Qsaltlake publisher Michael Aaron has a big problem, a $25,000 problem, that could imperil the publication he launched eight years ago for Utah's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community and its allies.
Back in 2003, Aaron took out a home equity loan that got the whole thing started. Over time, Qsaltlake has evolved into a monthly news and entertainment magazine, a website, a new mobile app and a presence on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
But like pretty much all print media in America, it's been buffeted by rising costs for paper, printing and delivery. Aaron hit a financial wall about this time last year and had to cut costs dramatically. He was able to keep his staff, which since has specialized in multitasking, and expand distribution.
Then, about two months ago, his bank advised him that he had a balloon payment of $40,000 due on Sept. 1. So he launched a fundraiser that, while it pains him to have to ask, has so far netted $15,485 from about 140 donors.
Only $24,515 left to go.
If Aaron defaults on the loan, he'll have to find a job to pay it off. He can't, however, do that and keep Qsaltlake running. There wouldn't be a magazine or a staff. He'd post online every now and then, but that's about it.
"I have to move forward as if it's not going to happen," he says. "As we come to this [deadline], the plea becomes a higher-pitched squeal."
As part of the fundraiser, Aaron put together another site, http://saveq.org, with donor categories ranging from $40 for students and limited-income people to $1,000. Rewards for donating $1,000 include tickets to the magazine's 2013 Fabby Awards and a listing in every issue as a "Q Angel."
At $5,000, you'd get a private dinner with Aaron and two other editors at his home. For $10,000, you'd get undying love, a Q sticker "the size of Mars" and a huge thank-you.
As someone who loves print, I'd sure hate to see Qsaltlake tumble. Just in the past year, its circulation rose 50 percent to 15,000. Its range is from Herriman to Logan, and free copies are available in some 300 racks in businesses ranging from magazine stores to coffee shops.
"We target a specific niche. We talk about spiritual issues, health issues, relations between communities," Aaron says. "We feel like we are a bridge between communities because we get picked up, also by a lot of parents who want to know more about the community their child is entering or is in."
If you can, pick up a copy of the September edition. It's filled with commentary, personal essays, national and local news, interviews, fashion tips, a food-and-drink column, cartoons and some revealing photos from the London Olympics.
This is a magazine worth saving. I hope Aaron and his donors can do it.
Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at email@example.com, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter, @pegmcentee.