher Ed that the NER had “achieved grand dame status. They have published so many people who have gone on to have household status. This would be a terrible shame.”

The New England Review is not the only university-supported literary publication to have been affected by shrinking endowments and economic belt-tightening. Watershed, the biannual journal produced for over three decades by the English department of California State University, Chico, recently announced the cancellation of its Spring issue due to budget cuts.