The adjunct professor population has grown rapidly over the past 40 years in the US, to the point where “non-tenure-track positions … now account for 76 percent of all instructional staff appointments” in higher education here. So, it was only a matter of time before someone recognized that there’s a demographic hiding behind that statistic, and that the demographic has needs, like healthcare, job stability — and its own trade publication.
Yes, last month, artist, writer, and editor Dushko Petrovich launched Adjunct Commuter Weekly, “the first magazine devoted to the lifestyle needs and shared interests of a rapidly growing and increasingly influential demographic,” according to the press release. Petrovich solicited interviews (with “Platinum Commuter” Sam Messer), essays (“Five trains each way means ten trains a day,” “Blur of Chobanis”), poetry, photography, sudoku, and more from a roster of “some of the world’s most illustrious adjunct commuters”; he Kickstarted the production costs to the tune of $5,157 (more than many adjuncts make per course); and on Thursday, July 30, he launched the impressively packed publication with a 20-page full-color newsprint tabloid at an event at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.
And then, a week and a half later, Adjunct Commuter Weekly ceased publication. Because of financial and time constraints.
“Adjunct Commuter Weekly is content driven, and I think that’s the underlying problem, financially. I see that very clearly now,” Petrovich told Hyperallergic. “The ads, for example — they were all free. In fact, they were stolen, screen grabbed. Maybe I should have gotten ads from Amtrak and academic publishers, but that might have jeopardized the content. I didn’t want to do that.
“Or maybe I could have had a better fundraising model,” he continued. “The Kickstarter went over the $4,300 it cost to print, design, proof, and mail the first issue, but it didn’t go over enough for me to pay for a second issue. People were very generous, but no one gave over $150. I just couldn’t get any big investors to believe that this would be ‘the new Uber for adjuncts.’ Maybe I could have a big gala with famous adjunct commuters and they could lean on their department heads for money? Maybe Soros? I did want to do an IPO, but then, as I said, I got caught up in the content.”
And content costs money too. “I got many offers from people to contribute for free to future issues,” Petrovich explained, “and even on a weekly basis, but while I was happy to accept volunteer contributions one time, asking people to do free work week in and week out started to feel a little too much like … adjuncting.”
All hope is not lost, though. Adjunct Commuter Weekly will officially relaunch as ACW, a “multiplatform new-media content experience” featuring a ride-sharing app and a podcast — which no one will be compensated to make, “unless people want to donate to us.” How 2015.
I asked Petrovich what he thought the swift rise and fall of Adjunct Commuter Weekly indicated about the state of journalism and/or adjuncting today.
“While I do see the print model as a problem, I think the underlying economic model is a bigger problem,” he said. “Both in journalism and in adjuncting — but also in health care, manufacturing, and every other industry I can think of — we are being cut up into smaller and smaller pieces. It wasn’t lost on me that we had to send out our press release rebranding Adjunct Commuter Weekly as ACW on the same day that Google rebranded as Alphabet.”
But whereas Google employees get to bring their pets to work, Petrovich must now work on the go. “I’ll be doing all of the ACW work in my car,” he explained, which naturally limits the nature and depth of it. That’s a loss for journalism, but a sure win for hypercapitalism — after all, a magazine serving the needs of the adjunct commuter must think and act like one: infinitely adaptable.