Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Meet the New UM Press, Same as the Old UM Press, Sort Of [UPDATED With Comments From Clair Willcox and the Save the UM Press Facebook Page Organizers and News of Speer Morgan]

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2012 at 7:20 PM

Page 3 of 3

In a follow-up phone call, Stuckey-French said he'd discussed the matter of rights with Deborah Noble-Triplett, UM's assistant vice president for academic affairs, and had received no definitive answers. In the wake of yesterday's announcement, which didn't mention the subject of rights at all, he sent a mass e-mail to the 50 authors who had demanded their rights back and has heard back from a few.

"They still want their rights back," he reports. "They're very loyal to Clair [Willcox]. He's the editor they worked with. They went to Missouri because of him. They all see this [the announcement] as games. If they just offered Clair the job back, I think the authors would be satisfied."

He concludes: "The only thing that is making any money is the backlist. It makes $700,000 a year and this is a cynical ploy to keep the backlist, nothing more."

Update 2: Clair Willcox would like to clarify that he does not, in fact, have a new job yet, though there have been offers, both in Columbia and from other university presses, which would require relocating. He's still weighing his options.

Would he reclaim his post as editor-in-chief at UM Press if it was offered?

Since his picture appeared in the New York Times, Clair Willcox has become the embodiment of the changes at UM Press. - NEW YORK TIMES
  • New York Times
  • Since his picture appeared in the New York Times, Clair Willcox has become the embodiment of the changes at UM Press.

"That's all speculative," he says. "I don't think it would happen, especially if Speer Morgan stays on in a leadership role. It's not practical."

Willcox would also like to clarify that, while he was editor-in-chief, the Press was not losing money, it was embracing electronic publishing and it had an active student internship program (though it was suspended this summer because of all the turmoil) -- all conditions the "new" Press was supposed to remedy.

Meanwhile, Willcox has been in contact with his former staff. Of the nine whose layoffs have been rescinded, two have found new jobs (one at the Mizzou library, one at the state historical society), one will be leaving Friday as originally planned, one will leave in October, and one is Dwight Browne, who remains the interim director, a position he has held for the past four years. The remaining four are still undecided.

But Willcox notes that two of the staffers who decided to leave permanently are John Brenner, who was the acquisitions editor, and Sara Davis, the managing editor. Along with Willcox, they made up the entire editorial staff.

"In my conception of a press," Willcox says, "the most important thing, to my mind, is the editorial staff. They acquire the books, they develop the books, they see that the content is good. What do they have left now?"

Update 3: Speer Morgan's to-be-determined "leadership role" at the new-new-model Press has evaporated, reports Janese Silvey at the Columbia Tribune. Mary Jo Banken told Silvey she was mistaken about Morgan's role at the Press. Instead, says Silvey, Morgan will be part of "a Mizzou Advantage initiative that focuses on new technologies."

The full statement from the Mizzou News Bureau:

Speer will not be involved in the operation or management of the Press. He will continue to direct The Missouri Review, and he will have a leadership role in our Media of the Future Program, which is focused on the impacts of rapidly changing technology on the ways in which we share and preserve information.

This is way more excitement than should ever be allowed at a university press.

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