DoubleTake Gets $10 Million Grant from Lyndhurst

from Poets & Writers magazine, 1997

DoubleTake magazine, the quarterly magazine of literature, journalism, and photography published by the Duke Center for Documentary Studies, has received a $10 million grant from the Lyndhurst Foundation of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The gift will create an endowment to support daily operating expenses, fund documentary projects by writers and photographers, and expand the magazine's circulation. It is one of the largest grants ever given to a magazine, second only to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's $12.4 million gift to rescue Harper's magazine in 1981-82. "The money will help us to pay our bills and to pay our writers and photographers. We feel it is very important to pay our contributors well," says Robert Coles, the Pulitzer prize-winning writer and child psychiatrist who, along with documentary photographer and Duke professor Alex Harris, launched the magazine in 1995.

Coles and Harris observed that while most major publications focus on conflict, politics, and celebrities, they sought to produce a publication that reflects everyday life around the world. "We want to avoid the glitz and hype of celebrities," says Coles. "That doesn't mean we won't publish well-known writers, but we want to emphasize ordinary people and their experiences." To that end, DoubleTake has published stories by people who do not consider themselves writers, including a newspaper deliveryman from Topeka, Kansas, and a seven-year-old girl who described her mother's death.

In the introduction to the premier issue in July 1995 the editors described the magazine's mission: "DoubleTake exists because we wanted to see... a home where image and word have equal weight, where photographers and writers have equal license to wander and to wonder; a home that welcomes poets and novelists, photographers and journalists, short story writers and essayists, some of whom are known, and some of whom are unknown, all of whom recognize the power of narrative to reveal and then transform."

Writing and photography are given equal weight and space in the magazine's full-color, nine-inch by 11-inch pages; the grant will enable the magazine to continue publishing in this expensive, glossy format, which has been a costly venture thus far. Despite an initial $2 million start-up grant from the Lyndhurst Foundation, the magazine lost $1.5 million its first year.

The new grant should insure the magazine's publication for another five years.

The Lyndhurst Foundation was established in 1938 by Thomas Carter Lupton, a pioneer in the Coca-Cola bottling business. Named after the family home in Chattanooga, the foundation makes grants of about $8 million a year primarily to arts, development, and educational and environmental projects in Chattanooga.

In a letter announcing the grant, Jack Murrah, president of the Lyndhurst Foundation, said, "The present sea of journals devoted to money and fame power and politics has helped dissolve our sense of reality into inchoate expressions of self and celebrity.... There is a hunger for us to break out of the intoxication. We have seen no force on the cultural landscape more full of promise for feeding that hunger than... DoubleTake magazine."

The summer 1996 issue features a previously unpublished story by Flannery O'Connor, as well as fiction by Alice Elliott Dark and Tobias Wolff and poetry by Charles Wright, Susan Hahn, and Ron Rash, published alongside Durham school children's black and white self-portraits, Ernesto Bazan's visions of Cuba, and Michael Putnam's photos of America's downtown movie theaters.

Four issues have been published; approximately two to four short stories and five to 15 poems are published in each issue. Previously unpublished fiction writers Daniel Stolar and Patrick Yachmiski and poets Gary Pedroni and Joseph Caputi have appeared in the magazine with such well-known authors as Nadine Gordimer, Joyce Carol Oates, Philip Levine, and David Ignatow.

The fall 1996 issue features four pieces on Bosnia, one each by a poet, a photographer, a pediatrician, and a fiction writer. However, the theme was unplanned, says Coles. "The pieces just came in all at once, they were good, and they all addressed a timely topic in an important way."

Currently, DoubleTake has approximately 22,000 paid subscribers, while an additional 7,000 copies are sold at newsstands across the country for $10 each.