Our 50th Year Icon

By 1990 Sun founder and editor Sy Safransky was pleased with how the magazine had grown — more than ten thousand readers now subscribed — but a decision he’d made at its inception in 1974 nagged at him: to carry advertisements in The Sun. After several meetings with the magazine’s business manager, and then several more, Sy finally decided to stop selling ads. June 1990 was the first ad-free issue.

Only a few years earlier he’d been doing basically whatever he could to raise money: exhortations for donations in nearly every editor’s note; benefit yard sales with baked goods; digging ditches. A decade earlier a group of business students had studied the magazine’s finances and concluded it wouldn’t last another twelve months. Abandoning advertiser revenue easily could have brought The Sun to an end. It wasn’t a decision he made lightly.

To be clear, the advertisements the magazine once ran weren’t for Bentley or Chanel. You were more likely to find a hand-drawn ad for a local quiltmaker, an organic food store, or a restaurant named Doofinckey’s. But they were an intrusion nonetheless. “I wanted someone reading the magazine to be able to experience another person’s words, another life, without distractions,” Sy wrote when he announced his decision. “If I were trying to do this in a room, where people could talk quietly and seriously with one another, I wouldn’t turn on the television or the radio. . . . I want The Sun to make a statement — not against advertising, not against anything, but for something basic and sacred.”

We haven’t printed an ad since.