New Rivers Press will shut down operations in spring 2022, pending the Minnesota state legislature’s approval of the fiscal year 2022 budget proposed by Minnesota State University-Moorhead, New Rivers’s host institution. The planned closure of the press, which celebrated its 50th anniversary two years ago, was announced by the university administration at a virtual town hall on April 15 for the entire campus community.
In an attempt to address a $6 million shortfall, the university, which has a student body of 6,000, is cutting 10 liberal arts programs and departments along with the press, resulting in a loss of 65 positions—10% of the university's total full-time workforce of 653 employees. Of the press's three permanent full-time employees, two, including director Travis Dolence, will transition back to their academic departments at MSU-Moorhead and resume their duties as faculty members. Managing editor Nayt Rundquist will be laid off.
“There’s been no information or timeline on when [the press] has to wrap things up,” complained one source familiar with the press’ situation who requested anonymity. “The staff found out in the town hall when the cuts were announced.”
New Rivers Press was founded in Massachusetts in 1968 by Bill Truesdale. It publishes six to eight fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and regional titles each year, and has about 400 titles in print, including early works by the poet Charles Simic and novelist Charles Baxter. In 2001, due to a perfect storm of distribution and production problems, heavy returns, and Truesdale’s failing health, the press, then headquartered in the Twin Cities, shut down. It moved to northwestern Minnesota and resumed operations the following year, under MSU-Moorhead’s auspices. It has been been housed on the university’s campus since then, with MSU-Moorhead providing the press with its infrastructure and covering overhead expenses. In return, the press, which covers its own book marketing and production expenses, provided hands-on instruction in the art and business of publishing to undergraduates contemplating careers in the industry. MSU-Moorhead awarded certificates in publishing to those who fulfilled the requirements.
New Rivers is distributed by SPD, which is currently experiencing financial difficulties due to the impact of the new coronavirus pandemic. According to people familiar with New Rivers’ relationship with SPD, every book released by the press in the past two years has landed on SPD's list of bestsellers.
Update: Arrick Jackson, MSU-Moorhead vp for academic affairs told PW on Friday morning that the university is still working out its timeline regarding the closing of the press, which he said is projected to operate with a $300,000 deficit by FY2023. The university, he emphasized, is committed to establishing a "teach out plan" for the 21 undergraduates currently enrolled in the publishing certification program at MSU-Moorhead.
"We want to allow our students to get the full experience and to complete all requirements for the certificate," he said, "We're having conversations with New Rivers staff to figure out what steps need to be taken."