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Authors send letter to President Tim Wolfe to reinstate former UM Press editor

Wednesday, September 5, 2012 | 8:53 p.m. CDT; updated 1:27 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 6, 2012

This story has been updated for corrections and to add a comment from Clair Willcox, former editor-in-chief of the University of Missouri Press. *Jane Lago was managing editor of the UM Press until she retired. An earlier version of this story misstated her title. **Subsidies the press received from the UM System over the years were in varying amounts. The earlier story gave an incorrect figure and implied that the system was older than it is.

COLUMBIA — Nearly 40 authors will follow through with their request to regain their publication rights from the University of Missouri Press if its former editor-in-chief, Clair Willcox, is not reinstated.

The authors sent a letter explaining their intentions to University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe and other members of the university administration on Wednesday.

"Now that the Press will remain open, there is no reason to lay (Willcox) off, and in fact we believe you will need him more than ever," the letter states.

After the decision to close the UM Press was announced, the group of 37 authors and series editors, representing 74 publications, threatened to take legal action if not given their publication rights.

In the letter, the authors said they believe Willcox's presence is needed because of his connections to authors and the scholarly community that will be needed to help the press move on into a new era.

"He is the best, perhaps the only, person who has a chance to recruit authors, old and new, and facilitate the restoration of the Press's reputation for excellence," the letter states.

*One who signed the letter, Jane Lago, inherited the rights to publications that were written by her late mother, Mary Lago, which were published by the UM Press. Jane Lago, who Willcox said was managing editor of the press until she retired, said she thinks it's essential Willcox is reinstated because he has connections with, and is respected by, many authors. 

In July, Willcox was the first member of the UM Press staff to be laid off. A total of 10 employees were expected to lose their positions by the end of October if the press were to close.

"Obviously, it's very gratifying to have scholars and writers whose books have brought so much favorable attention to the university vouch for the quality of our editorial work at the press," Willcox wrote in an email Wednesday evening.

"I can't help but point out, however, that by the end of the week no member of this editorial staff will be employed there," he said.

In addition to Willcox, the other editorial staffers are John Brenner, who took a position at the State Historical Society of Missouri, and Sara Davis, who declined to stay and left Friday, Willcox wrote in an email to the Missourian on Thursday.

**The press long received an annual subsidy in varying amounts from the UM System. In June when it was announced that the press would be phased out beginning in the 2013 fiscal year, UM spokeswoman Jennifer Hollingshead said the press had been operating on a deficit for "several years."

The decision was met with opposition, and on Aug. 28 it was announced the press would stay open and responsibility would shift from the UM System to MU.

 Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.


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