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Wrested Back From the Clutches of Clickbait and a Crotch-Exposing Editor, The Believer Magazine Is Back in Trusted Hands

Written by Julie ZigorisPublished Dec. 07, 2022 • 5:00pm
The Believer magazine relaunched on Dec. 7, 2022, as a quarterly. | Courtesy The Believer

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When the San Francisco-born literary magazine The Believer was sold to Paradise Media in 2022, a digital marketing company, no one quite expected a headline like “25 Best Hookup Sites for Flings, New Trysts, and Casual Dating.” 

The esteemed magazine—founded in 2003 by Heidi Julavits, Ed Park and local titan Vendela Vida—had featured work by literary greats from Nick Hornby to Zadie Smith to Esmé Weijun Wang. When it was put out by McSweeney’s, the San Francisco-based publisher, it was also a 12-time National Magazine Award finalist. 

But when The Believer struggled to make money, it was turned over to the University of Nevada Las Vegas’ Black Mountain Institute and, later, to Paradise Media, a purveyor of clickbait content whose CEO was also the founder of the Sex Toy Collective. 

Earlier this year, Paradise sold the magazine back to founding publisher McSweeney’s at a significant loss, becoming the surprising savior in the publication’s snaky path.  

The unexpected fate created a social media frenzy, but it was hardly the publication’s first brush with controversy. The university looked to unload the magazine after the former editor-in-chief Joshua Wolf Shenk exposed his crotch on a Zoom call with employees. 

The virtual relaunch on the afternoon of Dec. 7 featured the three founding editors as well as the new editor-in-chief, Daniel Gumbiner, whose book The Boatbuilder was a finalist for the California Book Awards. Much to one reader’s delight, Nick Hornby’s popular column “What I’ve Been Reading” is set to return. 

“He’s been a mainstay of the magazine,” Vida said, referring to Hornby, the author of High Fidelity and About a Boy. “We’re proud to include his column.” 

The arts and culture magazine will print as a quarterly and include essays, profiles, comics and poetry, and you can purchase a $60 subscription for four issues on the McSweeney’s website. The inaugural issue will be mailed to subscribers and is not yet available in stores. 

“Like all good magazines, it has died a few times,” notes the magazine’s website. “But it always comes back to life.”

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Julie Zigoris can be reached at [email protected]


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