The Monthly Review Story: 1949-1984
by Robert W. McChesney
I wrote this as a paper for a seminar in history during my first year of grad school at the University of Washington in 1984. It was a labor of love for me because it gave me an opportunity to read every single issue of Monthly Review , all of which were carefully kept in bound volumes in the magnificent UW library. I was so influenced by MR coming of age in the early and middle 1970s that I wanted to understand what sort of institution and culture could produce so much wisdom and brilliance . . . and I wanted to read all the issues from the 50s and 60s I had never seen before. I never imagined anyone would ever read it aside from my professor, Robert Burke.
For the heck of it, I sent a copy to my best friend, John Bellamy "Duke" Foster, who by then was already a periodic contributor to MR. Duke liked it and shared it with MR coeditor Paul Sweezy, who I gather also liked it. Shortly thereafter, Duke mentioned to Paul that he had been approached by Verso to write a combination authorized biography of Paul and history of Monthly Review. Duke told him it would do a good deal to expand the MR legacy. Paul's reply: "Don't waste your time. Leave that to someone else. You have more important work to do." Harry Magdoff, the other MR coeditor, concurred. It is fair to say that neither Paul nor Harry were publicity hounds, and that may account for the relative paucity of material on them and on MR.
Little did I think at the time that I would eventually join Duke and Paul and Harry as coeditor of MR, a position I held from 2000-04. To be frank, I forgot all about this paper until it showed up, scanned and edited into a word file by Brett Clark, in my e-mail inbox in April 2007. (This paper had been handwritten, and then I typed the final version on an electric typewriter. It is one of the last pieces I wrote pre-computer.) In the digital era, there is a home for this piece in cyberspace. So here it is, the largely untold story of Monthly Review for its first 35 years. Among other things, I hope it will be valuable to the person who writes the history of MR's second 35 years, and to the next generation that is educated by this extraordinary magazine as I have been. --Bob McChesney
Monthly Review is an independent, socialist magazine which is based in New York and has been publishing on a monthly basis since May 1949. The magazine was established by coeditors Paul Sweezy and Leo Huberman. When Huberman died in 1968, his place was taken by Harry Magdoff who presently shares the editorial duties with Sweezy. Although Monthly Review has a current circulation of 8,500 -- and has never seen its circulation rise much above the 12,000 mark -- it is one of the most important Marxist publications in the world, let alone the United States. Although Magdoff states, "I would assume our readers are inclined toward theoretical issues,"1 the editors have frequently expressed their desire to avoid having Monthly Review become a magazine "by academics and for academics."2 Their stated goal is to reach "people who are politically motivated and need to know and understand as much as possible in order to be more politically effective."3
In an analysis of Monthly Review's critical approach in 1968, Peter Clecak praised the editors' "distinctive combination of intellectual independence and moral commitment to the advancement of socialism."4 He went on to observe, "MR has consistently adhered to the central principle of Marxist methodology: that to understand and participate in social change, one must cut through the observable phenomena to formulate and tentatively answer fundamental economic questions,"5 Magdoff and particularly Sweezy are both accomplished economists while Huberman was a gifted popularizer of complicated theoretical concepts. The one constant and unique contribution of Monthly Review over the past 35 years has been a relentlessly critical and coherent analysis of modern capitalism.
In a portrait of the editors in 1963, Business Week magazine called theirs "a brand of socialism that is thorough-going and tough-minded, drastic enough to provide the sharp break with the past that many leftwingers in the underdeveloped countries see as essential. At the same time they maintain a sturdy independence of both Moscow and Peking."6 As for the editors' economic analysis, Business Week observed, "their skill at manipulating the abstruse concepts of modern economics impresses would-be intellectuals . . . their analysis of the troubles of capitalism is just plausible enough to be disturbing."7
Business Week also observed that Monthly Review has "an influence abroad out of proportion to their U.S. following."8 The magazine has always placed emphasis upon understanding capitalism as a worldwide system and understanding Third World liberation movements as revolts against the system. Monthly Review has maintained an ardent readership among Third World and overseas intellectuals. Among Monthly Review's contributors who serve or have served as heads of state are Andreas Papandreou, Fidel Castro, and Cheddi Jagan. In 1960 a survey revealed that Paul Sweezy was one of the ten Americans that Japanese business leaders and opinion makers "would most like to meet."9 The balance of the list includes the names one would expect like Eisenhower, Nixon, and MacArthur. In 1964, when Ned O'Gorman returned from a State Department trip to Latin America, he wrote in the National Catholic Reporter: "The Monthly Review's editors, Huberman and Sweezy, Edgar Allen Poe, Walt Whitman and JFK are the Americans I hear most spoken of in South America."10
A Ramparts article in 1974 termed Monthly Review's list of contributors a "Who's Who of . . . leftist intellectuals."11 Among those it cited were Jean-Paul Sartre, Edgar Snow, I.F. Stone, R.H. Tawney, Henry Wallace, William Appleman Williams, Anna Louise Strong, and C. Wright Mills. Other contributors include Albert Einstein, E.P. Thompson, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, and Joan Robinson. And this list doesn't even scratch the surface.
However, despite this impressive track record, Monthly Review has been all but neglected as a subject for analysis by either the intellectual community or the popular press. The few articles that have been written about Monthly Review have already been referred to in this paper. And the analysis that these articles provide of the magazine is hardly penetrating; there is nothing with which a fairly regular reader of Monthly Review would not be familiar. There are two groups of scholars that might be considered to have logical reasons to be interested in a study of Monthly Review -- journalism historians and radical scholars, which includes non-radical scholars interested in radical theory and practice. Yet neither of these groups has shown an inclination to engage in such a study. The question must be asked. Why?
Journalism historians have shown a remarkable disinclination to study the radical and noncommercial press, particularly in the twentieth century. So Monthly Review has by no means been singled out for neglect. Of the leading half-dozen textbooks in the field, only one mentions the noncommercial or radical press in the twentieth century in any way whatsoever. Journalism history and the field of "communication" in general, having been nurtured by corporate grants and close links to the media industry, have yet to cut the umbilical cord and seriously entertain any notion of meaningful social criticism.
Radical scholars, and scholars interested in radical ideas and movements, in contrast, have taken the existence of the radical press for granted. It is simply a given that radicals need to bypass the mainstream press to disseminate their ideas. Thus the concern of these scholars is with what is being published -- the content -- as opposed to the institutional framework that allows for it. Even Harry Magdoff, when interviewed about Monthly Review's history responded to many of the questions with, "Who cares?" or, "It doesn't matter." For Magdoff and radicals in general, the medium is not the message. Thus, while there is a significant body of work criticizing the ideas of Sweezy, Huberman, and Magdoff, almost no attention has been paid to Monthly Review.
The eventual task of this author will be to critically assess the contribution of Monthly Review in four areas the editors have carefully analyzed over the years: (1) the dynamics of modern capitalism and, in particular, its secular tendency toward stagnation; (2) the nature of existing socialist societies and theoretical discussions of post-revolutionary society; (3) the nature of modern imperialism and Third World revolutionary movements; and (4) socialist strategy and tactics in the advanced countries, particularly the United States. This last area has received less attention than the other three areas in Monthly Review. Nevertheless, it is critical for a full understanding of Monthly Review's Marxism.
Before undertaking this project, however, it is imperative to have a solid working knowledge of Monthly Review's history. The salient questions include how does Monthly Review operate? What is its history? How does it support itself? Who makes the fundamental decisions? How does Monthly Review view itself? Who reads Monthly Review? Has Monthly Review changed over the past 35 years? As nobody has yet endeavored to answer these questions, this unglamorous yet necessary task has fallen into the hands of this author.
Given this scenario, this paper should be regarded more as a fact-finding mission than as an attempt at critical analysis. No attempt will be made to evaluate the quality of Monthly Review's business decisions. The sources for the bulk of the paper will be the "Notes from the Editors" which appear inside the covers of every issue. The information concerning the magazine in these "notes" is certainly accurate; as the editors recently wrote, "we have found over the years that MR readers like to be told the truth."12 Nevertheless, the information is sketchy at best. To supplement it, three brief phone conversations were held with Monthly Review staffers including Harry Magdoff. Unfortunately, there are still many unanswered questions which will have to be addressed at a later date.
The paper will be structured as follows. First, there will be a brief description of Monthly Review's format and content. Second, there will be brief biographies of the editors. This is important inasmuch as Monthly Review is very much the personalized product of the editors. Third, there will be a cursory history of Monthly Review as a business enterprise. Fourth, there will be a brief history of Monthly Review Press, an important adjunct to the magazine. Some might even argue that the Press has come to equal the importance of the magazine. Fifth, there will be a look at Monthly Review's staffing, internal operations, and programs over the years. Sixth, there will be an examination of who reads Monthly Review and whom the editors are trying to reach. Finally, there will be a few brief concluding comments on the meaning of all this for understanding the future of the magazine.
Monthly Review has maintained the same design and editorial format since its inception. The publication is standard "journal" size. There are no photographs or graphics. The only color appears on the cover which has also been untampered with over time. Each issue generally features three or four feature articles which run 10 to 15 pages in length. The average length of Monthly Review has grown over time. In the 1950s the average size was 32-48 pages while in the 1960s 64 pages became the norm, with occasional 96-page issues. In 1956 Monthly Review combined the July and August issue and this practice has been maintained ever since. These double issues are usually much longer in length and concentrate upon one central theme.
In addition to the articles and the previously mentioned "Notes from the Editors," there are a few other regular features. Correspondence and book reviews appear in the back of each issue. The correspondence is not of the "hi, how's it going" variety but is usually a reasoned critique of a recently published article. The book reviews generally, but by no means exclusively, concentrate upon leftist intellectual fare. Scott Nearing, the renowned old-time socialist, published his "World Events" column in the back of Monthly Review for some 20 years until the early 1970s. And, in the only lapse from the magazine's non-graphic look, noted labor cartoonist Fred Wright was a regular contributor for much of the 1950s.
The most important feature of Monthly Review is the "Review of the Month" which is the opening article in each issue. Initially these reviews were a series of short commentaries similar to The Nation's editorials. Within a few years they adopted their present shape -- an article of 10 to 15 pages concentrating upon one specific subject. The reviews are generally written by both of the editors. They described their modus operandi in 1956: "We try in every case to tackle problems fresh and as a whole . That means background reading, checking the latest literature, accumulating a great deal more material than we can hope to compress into a few pages. . . . Drafts then have to be exchanged between the editors by mail, and we often submit them to one or more persons in whose judgment and knowledge of the particular subject we have special confidence."13
On occasion the reviews feature speeches or papers prepared by just one of the editors and they are then appropriately bylined. And over the past decade Monthly Review has increasingly turned over the "Review of the Month" to a guest contributor. The reviews in general tend to cover issues that fall into the four large categories mentioned earlier. Specifically, these reviews often comment in a timely manner upon critical developments in the world political economy and within U.S. capitalism.
In addition to the four large categories, articles in Monthly Review will sometimes concern social conditions in the United States, the nature of Marxism, and even more eclectic subjects like science, art, or religion. Also, over the past 35 years certain subjects have tended to be more prominent in any given period. In the first few years of Monthly Review the nature and significance of McCarthyism was examined in depth. By the late 1950s the civil rights movement began to receive a lot of attention. The Cuban Revolution dominated the pages of Monthly Review in the early 1960s. In 1961 the editors described it as, "a decisive breakthrough for socialism in the Western Hemisphere . . . we happen to be in an exceptionally favorable position to report on the Cuban Revolution, and we believe the best way we can serve the cause of world socialism is to make the most of it."14 The editors have visited Cuba numerous times and have published several books and articles on Cuban socialism.
By the mid-1960s the Vietnam War was in full swing and Monthly Review not only specifically criticized the U.S. war effort but also published a considerable amount of work on U.S. imperialism. In 1968 the editors wrote, "knowledge of imperialism -- on both theoretical and empirical levels -- is crucially important to the development of the left movement in this country."15 By the mid-1970s Monthly Review gave even greater emphasis to its analysis of the tendencies toward stagnation in U.S. capitalism. And in the early 1980s, with the election of the Reagan administration, this critical analysis of capitalism has been complemented by an increased concern about the arms race and skyrocketing military spending.
The "Notes from the Editors" which appear inside the covers includes far more than just information regarding the publication's well-being. The space is used for a variety of other purposes: to push for subscriptions and financial contributions, to announce the personal doings and travels of the editors, to mourn the deaths of friends, to promote recently released Monthly Review Press books, to plug other leftist publications and events, and to reprint comments from letters.
During the 1950s these "Notes from the Editors" provided substantial coverage of Huberman's and Sweezy's respective confrontations with the witch-hunt. Huberman was brought before McCarthy's Internal Security Sub-Committee to answer questions about some of his books. He refused and Monthly Review ran the text of his interrogation and his statement to the sub-committee. Sweezy, who lived for a long period in New Hampshire, was interrogated for sedition charges by that state's anti-subversive squad. After refusing to turn over his lecture notes and cooperate with this inquisition, he was cited for contempt and was on the verge of being imprisoned. In the end the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on his behalf in what has been termed a "landmark decision."16
Monthly Review is in essence the product of its editors -- Leo Huberman, Paul Sweezy, and Harry Magdoff. In addition, Paul Baran played a significant role for the magazine until his untimely death in 1964. As Paul Sweezy observed in 1969, "soon after MR began publication we were fortunate to become more and more closely associated with Paul Baran. For a number of reasons, among them geography, this was never formalized by his joining us as an MR editor, but that did not prevent the association from being continuous, intimate and mutually beneficial."17 At another point Sweezy wrote, concerning Baran, "it is hardly an exaggeration to say that the editorial ideas and opinions expressed in MR over the years have been as much his as ours. He was, in a word, an integral part of MR: it would not have developed as it did without him."18 It is appropriate at this time to provide brief biographical information on each of these four men.
Leo Huberman was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1903. He studied at New York University and at the London School of Economics. Huberman taught in Newark and New York until 1938 when he was appointed chairman of the department of social sciences at New College, Columbia University. In 1940 Huberman became labor editor for the short-lived newspaper PM and he served in a variety of other roles until the establishment of Monthly Review. Huberman wrote or co-authored 11 books and hundreds of articles. He is best known for We the People (1932) and Man's Worldly Goods (1936) which are both popularizations of economic history. Huberman died in 1968.19
Paul Sweezy was born into an upper-class family in New York in 1910. We was educated at Exeter, Harvard, and the London School of Economics. At Harvard Sweezy did his Ph.D. work under Joseph Schumpeter. Paul Samuelson notes that Sweezy, "early established himself as among the most prominent of the economists of his generation."20 Sweezy's Demand Under Conditions of Oligopoly is required reading for most Ph.D. candidates in economics and he is the creator of the "kinked" demand curve.21 Sweezy taught at Harvard for twelve years and left in the late 1940s for reasons alternately presented as boredom or political pressure. He is the author of several books and countless articles. His most significant theoretical works are The Theory of Capitalist Development (1942) and Monopoly Capital (1966) which he co-authored with Paul Baran.
Harry Magdoff, born in 1913, had first been asked to become an editor at Monthly Review in the mid-1960s when Leo Huberman was still alive. He declined at that time so he could concentrate upon his research into imperialism. Matters changed with Huberman's death. His wife remembers that, "Paul went to Harry and told him that if he didn't join him he'd close the magazine."22 Magdoff officially became coeditor in May 1969.
Magdoff's background is far more practical and less academic than Sweezy's or even Huberman's. He was in charge of statistical productivity studies for a WPA National Research Project in the 1930s and at that time devised the method of measuring production and productivity used to this day by the U.S. Department of Labor. During the Second World War Magdoff served as chief of the Civilian Requirements Division of the National Defense Advisory Commission. He was specifically in charge of planning and controls for the metal-working machineries industry.23 Magdoff has written one book, The Age of Imperialism (1968), and scores of articles.
Paul Baran was born in the Ukraine in 1910. He was educated at the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt, Cambridge, and Harvard, where he passed his general examinations for his Ph.D. in 1941. Baran worked for the U.S. government during the Second World War and after the war he worked for the Commerce Department and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In 1949 Baran accepted an associate professorship at Stanford and in 1951 he was promoted to the rank of full professor.24 Until his death in 1964 Baran was the only tenured Marxist economist in the United States. The displeasure expressed by some of Stanford's alumni at his presence has been chronicled in ugly detail in several accounts.25 Baran wrote several articles and co-authored Monopoly Capital with Sweezy. The Political Economy of Growth (1957) was his only book and is regarded as one of the most important works of Marxist theoretical economics of the post-War period.
Monthly Review was bankrolled over its first few years by a gift from the noted literary scholar F.O. Matthiessen. Matthiessen, who had been a colleague and friend of Sweezy's at Harvard, came into a substantial inheritance in 1948. The exact amount of the gift is unclear but Magdoff states that Ramparts magazine's report of $5,000 per year for three years26 is essentially correct.27 In addition to Huberman and Sweezy, Otto Nathan was an original founder although Magdoff recalls that "he had asked not to be identified."28 According to Beatrice Magdoff, Harry's wife and a long-time volunteer, Huberman and Sweezy, "had a difficult time with Otto Nathan. There were personality problems."29 Nathan's relationship with Monthly Review was discontinued shortly after its inauguration.
Monthly Review was initially established as a private corporation with Sweezy, Huberman, and Sybil May, a long-time volunteer, as the shareholders. Harry Magdoff observes that the advantages of incorporation were with regard to "questions of liability."30 Monthly Review was never intended to reap profits for its shareholders and it never has. As Beatrice Magdoff observes, "The ownership structure was no big deal. It was strictly a technicality. It didn't mean a thing."31 When Huberman died his stock was passed on to Magdoff and when May died in 1978 her stock went back to the corporation. Power at Monthly Review has always been in the hands of the editors. Magdoff states that, regardless of the corporate structure, "it was really Paul and me and before that Paul and Leo making the decisions -- the ultimate decisions."32
Despite the Matthiessen gift, Monthly Review soon found itself in dire need of financial assistance. In early 1950 the editors stated that the magazine needed a circulation of 8,000 to be self-supporting.33 It would be another decade before that figure would be reached. In November 1950 the editors made their first open plea for contributions to "keep MR going."34 Monthly Review was in the classic predicament facing radical noncommercial publications in the United States. How do you support yourself? Their solution was also the traditional one: to be subsidized by the readership beyond the cost of a subscription and to utilize volunteer and grossly underpaid labor, not the least of which was their own.
Most leftist publications are subsidized by the groups or institutions they represent. As Monthly Review was committed to an independent course, it had to appeal directly to its readers for financial support. To facilitate this relationship, Monthly Review Associates was established in 1951. The Associates were subscribers who contributed an amount well in excess of the price of a subscription. In later years, when Monthly Review Press was in operation, Associates were eligible for substantial discounts on Monthly Review Press books. Every September an appeal would be sent to subscribers urging them to join and to existing Associates urging them to renew. Until her death Sybil May was the director of Monthly Review Associates. Beatrice Magdoff remembers May as, "marvelous, she did all of the work for the Associates."35
The importance of these contributions to the survival of Monthly Review cannot be overemphasized. As the editors stated bluntly in 1958, "without this financial aid, MR would have to fold."36 In 1957 they reported that over 20 percent of Monthly Review's subscribers were also Associates.37 And in the late 1950s the editors reported that nearly 25 percent of Monthly Review's income came from the Associates.38 When asked if that figure has been relatively constant over the years, Harry Magdoff replied, "I really don't know what percentage comes from the Associates. The point is that it is significant."39
Bequests have also played a major role in sustaining Monthly Review according to Magdoff. The "Notes from the Editors" frequently publishes appeals to readers to remember Monthly Review in their wills. While many such bequests have occurred, Magdoff states that, "the really big one came some twenty years ago. That helped us in getting our production off the ground."40
Since the early 1960s Monthly Review has had to publish its paid circulation totals to qualify for a second-class mailing permit. Prior to that, information regarding the magazine's circulation is sporadic. After one year Monthly Review had a paid circulation of 2,500.41 By the mid-1950s their circulation rose to approximately 6,000 where it remained until the early 1960s. In 1962 Monthly Review averaged over 8,000 copies sold per issue for the first time.42 The circulation would not climb over the 9,000 mark on an annual basis until 1970.43 The editors observed in 1968 that the circulation was increasing "painfully slowly."44
The 1970s proved to be a very good decade. In 1972 Monthly Review circulation first cracked the 10,000 mark45 and it remained over that figure on average until 1981. The 1980s have thus far been a period of retrenchment for Monthly Review's circulation. The most recent circulation figures, from November 1983, showed an average circulation of 8,309 over the previous year.46
Three points need to be stressed regarding Monthly Review's circulation. First, a very high percentage of it comes in the way of subscriptions. Second, Monthly Review's actual readership is significantly higher than its paid circulation. The editors estimate that there are four or five readers for every copy and this is inline with the general estimates that publishing industry people make for monthly magazines.47
Finally, it is difficult to say if Monthly Review's recent circulation decline is due to decreasing popularity. As the editors note in the April 1984 issue: "It is a well-established 'law' of the magazine publishing business that you have to keep running to stay where you are. Or, to put it in other terms, your subscription list is subject to a built-in erosion factor."48 And Monthly Review has hardly been able to "keep running" in the business sense of the term. Harry Magdoff asserts, "the remarkable thing about our circulation is that it has come with practically no promotion. We've never really promoted the magazine except once."49 And Beatrice Magdoff observes that being a university-oriented publication makes it all that more difficult to maintain circulation levels: "The weakness is that people graduate and move on."50
While Monthly Review has obviously been able to keep its head above water for the past 35 years, there have been several instances when their survival was in question. In 1954 the editors stated that a generous response by the Associates to the annual appeal was necessary for survival.51 In 1957 there was a plea for capital, even loans.52 The 1960s were a relatively affluent period for the publication. In 1965 the editors wrote, "MR's greatest need is not financial contributions, no matter how generous or adequate, but increased circulation and book sales."53 However, the recessions of the early and mid-1970s severely undermined Monthly Review's financial base and caught them in a classic situation of over-expansion.54
The most severe financial crisis in Monthly Review's history has taken place within the past year. The combination of recession, inflation, sharply higher printing costs, and declining circulation have driven the editors to describe this as Monthly Review's "worst situation ever."55 An emergency appeal to raise $100,000 was successful and the crisis has been abated for the moment. Nevertheless, the underlying problems remain and Monthly Review is attempting to address them. At one level, costs and overhead have been reduced to the bone. However, Susan Lowes, the current Director of the Press and in effect the business manager for the magazine, realizes that these are at best stop-gap measures: "Traditionally we've solved problems by cutting back. But that's an impossible solution in the long-run because you just make it that much harder to generate income."56 The long-run solution, according to Lowes, will be a much more "concerted effort to raise working capital. We need to raise up-front funds."57
A major step to remove impediments for donations took place in 1980 when Monthly Review and Monthly Review Press became part of a newly created nonprofit Monthly Review Foundation.58 All of the stock in Monthly Review, Inc. was donated to the newly formed Foundation. The IRS agreed that all donations to Monthly Review Associates above $50 would now be tax deductible. Furthermore, bequests to Monthly Review became tax deductible and Monthly Review became eligible for all sorts of grants that had previously been off-limits.
Lowes is uncertain if the nonprofit status has been that much of an asset for fund-raising at this point in time: "I don't honestly know if the nonprofit status has helped raise money but you would think so, particularly for the big donors."59 The most immediate advantage of the nonprofit status according to Lowes is the cheaper mailing rates: "Its an enormous advantage and its the main reason you do it."60
The establishment of Monthly Review Foundation has also entailed a redefinition of leadership and decision-making at the magazine. The Foundation has a six member board which, according to Harry Madgoff, "is helping on general policy directions, but not editorial decisions."61 The importance of this development will become quite apparent in the future when Sweezy and Magdoff, both in their seventies, have to step aside. As Magdoff states regarding what he and Sweezy intend for Monthly Review after they are gone: "We have no plans. That will be up to the board."62 The membership of the board and how they are selected is presently unknown to the author.
In addition to gaining more contributions, Monthly Review has always sought to increase its circulation as a means to raise money. (Of course, unlike the standard private publisher, the primary reason the editors wish to raise the circulation is to reach more people with the content of the magazine, or more precisely, the editorial content.) Without any money for expensive promotional campaigns, the magazine has generally relied upon word-of-mouth advertising.63 The editors have frequently urged the readers to get their friends and local libraries to subscribe.64 But the only significant promotion to expand circulation came in the mid-1970s when the magazine began purchasing and exchanging mailing lists with other left-oriented groups. The immediate results of this campaign were impressive -- subscriptions increased by 20 percent in the mid-1970s.65 However, the promotion has been too costly to be repeated. The experience is still fresh on Harry Magdoff's mind: "I think if we did an aggressive selling job we could increase our readership."66
Monthly Review first got involved in book publishing in 1952 when I.F. Stone mentioned to the editors in a passing conversation that he was having difficulty finding a publisher for his A Hidden History of the Korean War.67 Huberman and Sweezy thought that the book, "simply must not be suppressed for lack of a publisher"68 and thus was born Monthly Review Press. For the next 15 years the Press was directed by Leo Huberman but was still subsumed by the magazine. The editors crowed in 1959: "MR Press can become a full-fledged publishing house, a sort of university press of the American left: of this we are now fully convinced."69 Nevertheless, the publication output during this period was fairly sparse; in the first seven years the Press published only nine books.70 In 1976 Harry Magdoff wrote of the early days of the Press: "The Press remained in its early years mainly an adjunct of the magazine. It was hobbled by many practical constraints, and it seemed destined to remain a weak and underdeveloped infant."71
All of this changed when Monthly Review brought in Harry Braverman in 1967 to be President and Director of the Press.72 Braverman had considerable publishing and editing experience. In the 1950s he had served as coeditor of The American Socialist for six years and during the 1960s he served as a senior editor and as a Vice President at Grove Press. Braverman was also an accomplished scholar; his Labor and Monopoly Capital was one of the most highly acclaimed socialist works of the 1970s. Susan Lowes comments that, "Harry was the one who really got the Press going."73 He inaugurated a series of paperback releases and he greatly expanded the publication rate. Within two years Monthly Review Press was publishing between 15 and 20 titles per year. Lowes states that, "we've pretty much kept at that pace except for the recession in the mid-'70s and '81-'82."74
In 1976 Harry Braverman died after a long illness. He was replaced by Jules Geller who served as Director until his retirement in 1983. Since then Susan Lowes has been at the helm. Lowes had worked with Braverman at Grove Press and has worked at Monthly Review since 1969. Monthly Review Press has grown into a sizable operation with ten full- or part-time employees. Until recently there had been two more employees when the Press operated its own warehouse. Financial considerations forced the Press to farm those tasks out.
As an enterprise Monthly Review Press must follow traditional business practices like any other publishing house. Additionally, publishing low-selling leftist books does not permit the Press to take advantage of the low marginal costs that come with the enormous press-runs of the commercial houses. This fact has had to be explained to Monthly Review readers at least once, as some seemed to believe that a "socialist" publisher could somehow avoid the ravages of inflation and desist from raising prices.75 Thus, Lowes states, "marketability is a consideration in the books we select. It has to be."76 However, the Press is willing to take a chance on a book, "if it is important and makes a theoretical contribution or something like that, we'd go with it anyway."77 Still, Lowes quickly adds, "when you publish a lot of books like that is when you get into trouble."78
Monthly Review Press books sell anywhere from 500 to 10,000 copies per year. Lowes estimates that over half the sales are to universities.79 Yet, despite whatever critical success Monthly Review Press has enjoyed, it has never been a showstopper at the box office. Lowes states, "the Press needs subsidies just like the magazine. It operates at a deficit."80 The recent financial crunch that hit the magazine has plagued the Press as well. And matters were not aided when the college orders for 1983-84 were substantially less than expected.81
Nevertheless Lowes is optimistic about the future: "Our goals? To publish more books. We're probably publishing more books about the United States and more books directed toward activists. But we are still keeping our emphasis on the Third World."82 Also in the planning stages, according to Lowes, is a series a fictional works, a relatively new direction for the Press: "We're planning a series of novels, working-class novels, from around the world. Its in the works. We've got an advisory board set up."83
The magazine side of Monthly Review has operated with virtually the smallest possible staff imaginable. In their first year the editors joked about a New Year's greeting card which greeted the editors and the "entire staff": "The 'entire staff' of MR, apart from the editors, consists of one other person who functions as bookkeeper, stenographer, secretary of records, shipping clerk, and anything else."84 The situation did not change markedly over the years. In 1972 the editors acknowledged that, "we have no research help."85 And in 1976 the editors commented at length on their staffing situation: "We are sometimes amused . . . to find that it seems to be a rather common assumption that MR is like one of the big magazines in having a staff of secretaries and researchers (sometimes even cars and drivers) to keep everything up to date, running smoothly, etc. For better or for worse . . . the picture bears no relation to reality. There are three of us on the magazine staff."86
The third staff position referred to in the last passage was that of Associate Editor. It was first filled by Frances Kelly in the early 1960s.87 Kelly would later move back to her native England to open the London office of Monthly Review. In 1969 Bobbye Ortiz came aboard as Associate Editor.88 Her prime function was apparently that of copyediting, although it is unclear if she had other responsibilities. She retired within the past year and has been replaced by Karen Judd who has served as an editor at Monthly Review Press for some time. While the position may be invaluable to the editors, it has hardly been lucrative. Beatrice Magdoff describes Ortiz as being "practically" a volunteer.89
Volunteers have always been essential for the day-to-day operations of Monthly Review. The previously mentioned Sybil May is perhaps the most prominent but scores of others have filled jobs as receptionists, bookkeepers, subscription managers, and the like. The wives of Leo Huberman and Harry Magdoff, Gert Huberman and Beatrice Magdoff, seem to have played especially important roles. Paul Sweezy wrote, "without the two of them, MR would certainly not be what it is today."90 The editors have tried to be fair with this absolutely necessary yet clearly exploited pool of labor. Beatrice Magdoff remembers that, "Leo had this thing about volunteers. He insisted on paying them $25."91
The actual business management of Monthly Review has changed significantly over the years. Until the late 1960s Leo Huberman acted as business manager. When Harry Braverman took over the Press he also took over business responsibilities for the magazine. This continued on to Jules Geller and now Susan Lowes. Lowes states, "you could say that the magazine as a business has increasingly come under the Press."92 Or as Harry Magdoff puts it, "the Press is really the business end of the operation."93 In that this is the case the Press now handles all of the magazine's circulation and subscriptions.
For a few years in the late 1970s and early 1980s Monthly Review did have a full-time, well-paid business manager. Unfortunately the person who filled this position is not remembered as being an asset to the enterprise and his departure was not unwelcome. Little has been written about this episode and even less said. As Beatrice Magdoff recalls, "It was a disaster. I'd rather not talk about it."94
Although Monthly Review is a struggling enterprise dependent upon donations and volunteers for its survival, it has nevertheless been a union shop for the past 20 years. As Harry Madgoff remembers, "it came up from the people who work here. Everyone who doesn't hire or fire belongs. You have to join to work at Monthly Review."95 The actual workers covered are all on the press side of the business. They are members of District 65 which has become affiliated with the United Automobile Workers in the past decade.96 According to Susan Lowes, the union members receive wages on a par with other workers in the publishing industry.97
While the editors are certainly proud that Monthly Review is a union shop, it has magnified a tendency which is common to struggling, left-wing publications: The manual workers and lower-level employees are relatively well paid while the "bosses" receive peanuts. As Beatrice Magdoff states, "Paul, Harry, the editors all take 'movement' salaries."98 (Movement salaries is the politically polite term for subsistence pay.) She goes on to concede that at Monthly Review unionizing, "was a foolish thing to do."99
Monthly Review has always been headquartered in New York and generally in Greenwich Village. The first few years the magazine operated out of Leo Huberman's apartment100 while for a period in the late 1950s and early 1960s Monthly Review subletted space from The Nation. In addition, Monthly Review maintained an office in London from 1966 until 1983. The London office handled subscription and book orders from Great Britain. However, as Susan Lowes observes, the London office never really generated a great deal of net revenue: "There was a point where we were in such an expansion, I don't mean us but I mean the economy as a whole, that you could do just about anything as a business. But with the recession, it [the London office] became a drag."101 Furthermore, Lowes comments that the London office failed to make itself more integral to Monthly Review's overall operations: "It never did what it was supposed to do. It was supposed to act as a scout for the Press, to find new material."102
The London office has hardly been the only attempt by Monthly Review to establish an international presence. At various times over the past 20 years Monthly Review has been translated into four foreign languages -- Spanish, Italian, Greek, and German -- and distributed overseas. The Italian and Greek editions are still being published and plans are underway to establish an Indian language version.103 These foreign-language Monthly Review editions are actually owned by the translating parties overseas; Monthly Review has no financial interest or stake in their accomplishments as business enterprises.
The Spanish Monthly Review was inaugurated in 1963 in Buenos Aires. Within a year the circulation reached the 8,000 mark -- as much as the English Monthly Review.104 However, political pressures forced it to relocate to Santiago, Chile in 1967 where it was published until 1970. At this point the Spanish Monthly Review was discontinued for financial reasons although a brief attempt to resurrect it took place in Bogata in 1973.105 After but seven issues this version also drowned in red ink.106 The most recent Spanish-language Monthly Review was launched in Barcelona in 1977 after the death of Franco. This version survived until 1982 when a lack of money and "the decline of the Spanish left" greased the wheels for its demise.107
The Italian edition of Monthly Review was kicked off in 1967. As with the Spanish editions, the U.S. editors announced that, "only material that has actually appeared in the English edition or which has been expressly approved by us can be included in the foreign-language editions."108 However, in 1971 the Italian edition began to feature its own material on the Italian economy and reviews of Italian books. The editors were not in a position to authorize this material; in fact, at one point they made a request to see if any of their U.S. readers could translate it for them.109 This lack of editorial control was resolved by having the Italian Monthly Review come in two distinct editorial parts -- one part local in origin and the other part translation of the English Monthly Review. While Harry Magdoff is presently unable to give circulation figures for the Italian edition, in the early 1970s it was reported as "half the English edition."110
The German and Greek editions first appeared in 1975 and while the German Monthly Review quietly discontinued publication in 1978, the Greek edition remains in existence. Like the Italian Monthly Review, the Greek edition has added substantially to the translated material with articles on Greece. And there is the same rigid separation of parts since, as Harry Magdoff states, "we don't have editorial control."111
Beatrice Magdoff comments that Monthly Review's readership is, "based strongly in the university community."112 Harry Magdoff states regarding Monthly Review's readers that, "I would assume [they are] largely students, teachers, professional people. Some old-time socialists, working-class people."113 A review of Monthly Review's mailing list would probably confirm this tendency but an actua1 readership survey would be far more reliable. Monthly Review has run only one readership questionnaire -- back in 1957 -- and the results confirm the Madgoffs' hunches. According to the published results, "MR readers do very well" in terms of income compared to the population as a whole.114 Furthermore, 72 percent of Monthly Review's readers were college graduates and 42 percent had attended graduate school.115
Monthly Review has never had a working-class readership. Initially this seems to have been an area of concern for the editors as they wrote, "we are more conscious than anyone that we have not yet succeeded in reaching a substantial working-class readership."116 However, it soon became clear that Monthly Review was not standard workers' fare and the editors recognized and assimilated this fact: "It must be recognized that MR does not aspire to reach a mass audience directly."117 And, as far as Monthly Review Press is concerned, the editors wrote in 1979 that "it is very difficult for radical books of the kind published by MR Press to reach a working-class readership."118
The editors of Monthly Review have expressed the desire to reach activists, people interested in radical politics, and the "unconvinced."119 The two privileged groups in Monthly Review's, circulation scheme have been students and prisoners. Students have received discount rates on subscriptions for quite some time. In the early 1970s Monthly Review initiated a prisoners' program whereby free subscriptions and books at reduced prices were made available to U.S. prisoners.120 While the program was considered a great success, it depended upon contributions for its survival and had to be dropped in 1976 for lack of funds.121
Inasmuch as Monthly Review strives to avoid being an academic journal, the editors place a tremendous emphasis on clarity and non-technical terminology in the articles they elect to run. Furthermore, articles that are less than 15 double-spaced pages in length are given preference.122 Monthly Review is somewhat limited in its ability to enforce these policies by its submissions policy. Beatrice Magdoff states: "We have never solicited articles because if, you do, then you have to print them."123 And a strict interpretation of Monthly Review's standards is not possible according to the editors: "We couldn't and still fill the magazine."124
An issue at Monthly Review since its earliest days has been whether the publication should attempt to expand its horizons beyond the general realm of political economy to areas of aesthetics and cultural issues. Concurrent with this has been the concern that the magazine is too dull and stodgy to attract new readers -- even those on the left. These concerns were spelled out in a letter to the editors by long-time contributor Michael Tanzer in 1978. First, he suggested that Monthly Review should cover popular culture: "If MR is going to reach a broader audience on the left now and in the future (and an American audience), I think it would be worth taking a stab at this area, if only because today film and TV, even more than books, are the media of most people."125 Second, Tanzer wrote that, "it disturbs me...that several close friends who are independent socialists and generally in agreement with MR's approach, rarely read the magazine; moreover they have indicated that if there were a better balance in the magazine and more not-so-'heavy' economic articles, they would be more inclined to read it."126
After publishing Tanzer's letter, the editors requested comments from interested readers. They received an enormous amount of mail both supportive and critical of the points Tanzer raised. In their response to the comments a few months later the editors cautioned their readers that a certain amount of "dullness" and "difficult terminology" goes with their territory: "Up to a certain point we sympathize with this type of criticism. . . . But at the same time we need to remind readers that we are not trying to reach a mass audience: we obviously couldn't even if we wanted to. We aim to make serious Marxist analyses and debates available in readily intelligible form. . . . Pursuing this aim requires adherence to accepted standards (theoretical and empirical) of scientific work and limits the extent to which simplification and popularization can be carried."127
As for the need to expand coverage to cultural issues, the editors opted for a compromise: "This would be to try to improve our analysis of world capitalism (and its oppositions) through a greater use of cultural materials."128 In practice, however, Monthly Review has maintained the same course editorially that it has followed since its founding. When asked recently about expanding Monthly Review's coverage to cultural areas, Magdoff replied, "The suggestion is fine. If we found anything good we'd run it. We don't know too much about aesthetics."129
The reluctance of Monthly Review to venture off into new territory is best explained by their admitted ignorance in these areas. Furthermore, they could rightfully claim that there are several other publications on the left which frequently feature this kind of material. Nonetheless, in 1965 Monthly Review did publish a cultural supplement under the direction of Frances Kelly.130 Appearing only once and titled REVIEW I, it did not seemingly whet the editors' appetites for further aesthetic explorations. Harry Magdoff remembers REVIEW I as "very expensive. It was a foolish thing to do by hindsight. It was an experiment."131
If Monthly Review has been limited by the editors' interest in serious political and economic issues, this has also been the source of the publication's success. For more than anything else, what distinguishes Monthly Review from the pack of leftist intellectual journals has always been the unique and keen insights of the editors. A Monthly Review which highlighted subjects like sexual ethics, punk rock, and avant-garde cinema might possibly attract new readers. But if in doing so it neglected the critical issues which have been Monthly Review's trademark -- e.g. the stagnation tendencies of U.S. capitalism, the nature of socialist society, imperialism, and the Third World -- it would most certainly lose the readers that have been the core of its support.
As a business enterprise Monthly Review has learned to accept its location on the margin of economic viability and make the most of it. Through donations, volunteer labor, and "movement" salaries for the editors, the magazine has been able to survive. Perhaps the fact that Monthly Review never adopted New Left cooperative management theories with egalitarian worker control has aided its survival. (For an example of a publication which was completely torn asunder by worker management look at the National Guardian.) As the importance of Monthly Review is so clearly wrapped up in the specific contributions of the editors, any system of management which did not countenance this fact would be bound for problems.
The accomplishments of Monthly Review are many. It has established a major publishing house and is regarded by one source as, "the most famous unknown magazine of America."132 Yet the future is in doubt. There are the perpetual financial problems which appear inescapable for any length of time. Far more important, however, is the question of whither Monthly Review after Sweezy and Magdoff. While others may share their interests and concerns, few have shown their capacity for original, disciplined Marxist analysis. Whether the institutional framework they have established is strong enough to carry it into a new generation remains to be seen. However, if there is anything to be learned from Monthly Review's past, don't bet against it.
1 Telephone interview with Harry Magdoff, May 8, 1984.
2 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 27, no. 7 (December 1975).
3 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 24, no. 7 (December 1972).
4 Peter Clecak, "MR: An Assessment," Monthly Review 20, no. 6 (November 1968), 3.
5 Ibid., 3.
6 "Viewing U.S. Economy with a Marxist Glass," Business Week (April 13, 1963), 68.
7 Ibid., 68.
8 Ibid., 68.
9 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 11, no. 10 (March 1960).
10 "Could Karl Marx Teach Economics in America?" Ramparts (April 1974), 54.
11 Ibid., 54.
12 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 34, no. 6 (November 1982).
13 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 8, no. 1 (May 1956).
14 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 12, no. 9 (February 1961).
15 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 20, no. 2 (June 1968).
16 Ramparts, 55.
17 Paul Sweezy, "Announcement," Monthly Review 21, no. 1 (May 1969), 2.
18 "Foreward," Monthly Review 16, no. 11 (April 1965), vi
19 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 20, no. 7 (December 1968).
20 Paul Samuelson, "Memories," Newsweek (June 2, 1969), 83.
21 Newsweek, 68.
22 Telephone interview with Beatrice Magdoff, May 4, 1984.
23 1983 Catalogue, Monthly Review Press, 26.
24 Paul Sweezy, "A Personal Memoir," Monthly Review 16, no. 11 (April 1965), 40.
25 Ramparts, 55.
26 Ibid., 55.
27 Telephone interview with Harry Magdoff, May 8, 1984.
29 Telephone interview with Beatrice Magdoff, May 4, 1984.
30 Telephone interview with Harry Magdoff, May 8, 1984.
31 Telephone interview with Beatrice Magdoff, May 4, 1984.
32 Telephone interview with Harry Magdoff, May 8, 1984.
33 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 1, no. 10 (February 1950).
34 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 2, no. 7 (November 1950).
35 Telephone interview with Beatrice Magdoff, May 4, 1984.
36 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 10, no. 5 (September 1958).
37 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 9, no. 6 (October 1957).
38 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 10, no. 5 (September 1958).
39 Telephone interview with Harry Magdoff, May 8, 1984.
41 "Notes from the Editors,"Monthly Review 2, no. 2 (June 1950).
42 "Circulation Statement," Monthly Review 19, no. 7 (December 1962), 64.
43 "Circulation Statement," Monthly Review 22, no. 6 (November 1970), 64.
44 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 20, no. 6 (November 1968).
45 "Circulation Statement," Monthly Review 24, no. 6 (November 1972), 64.
46 "Circulation Statement," Monthly Review 35, no. 7 (December 1985), 64.
47 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 35, no. 9 (February 1984).
48 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 35, no. 11 (April 1984).
49 Telephone interview with Harry Magdoff, May 8, 1984.
50 Telephone interview with Beatrice Magdoff, May 4, 1984.
51 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 6, no. 7 (November 1954).
52 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 9, no. 4 (August 1957).
53 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 17, no. 5 (October 1965).
54 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 24, no. 9 (February 1973).
55 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 35, no. 2 (June 1983).
56 Telephone interview with Susan Lowes, May 7, 1984.
58 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 32, no. 4 (September 1980).
59 Telephone interview with Susan Lowes, May 7, 1984.
61 Telephone interview with Harry Magdoff, May 8, 1984.
63 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 9, no. 11 (March 1958).
64 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 14, no. 1 (May 1962).
65 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 28, no. 2 (June 1976).
66 Telephone interview with Harry Magdoff, May 8, 1984.
67 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 3, no. 9 (January 1952).
69 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 10, no.9 (January 1959).
70 "An Open Letter to Our Readers," Monthly Review 9, no. 12 (April 1958), 432.
71 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 28, no. 4 (September 1976).
72 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 19, no. 5 (October 1967).
73 Telephone interview with Susan Lowes, May 7, 1984.
75 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 21, no. 1 (May 1969).
76 Telephone interview with Susan Lowes, May 7, 1984.
81 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 35, no.4 (September 1983).
82 Telephone interview with Susan Lowes, May 7, 1984.
84 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 10, no. 10 (February 1950).
85 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 24, no. 7 (December 1972).
86 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 27, no. 10 (March 1976).
87 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 14, no. 9 (February 1963).
88 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 21, no. 8 (January 1970).
89 Telephone interview with Beatrice Magdoff, May 4, 1984.
90 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 34, no. 9 (February 1983).
91 Telephone interview with Beatrice Magdoff, May 4, 1984.
92 Telephone interview with Susan Lowes, May 7, 1984.
93 Telephone interview with Harry Magdoff, May 8, 1984.
94 Telephone interview with Beatrice Magdoff, May 4, 1984.
95 Telephone interview with Harry Magdoff, May 8, 1984.
96 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 33, no. 7 (December 1981).
97 Telephone interview with Susan Lowes, May 7, 1984.
98 Telephone interview with Beatrice Magdoff, May 4, 1984.
101 Telephone interview with Susan Lowes, May 7, 1984.
103 Telephone interview with Beatrice Magdoff, May 4, 1984.
104 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 15, no. 9 (February 1964).
105 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 22, no. 4 (September 1970).
106 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 29, no. 2 (June 1977).
107 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 33, no. 11 (April 1982).
108 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 19, no. 7 (December 1967).
109 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 20, no. 10 (March 1969).
111 Telephone interview with Harry Magdoff, May 8, 1984.
112 Telephone interview with Beatrice Magdoff, May 4, 1984.
113 Telephone interview with Harry Magdoff, May 8, 1984.
114 "Who You Are," Monthly Review 9, no. 12 (April 1958), 427.
115 Ibid., 427.
116 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 2, no. 5 (September 1950).
117 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 24, no. 7 (December 1972).
118 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 30, no. 10 (March 1979).
119 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 2, no. 11 (March 1951).
120 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 24, no. 3 (July-August 1972).
121 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 27, no. 6 (November 1973).
122 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 23, no. 5 (October 1971).
123 Telephone interview with Beatrice Magdoff, May 4, 1984.
124 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 26, no. 10 (March 1975).
123 Michael Tanzer, "Should MR Broaden Its Scope?" Monthly Review 30, no. 1 (May 1978), 62.
126 Ibid., 62.
127 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 30, no. 3 (July-August 1978).
129 Telephone interview with Harry Magdoff, May 8, 1984.
130 "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review 16, no. 10 (March 1965).
131 Telephone interview with Harry Magdoff, May 8, 1984.
132 Ramparts, 54.
Founder, President and Board Chairman of Free Press, Robert W. McChesney is a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and author or editor of 12 award-winning books, including Telecommunications, Mass Media, and Democracy: The Battle for the Control of U.S. Broadcasting, 1928-1935; Corporate Media and the Threat to Democracy; The Global Media: The New Missionaries of Corporate Capitalism (with Edward S. Herman); Our Media, Not Theirs (with John Nichols); Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times; The Problem of the Media: U.S. Communication Politics in the Twenty-First Century; and, most recently, Tragedy & Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections and Destroy Democracy (with John Nichols). He hosts a weekly program, Media Matters, on WILL-AM radio, the NPR affiliate in Urbana, Illinois.