CONWAY, Ark. — A nonprofit literary magazine has paid off $700,000 worth of debt it owed the University of Central Arkansas after more than a decade.
The Massey Family Charitable Foundation made the final payment of $286,000 for the Oxford American on Friday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported . Richard Massey serves on the magazine's board of directors and made the initial payment of $69,000 toward the university debt in 2012.
Oxford American has also eliminated its $1.2 million overall debt, a feat even as magazine circulation levels have generally declined in recent years, said Ryan Harris, the publication's executive director since late 2015.
The magazine has financially struggled over the years, shutting down several times. Oxford American's debt to the university had reached $700,000 in 2008 after the school lent $150,000 to the publication to deal with financial problems spurred by a theft.
"We have made some difficult decisions," Harris said. "We had to get financially much more austere than we had been and tighten the belt quite a bit."
Harris said budget measures included eliminating some staff positions and reducing others' pay. The magazine focused on fundraising and expanding from being just a literary magazine to also sponsoring special events.
"We're starting to get people to thinking about the Oxford American as more than a magazine, but as a concept, a nonprofit arts organization" that is also about "empowering southern artists and giving them a voice to be heard," Harris said.
The magazine was founded in 1992 and explores Southern culture. The publication's board of directors fired founder Marc Smirnoff and managing editor Carol Ann Fitzgerald in 2012 over allegations of wrongdoing, including sexual harassment. The magazine later hired Roger Hodge, and in 2015 Eliza Borne became editor in chief.
The university has maintained a cooperative agreement with the magazine despite the debt.
"The Oxford American magazine is lauded as one of the best literary publications in the nation," university President Houston David said Monday. "It is a great partnership and a wonderful asset to UCA. We are currently working on an agreement that will extend our relationship into the future."