When I first applied to work at The Sun, two issues were sent for me to review. I devoured them, underlining passages and scrawling in the margins between booking cut-and-color appointments for my job as a receptionist at a salon. Among my other duties, I was expected to convince customers to add on services they hadn’t asked for or to buy overpriced shampoo and conditioner. I was just out of college and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Even though I got free haircuts at the salon, I loved to read and was excited by the prospect of working at a place where I could actually use my English degree.
I’ve been gratified to see that the values that drew me to The Sun years ago weren’t just words on a page. They’re reflected in every part of the magazine.
But it wasn’t the essays, fiction, poetry, or photography that made me want to work at The Sun. It wasn’t even the fact that it was a nonprofit that offered health insurance. It was founder and editor Sy Safransky’s fundraising appeal in the March 2008 issue. In his letter he describes the decision to reprint eighty thousand copies of the magazine after a Readers Write piece on prison-gang violence was not attributed to Name Withheld, as the incarcerated writer had requested due to fear of retaliation from rival gangs. It would be a large financial hit for a nonprofit magazine on a tight budget, but Sy decided the only ethical choice was to reprint the entire issue rather than have the man’s name appear in print against his wishes. So The Sun did. All eighty thousand copies.
The compassion in his story made me passionate about The Sun. It’s a story I still tell, because it illustrates a dedication to respecting the humanity of others, even — or, rather, especially — when it’s risky or inconvenient. I’ve now been here for fifteen years. In that time I’ve been gratified to see that the values that drew me to The Sun years ago weren’t just words on a page. They’re reflected in every part of the magazine: the absence of ads; declining to view our readers as data points or their information as a commodity to be sold; the thousands of magazines we give away at no cost to those in need, even when the budget is tight; and the respect the editorial staff gives every submission, whether it’s a seasoned writer’s manuscript or an incarcerated author’s painstakingly handwritten poem.
If it weren’t for the financial support of our readers, we wouldn’t be celebrating our fiftieth year of publication, let alone looking ahead to the next fifty. We’re committed to honoring our shared humanity and publishing the best magazine we can for many years to come, and I hope you’ll join us by becoming A Friend of The Sun. When you give beyond the cost of a subscription, you help keep The Sun ad-free, allowing us to publish work we believe in rather than what appeals to a corporate sponsor. Donations enable us to elevate voices from the margins, to seek out stories and images that explore fresh perspectives on the human condition, to publish challenging and provocative interviews — and to pay our contributors well for their work. Your gift helps us weather ever-increasing paper shortages and postage-rate hikes without sacrificing quality or the principles that guide us.
In my years at The Sun I’ve learned that the values that set us apart aren’t confined to our small offices in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, or to the words and images in our pages; they’re an integral part of our readership, too. Since 1974 our readers have allowed us to make hard decisions with compassion and grace. You allowed us to offer free renewals to subscribers who faced hardship because of the 2008 financial crisis. You made it possible for us to lift our website’s paywall at the beginning of the pandemic so that anyone could read The Sun during a fraught, uncertain time. You paid an amateur photographer for her first published photo. You got the magazine into the hands of a first-generation community-college student and a teacher operating on a shoestring budget. You provided health insurance to an employee who’s a new mother, an internship to a budding author, a living wage to a small staff. You reprinted eighty thousand copies to ensure a man on death row was treated with the same care and journalistic ethics as anyone else. You make The Sun an organization I’m proud to work for. You do it every year.
Director of Development & Outreach
P.S. You can become A Friend of The Sun by donating at thesunmagazine.org/donatenow. Your gift is tax-deductible, and we’ll send a receipt for your records.