When Matt Rothschild, the editor and publisher of The Progressive, issued an urgent appeal a few days ago, the magazine's future appeared dire indeed. "Let me put it to you straight," he wrote. "We desperately need to raise $90,000 in the next two weeks to keep going."
With no money in the bank, payroll to meet at the end of the month, the printer's bill coming due and other creditors calling, he broadcast a call for tax-deductible donations to help keep the magazine -- which celebrated its centennial earlier this year -- afloat.
"The Progressive is a nonprofit, legally and all-too-literally these days," Rothschild continued, noting that -- for the first time in his quarter century there -- the magazine was confronting staff and salary cuts as well as taking a scalpel to other parts of its budget.
The response from readers and other Progressive partisans has been swift and heartening, says Rothschild. If the magazine is not yet out of the woods, its editor and publisher sounds much more optimistic this afternoon than he might have been a few days ago.
"It's a crisis," he allows, "but we're gonna get through it." He has been in this spot before, having dug deep into his own bank account at least once to keep Fighting Bob La Follette's periodical going. Noting that summers are always hard for the magazine, Rothschild characterizes the current situation as "a more severe periodic cash-flow crunch."
Coming so soon after the magazine's centennial celebration this past May renders the current budget crisis all the more stark in contrast. "The anniversary made us a lot of money," Rothschild says, but much of that revenue has gone to pay bills. "We're just spinning plates here," he says.
"The response has been very promising," he adds, "so I'm not terribly worried, but it's tight." About $12,000 has come in so far, Rothschild says, with another $30,000 pledged.
That doesn't mean the goal is within reach, or that there has been no pain or sacrifice at the Progressive office. One staff position has been cut, says Rothschild (though he would not identify which one), while other staff have seen their hours and/or their salaries cut back. Rothschild himself is among those who took a 10% hit: He says the sacrifice for him amounts to about $7,000 per year.
"I was concerned on Monday morning," he notes. "I was concerned over the weekend, when I recognized how it was going to be." Now, heartened by the swift and partisan response of Progressive supporters determined to see the magazine endure, he rates his confidence level at 11 on an 11-point scale -- at the same time welcoming more tax-deductible donations toward justifying that optimism.