Pacific Standard, an online magazine that aimed to be a Western U.S.-based chronicler of global social and environmental justice and public policy, plans to shut down after a decade of publication, the magazine's editor in chief, Nicholas Jackson, said Wednesday.
The publication's last day will be Aug. 16 and the decision by the board of Pacific Standard's backer, the nonprofit Social Justice Foundation, came without warning, Jackson said in a phone interview.
"This a tough day," said Jackson, who has been editor in chief for four years.
The foundation was started by academic publishing mogul Sara Miller McCune of Santa Barbara, who established the magazine - first titled Miller-McCune - in 2008 and also was operated as a nonprofit.
In a series of tweets earlier Wednesday, Jackson said: "I'm heart-broken and devastated" by the decision, but also "proud of what we accomplished."
"We were repeatedly and enthusiastically told we were over-performing and -delivering up until the very end, and that we had a long-term commitment," he said.
Pacific Standard's goal, as Jackson put it, was to provide "nonpartisan, science-informed reporting on social and environmental justice." The magazine's website currently lists stories covering such topics as fair housing protections in Los Angeles, issues surrounding Venezuelan refugees, alleged ethics violations at the Department of Interior and the state of rural schools.
Jackson said the call to close Pacific Standard was made by its four-member board of directors that includes board President Clive Parry, who's also a vice president at McCune's Sage Publishing that publishes academic books and journals.
Parry made the announcement to Pacific Standard's staff at its Santa Barbara headquarters Wednesday and indicated the decision stemmed from Sage's decision to curb its charitable giving, Jackson said. A call to Parry at the Social Justice Foundation was not immediately returned.
Jackson said he also had reached out to McCune, but that she had not responded. A call to McCune through her McCune Foundation was referred to the magazine.
Pacific Standard has about 20 full-time employees, 25 writers on contract and dozens of freelance writers who contributed to the publication, Jackson said, adding that the employees were offered severance packages.
Pacific Standard's closure is another blow to the publishing world, which has struggled in the last decade to shift to the digital market from print while remaining financially viable.
Indeed, the magazine Governing, which has covered state and local government for the last 32 years, also said Wednesday that it plans to end operations.
But Pacific Standard was unique in that its backing was a nonprofit foundation as opposed to, say, a publicly-held entity concerned about its shareholders and quarterly results.
McCune committed about $2.2 million a year for five years to launch the magazine. That figure had climbed to about $3 million a year as of 2014, the Columbia Journalism Review reported then.
"I honestly don't know what it takes, beyond a billionaire, to keep a niche media company afloat," said Reyhan Harmanci, a member of Pacific Standard's editorial advisory board, who only heard of the closure when Jackson announced it on Twitter. "We need smaller, smarter publications to do interesting work that might fall through the cracks elsewhere."
Eric Zassenhaus, Pacific Standard's digital product manager, likewise said the decision to close the magazine was "totally abrupt" and that "we were expanding up until the moment we shut down. We had several projects in motion."
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