Tragic End: Suicide, Bullying and the Literary Giant 

As controversy swirls around the Virginia Quarterly Review, staffers say embattled editor, Theodore Genoways, still calls the shots.

click to enlarge street34_ted_genoways_300.jpg

The collapse of Virginia Quarterly Review, often known as VQR, has been covered by ABC News, “The Today Show” and “Inside Edition,” but the still evolving story — a tale that involves suicide and charges of workplace bullying — has developed a new subplot.

According to one of its outgoing staffers, the University of Virginia-sponsored magazine's embattled editor, Theodore “Ted” Genoways, has taken over the review's latest issue from the rest of the staff.

“We are pretty much the only people left,” the online editor, Waldo Jaquith, says of himself and his co-workers Molly Minturn and Sheila McMillen. “We were told two weeks ago by the university to come back and finish the issue. Ted had also offered to come back and finish the issue, but they rejected his bid and went with us.”

But when the issue proofs came back, “none of our changes were in there,” Jaquith says. “Ted had hijacked the process. And the university is unwilling or unable to stop him. So we've informed the university that we're not going to do this any more.”

Last week the university's new president, Teresa Sullivan, released a statement announcing “a thorough review of VQR's operations.”

Four years ago, the publication took home several prestigious Ellie awards from the American Society of Magazine Editors and was the toast of the literary world. While the publication, established in 1925, has never had more than 3,000 paid subscribers, it commands a $600,000 annual budget — half of that comes from state taxes — and enjoyed the support of the university's outgoing president, John Casteen. A recently launched poetry-book series from the magazine included a tome authored by Casteen's son — one of many recent editorial and hiring decisions by Genoways that has raised eyebrows.

“Every day, there's at least one situation with one author who has been left in a bad situation by Ted and it's our job to clean it up,” says Jaquith, who's accepted a new job with U.Va.'s Miller Center. “I'm not sure you can call that bullying, but it is fair to say that he created a very difficult work environment because of his action or inaction.”

The difficult work environment contributed to the July 30 suicide of VQR's managing editor, Kevin Morrisey, his family has charged in news accounts.

At press time, the names of Jaquith and his fellow staffers had been removed from the magazine's online masthead, and calls to the university and interim magazine spokeswoman, Carol Wood, were not returned. [UPDATE: After Style's print deadline, Wood sent us this quote via email that touched upon the status of the current issue: "Finishing the issue has become a team effort with input by the staff as well as by Ted Genoways."]

Genoways has been working on a Guggenheim-sponsored project and has been unavailable for comment. But he told the Chronicle of Higher Education that the university “reviewed all the allegations being made against me and found them to be without grounds.”

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