Collecting bottles, tossing leftovers, taking out the garbage
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Years before I landed a job at The Sun, I slipped into a booth at a California restaurant and discovered a slender black-and-white magazine left behind on the table. I opened it, began to read, and soon felt as if I were surrounded by big-hearted, unpretentious, insightful companions who were sharing secrets. I was hooked.
As a new employee of The Sun, fresh from graduate school and brimming with ideas for how to make my favorite magazine grow, I asked founder and editor Sy Safransky if we could schedule a marketing meeting. Sure, he said with a wry smile. First item on the agenda: change the name of the meeting. To Sy readers were not a demographic to sell to advertisers; they were flesh-and-blood allies in the improbable enterprise of publishing an independent, ad-free magazine. He spoke of them with warmth, as if they were friends. There are certain things one never does to friends: mislead them with half-truths, try to impress them with overblown language, insult them with glib generalizations. Working for Sy would be a different kind of education for me.
Readers are at the center of all our conversations at The Sun. What struck me first about the magazine — the vibrant sense of community in its pages — is no accident. Every decision at our editorial office stokes the fire of human connection. One decision Sy made decades ago is to refuse to allow ads to compete with heartfelt writing on the page. By forgoing the ad revenue on which most magazines depend, The Sun creates a sanctuary from distraction and fosters greater intimacy between readers and writers. Instead of relying on advertising to make ends meet, we choose to rely on the generosity of loyal readers.
It’s never been easy to do what we do, but this has been a particularly difficult year for The Sun. The magazine continues to grow modestly, but subscription revenues are not keeping pace with rapidly rising print and postage costs. To our dismay, the postal service is considering another rate hike early next year. Perhaps other magazines with thicker spines and bigger budgets can absorb the increase, but The Sun is in no such position. There are only so many ways we can cut expenses without compromising quality.
If The Sun enriches your life, and if you agree that there is nothing else quite like it, please send in a contribution today. With your tax-deductible donation as a Friend Of The Sun, you’ll take a stand for independent publishing and the power of the written word. Your contribution will ensure that we continue to meet growing expenses. It will help us to pay writers decently and to give away the magazine to prisoners and those who have fallen on hard times. And it will allow us to focus on producing the best publication we possibly can.
My office is in the front of the old house where we put together The Sun every month, so I’m often the first to greet visitors. Sometimes subscribers from other parts of the country show up unexpectedly and pose for pictures beside the small sign with the peeling paint at our front steps. They arrive with stories, laughter, and occasionally gifts. The other afternoon, as I was poring over invoices, a woman pushed open the front door with her hip. She wore a long skirt and balanced a fresh-baked apple pie in each hand. She was traveling across the country, she said, and wanted to stop in and show her appreciation. She left the pies on the kitchen counter and was gone. As I stood in the kitchen with a mouth full of buttery crust and warm apples, I saw once more the wisdom in Sy’s way of doing business. Though The Sun doesn’t have deep pockets or powerful interests on its side, it’s been investing for decades in a more precious resource: community. To many it seems like an impractical financial model — believe me, we’ve been told that more times than we can count — but for nearly forty years now, readers have kept the magazine going strong. For that, we thank you.
P.S. You can donate online at www.thesunmagazine.org or send your check to The Sun, 107 North Roberson Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516. Your donation is tax-deductible, and we’ll send a receipt for your records.