VQR rising? Lit mag hires new publisher, deputy editor

On Monday, December 12, about fourteen months after the award-winning Virginia Quarterly Review might have appeared on the verge of extinction after an 86-year publishing streak, the University of Virginia announced that a new publisher and deputy editor are joining the staff.

In August 2010, the VQR was rocked by tragedy, the suicide of its 52-year old managing editor, Kevin Morrissey, who shot himself near the Coal Tower property on the last official day in office of then University President John Casteen.

Grief-stricken VQR staffers and Morrissey family members alleged that VQR editor Ted Genoways had treated Morrissey cruelly in the weeks before his death, something Genoways denied even as the case spiraled into a national discussion about workplace bullying.

Later, it was revealed that Morrissey had reached out to UVA officials as many as 18 times to address the workplace problems in the weeks before his suicide. One VQR staffer called Genoways' treatment of Morrissey "egregious," while others accused him of squandering VQR funds, being an absentee boss, and courting a wealthy, 24-year-old donor by creating a job for her without an official search.

What's more, a UVA investigation revealed evidence of financial recklessness and mismanagement, and recommended that "corrective action" be taken against Genoways.

Still, University officials elected to stand by Genoways. While the magazine had been associated with the prestigious UVA English Department, where the Creative Writing Program is consistently ranked among the best in the country (indeed, two former UVA grads are currently on the New York Times Best Seller list), the VQR was moved out from under the oversight of the President's Office, removed from its coveted Lawn-area office, and placed under the supervision of the Office of the Vice President for Research.

"Why they didn't just turn the VQR over to English department," a faculty member tells the Hook, "is beyond me."

For the new crew, however, Genoways is an "incredibly gifted editor" who is offering a chance to create innovative content.

New publisher Jon Parrish Peede is an experienced writer, editor, and publisher who also served as Director of Literature Grants for the National Endowment for the Arts and funneled more than $5 million into the hands of fiction writers, translators, as well as to nonprofit presses, journals, and literary organizations.

“I am delighted to serve the University of Virginia and the literary community in this role,” says Peede in a release. “It is a privilege to work on a publication of such distinction and with so much promise. At a time when so many magazines and newspapers have reduced their reporting, VQR stands out for its editorial ambition, thoroughness, and cultural importance.”

"We're just trying to build this into something that people have to read," says new deputy editor Donovan Webster, an acclaimed magazine writer who acknowledges the VQR's recent troubles, but points out that he's focused on the future.

While other prominent literary journals have been forced to make sacrifices for their survival, it appears that the University of Virginia is prepared to invest even more money in the little journal.

For instance, Shenandoah at Washington & Lee University, which was founded in 1950 by a group of students, including author Tom Wolfe, was forced to cease its print operations and is now online only. At Middlebury College, the the New England Review was ordered to become self-sustaining or get its funding pulled.

While salary information was not immediately available for the two hires, the job postings listed target compensation in the six-figures (and editor Ted Genoways already has a $170,000 compensation package). In addition, a VQR business plan obtained by the Hook reveals that the annual budget for fiscal year 2012-13 stands at $1.2 million with searches continuing for an office manager and a web editor.

Or to look at it another way: with roughly 1,500 VQR subscribers, UVA is spending $800 per subscriber per year. Yet, according to the business plan, VQR hopes to become sustainable by increasing print subscriptions and by selling digital content and advertising. Going after donations is also an objective, as the magazine plans to establish a "Friends of the VQR" donor base and secure three to five multi-year major gift donors at $50,000 per year.

Can VQR pull it off? We'll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, the news guys are looking forward to the challenge.

"It's gonna be cool," says Webster.

This story is a part of the Turmoil at the VQR special.
Read more on: donovan webstervqr


This article SUCKS. So who are the new hires?

Monday was December 12. I stopped reading when I saw the date could not be conveyed by the writer.

lol...tough crowd. Apologies. A draft version of this story accidentally made its way online.

I'm sure that any errors were my fault.--hawes spencer, hook editor

Nit picky people, it you don't like something stop reading it or do you just like to complain?
While he might be a "incredibly gifted editor" if he can't work with people with out bullying them he need a different job but I see UVA is keeping him.

The U Va Capital Campaign ends this month, falling short of its goal. Far short. One hesitates to use the word "failure" since they did raise some money, but nowhere near what they expected. How much of the shortfall was due to the alumni revolt over the new President's mismanagement, in failing to deal effectively with Genoways? Did the alumni office keep track of the number of alumni who, like me, wrote letters pledging never to give another nickle?

Unfortunately I'm with Fallout on this one. I didn't write any letters but I did suspend my contribution this year. UVA keeping Genoways around was a severe disappointment.

I'm sure that Charlotte Kohler is rolling over in her grave, but probably still pleased to see the resurrection of her beloved VQR. All the best. I hope you succeed.

The U hates to admit any mistake. So- following on with the too cozy Casteen & Son back scratch relationship, Genoways still has a job AND gets $170K? This whole VQR enterprise, both professionally and financially, is a disgrace.

How perplexing that all the new hires are male. Just read an article on how businesses with women in positions of authority outperform others. VQR's material has been depressingly macho and one-note as evidenced by the dearth of subscribers. There is more to attracting readers than being hip and well-connected.

Don Webster is a real pro and an amazing talent, not to mention an incredibly good guy. VQR/UVA are fortunate he's on board.

Wow, 11 men and 2 women- you're right, this is almost an entirely male enterprise --wonder if the new woman prez is aware of this ?

Ted Genoways

Contributing Editors
Daniel Alarcón
Tom Bissell
David Caplan
Helon Habila
Dimiter Kenarov
John McNally
Christopher Merrill
Paul Reyes
Natasha Trethewey
Lawrence Weschler

Contributing Online Editors
Michael David Lukas
Jacob Silverman

D. Webster is terrific. Maybe Peede too. But I feel sorry for both of them, having walked into a job where they will be dealing with the Dr. J (to important people)/ Mr. Hyde (to his minions) that is the walking sociopath, Ted Genoways. And I doubt the much-esteemed Ms. Kohler would approve of the current VQR, with its bloated salaries and its dreary focus on flabbily written disaster-porn, produced for the most part, by second-rate, at best, wanna-be-macho guys. And NO ONE reads it--though I guess UVA doesn't care about dumping more money into that sewer.

So, Casteen Jr. is gone? Good. He couldn't write his way out of a wet paper dad. I mean: bag.
Smoke em if you got em....

Always interesting to see what gets deleted and what doesn't and it's amazing how much the "standards" that determine that seem to vary from article to article.

Doesn't the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue come out soon?

A new publisher is the head person over everyone?


VP for research Tom Skalak is at the top of the org chart, editor and publisher are side-by-side, deputy editor and future web editor are under editor, and the future office manager is under the publisher.

I can't wait for the day when The Hook lets go its vice-like grip on the vendetta it seems to hold against VQR, much less Ted Genoways. The journal is hardly a "little magazine," and isn't properly compared to much smaller, more traditional literary publications. It has received prestigious awards and nominations alongside the likes of The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and other much larger, equally respected publications, and has transformed itself through the inclusion of exceptional photojournalism and long-read cultural and political essays. Shenandoah and The New England Review are also quality lit magazines, but hardly have a mission comparable to what VQR has established for itself in the last 5+ years. Both forms of publications are needed, but they are different.

More and more, it seems as though The Hook is taking a page from Nancy Grace's playbook, and milking anything that ever approaches a scandal in the national spotlight for all its worth. Yes, the compensation figures are public, but so tacky to spend reporting space on it, trying desperately to draw some sort of judgmental conclusions on what such positions "should" be worth. Unless The Hook plans to audit all UVA salaries and make such judgments? Yep, didn't think so.

This whole chain of reporting has lingered on way too long and is starting to feel more personal than informative.

What happened at the VQR was a major scandal for the
university and a lot of people are still bothered by it. So
while continued reporting may seem like a vendetta to some
to others it's just journalism and of interest.


Yes, it was "a major scandal for the university." But what has the university done in response? Didn't the president promise a task force? Didn't human resources promise big changes in how allegations would be answered and investigated? Didn't the university promise that "clear charters" would be established regarding confidentiality in these cases? Has ANY of that happened? I have no idea because David McNair has ignored all of that. This is what makes some people think that this is about a vendetta and not the kind of journalism that concerns itself with truth and the public interest.

Yes you have a point. The task force and the resulting report
were covered. To me it was pretty much a white wash. But
you're right I have no idea what follow up has occurred if any.

I'm with you saywha?. Wasn't the deadline for those clear charters ....last October? The real scandel is in HR and hopefully the Hook or someone will do something about it.There hasn't been a qualified employee relations head in years, the person hired to head recruitment openly admitted he knew nothing about recruitment and the VP goes out of her way to make things hard for classified staff. Instead of VQR hiring people without following procedure, now HR does it for their hires - they've told candidates to change resumes so they look qualified and convert temps to permanent HR employees without advertising the positions. HR "leadership" treats its employees worse than any department and there is no where for them to go for help. I feel sorry for President Sullivan - she met with the Employee Councils and actually told them not worry about "killing the messenger". She even thinks HR is creating careers for staff - the same career paths they haven't been working on for two years. Sign me - the messenger.

saywha?, Ernest,

Not ignored...just waiting for responses, which don't come swiftly from UVA. Here are some recent responses to questions I had for UVA spokesperson Carol Wood concerning HR changes, etc. following the VQR investigation:

Question: has a structure within Human Resources in which employee complaints about their supervisors can be taken, registered, and followed up been created? If so, what does it entail?

Wood: A new reporting system has been developed that allows employees to report incidents of disrespectful behavior in the workplace. The new procedure includes a commitment to follow up within two business days of receiving the complaint. The employee relations manager will contact the complainant, gather additional information, and initiate the appropriate investigative process. The  system is not intended only to be used when the supervisor is the alleged offender; the University is interested in knowing about any and all relevant incidents.

Question: has the task force been created? If so, what work has the task for completed?

Wood: In fall 2010, President Sullivan asked faculty and staff volunteers from across the University to serve on a Respectful Workplace Task Force that would look at the policies, structures, and resources necessary to support a culture of civility and respectful behavior at U.Va.

For the record, the second comment under my handle was not made by me. Odd that someone would do that. Not saying that I agree or not with what was written, but I do find something extremely weird about posting under someone else's existing username.

".....Respectful Workplace Task Force" and all the crap that preceeded the statement.

How about a "Do your job and shut up" task force or a "If you do not like the job then quit"
task force?

And we wonder why companies aren't eager to hire more full time workers and why small business owners refuse to take greater risks to expand.

Keep whining. The lib agenda seems to be going strong.