A Note to Believer Writers and Readers from Editors at the Magazine

Heidi Julavits
2 min readMay 10, 2022

Dear Readers,

At the moment, The Believer magazine, finalist for multiple National Magazine Awards, is in strange territory. If you go to the website you will see that the interviews, essays, and journalism that we published over the course of 19 years are now part of a firm called Paradise Media. Toni Morrison’s poems are now published alongside “25 Best Hookup Sites,” which is deceptively made to look like an essay published by The Believer. The Believer’s archives are now apparently being administered by a company affiliated with “Sex Toy Collective.”

How did we get here?

The Believer magazine was founded by Heidi Julavits, Ed Park, and Vendela Vida in 2003, under the umbrella of McSweeney’s Publishing. In 2016, an opportunity presented itself to help the magazine grow. The Black Mountain Institute in Nevada offered to buy the magazine and expand its reach. This was made possible by Las Vegas philanthropist Beverly Rogers. Rogers donated the funds to the Black Mountain Institute to make the purchase possible for the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV).

With Rogers’ generosity and commitment to the written word, The Believer moved to Las Vegas. The staff was expanded, the budget for long-form journalism was increased, and The Believer enjoyed five years of prosperity.

In October 2021, UNLV announced that they would be shutting down The Believer in the spring of 2022. Upon hearing this news, McSweeney’s communicated to UNLV its desire to bring the magazine back under its nonprofit umbrella. Between October of 2021 and early 2022 McSweeney’s had many meetings with representatives from UNLV. Beverly Rogers, who had not only funded the purchase of The Believer but had paid to expand the staff and reach of the magazine, clearly expressed her wish that the magazine return to McSweeney’s.

Reps from UNLV were opaque in their dealings. Finally, on Friday April 22, The Believer editors found that they were locked out of their own website. Hours later, the site began showing ads for “25 Best Hookup Sites” and Paradise Media was suddenly listed as the owner. Neither Beverly Rogers, McSweeney’s, The Believer’s contributing writers, nor key staff of The Believer was given any notice or consultation about the sale of the magazine to Paradise Media.

We are currently exploring all our options.

Signed,

Heidi Julavits, founder
Ed Park, founder
Vendela Vida, founder
Daniel Gumbiner, managing editor, 2016–2022
Kristen Radtke, art director and deputy publisher, 2016–2021
Sara Ortiz, festival and programs director, 2018–2022
Niela Orr, interviews editor and deputy editor, 2017–2021
Andrew Leland, managing editor, 2004–2012
Ross Simonini, interviews editor, 2007–2020
Sheila Heti, interviews editor, 2010–2014
Hayden Bennett, deputy editor, 2012–2022
James Yeh, reviews editor, 2017–2022
Karolina Waclawiak, deputy editor, 2008–2015
Camille Bromley, features editor, 2018–2021

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