Questions about the VQR thing

Posted by @ 2:46 pm on August 19th, 2010

The death-by-suicide of Kevin Morissey is sad. It is also complex, and I’m not sure there is a lot to pin on VQR or Ted Genoways. But reading the Hook article about it is halting more for the operational procedures of VQR than for the details about Morissey’s death, which is speculation and arguably the sort of connect-the-dot journalism that creates its own dots.

This isn’t a disclaimer I make to extend any credit to Genoways. If I could punch one person in the nose, it’d be him. The fact that his management is more interesting than suicide really just shows how bizarre VQR’s business is.

The article is worth a read, but here’s the outline: UVA hired Genoways to run VQR and get paid $170k/yr; Genoways hires Morissey as his right hand ($70k); they do a good job and win prestigious awards in 2006; the VQR annual budget gets expanded by $117k to $600k; Genoways heightens their exposure; the staff is very friendly and dines together and hangs out; Morissey has depression issues; Genoways writes letters and uhh makes $2k donations to the U of GA Press and gets poetry books published for himself and some friends (including UVA’s president’s son and two VQR board members); Genoways gets a $35k Guggenheim and works less at the office; this 24-yr-old woman named Alana Levinson-LaBrosse makes a $1.5M donation to the school and gets a top-of-the-masthead job (unvetted) at VQR; which is “good” because the magazine has been bleeding through not just its own budget but an $800k surplus supply leftover from the previous editor and their circulation is only uhh 7,000 (so L-L’s money might be a plus); in a meeting which Genoways does not attend someone maybe says something that offended L-L; so Genoways sends an email kicking Morissey out of the office for a week  but not sufficiently explaining why (Genoways, it should be noted, had been traveling a lot with L-L and her desk was in his office); Genoways is reprimanded for this and the school brings in a mediator; this isn’t the first time Genoways has been a cock — in 2005 there was a veteran employee of 32 years who was going to sue the school because of his treatment but they settled instead on a 1yr severance; Morissey fears that the resolution would bring Genoways’s significant wrath upon him; Genoways is indeed vengeful and, by sending emails, causes PTSD in one employee who takes a medical leave and; one hour after Morissey receives an email from Genoways, he writes his suicide note.

OK, one thing that might not be clear from that summary is 1) how the office is a really cool environment except for the fact that 2) Genoways is often cruel and has poor management skills.

But that’s neither here nor there. What I want to know is:

$600,000 operation budget? So why does VQR suck? I mean, it’s a quarterly, how much can that cost? How much work is it? With $600k, shouldn’t it be a lot more famous? But who’s heard of the VQR? No one! So what justifies that motherfucker’s $170,000 salary? Is all that money the inspiration for that Mother Jones dross, about how bad MFA programs and literary journals are?

I don’t know. I don’t think I do righteous indignation well. Maybe Justin T can break this down better than me — or you, dear reader. Are you a friend of Ted’s?

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