Harper’s Magazine Foundation




Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2017):

Revenue: $6,955,135
Expenses: $6,738,764
Assets: $2,279,838




Nonprofit Publisher


Harper’s (Magazine)


John R. MacArthur

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Harper’s Magazine Foundation is the corporate parent of Harper’s, a left-of-center political and cultural magazine. Its principal funder is the J. Roderick MacArthur Foundation.

The magazine itself was established in 1850. In 1980, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation teamed with the Atlantic Richfield Company to save the financially struggling publication.


Harper’s magazine was established in June 1850 and is the oldest general interest monthly America focusing on politics, culture, the arts and literature from a center-left perspective. The magazine is known for narrative writing and has received 22 National Magazine Awards.

The New York book publishing firm Harper & Brothers (now HarperCollins) established the magazine as a for-profit publication, initially printing 7,500 copies. The circulation grew to 50,000 by early 1851.

The magazine was known for publishing the works of notable writers and politicians such as Horatio Alger, Stephen A. Douglas, Theodore Dreiser, Horace Greeley, Winslow Homer, William Dean Howells, Henry James, Jack London, John Muir, Frederic Remington, Booth Tarkington, and Mark Twain. The magazine also published writing by Woodrow Wilson before he became President of the United States and from Winston Churchill before he became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Among the biggest stories the magazine published was journalist Seymour Hersh’s account of the My Lai massacre. 1

During the 1960s, the magazine became division of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune Company (now Star Tribune Company).2 In 1980, the owners announced they would be shutting down the money-losing magazine. The magazine was losing about $2 million per year. 3

Roderick “Rick” MacArthur, Jr., the chairman of the J. Roderick MacArthur Foundation, sought to save the magazine. He convinced the family’s larger nonprofit, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, to spend $1.5 million. The Atlantic Richfield Co. matched this to buy the magazine. 4 This was more than enough to keep the magazine operating. 5

The Atlantic Richfield Co. was established by oilman Robert O. Anderson who was known for stepping into save failing publications, such as London’s The Observer. 6

The Harper’s Magazine Foundation was established as a nonprofit separate from the other foundations, to oversee the magazine. Rick MacArthur began serving as publisher without a salary in 1984. MacArthur hired Lewis Lapham as top editor—who had been removed from the post in 1981. Together, they made changes to the magazine, with a redesign, pushing shorter pieces and introducing the Harper’s Index. 7

The Harper’s Magazine Foundation is now a subsidiary of William Reed Business Media Limited. 8 William Reed Business Media is U.K.-based firm described as a business-to-business media company with work that includes digital and print media, providing research and insights to customers and supplies news sites to newsmakers in various industries. 9


President and PublisherJohn Roderick MacArthur Jr.

Editor – Christopher Beha

Vice President and General ManagerLynn Carlson

Vice President for Circulation – Shawn D. Green

Vice President for Marketing and Communications – Giulia Melucci

Vice President for Advertising Jocelyn D. Giannini

Managing Editor­ – Stephanie McFeeters 10


2004 RNC Coverage

Harper’s editor Lewis Lapham lambasted Republicans in a 2004 article titled, “Tentacles of Rage.” However, in the piece, he wrote it as if he was reporting from the Republican National Convention in New York. After being called out for misleading readers, he later apologized and confessed that he wrote the piece before the event even happened. 11

In the piece, Lapham wrote: “The speeches in Madison Square Garden affirmed the great truths now routinely preached from the pulpits of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal—government the problem, not the solution; the social contract a dead letter; the free market the answer to every maiden’s prayer—and while listening to the hollow rattle of the rhetorical brass and tin, I remembered the question that [Richard] Hofstadter didn’t stay to answer. How did a set of ideas both archaic and bizarre make its way into the center ring of the American political circus?”12

He took criticism at the time from other journalists on ethical grounds. In his apology, Lapham called it a “mistake … a serious one,” which was a “mix up.” However, he also defended this as a “rhetorical invention” and “poetic license.” 13

Union Resistance

In 2010, Rick MacArthur began having public dust ups with the Harper’s staff and with the foundation’s board members. MacArthur had previously referred to the UAW as “the country’s best and traditionally most honest mass labor union.” 14

MacArthur expressed liberal sentiments and support of workers’ unionization in his public commentary. However, in 2010, he opposed his own magazine staff organizing under the United Auto Workers Local 2110, and did all he could do to mitigate the number of employees that could be part of the collective bargaining unit. 15

Harper’s employees sought have greater control of the direction of the magazine after MacArthur fired Roger Hodge as editor. He named Ellen Rosenbush to the job. The magazine’s literary editor Ben Metcalf led the effort to join the UAW. 16

The union dispute touched off a debate with board member Eric Foner, a Columbia University history professor who had been a strong supporter of labor unions. Foner told Forbes, “I have always been a strong support of employees’ right to form a union if they so desire. I come from a family with a strong presence in the union movement.” 17

MacArthur and his lawyers went to the National Labor Relations Board to argue that middle management, including sub-editors like Metcalf, could not be members of the union. The NLRB ruled against MacArthur in favor of the union. By 2011, MacArthur moved forward with staff layoffs that the union alleged constituted a retaliatory effort. 18

Harper’s employees that unionized over MacArthur’s objections in 2010 later held a decertification election in July 2015, voting themselves out of the UAW. 19


On another front, in 2011, many in the magazine were concerned when MacArthur attacked the Internet and social media at a time when staffers felt the magazine was behind in its Internet strategy. MacArthur wrote: “Partisans of the Internet like to say that the Web is a bottom-up phenomenon that wondrously bypasses the traditional gatekeepers in publishing and politics who allegedly snuff out true debate. But most of what I see is unedited, incoherent babble indicative of a herd mentality, not a true desire for self-government or fairness.”

Robert Volante, a board member, responded at the time, concerned about what he thought was the magazine’s backwards web strategy commented, “I’m certainly a believer in the internet, and I had no idea Rick felt that way.” 20


  1. About. Accessed May 18, 2019.
  2. “History.” Harper’s Magazine, March 18, 2020.
  3. Harper’s Magazine Foundation. Discover the Networks. Accessed May 18, 2019.
  4. Johnston, David. “Maverick Behind ‘Little Mac’ Foundation. Los Angeles Times. August 14, 1985. Accessed April 23, 2019.
  5. Harper’s Magazine Foundation. Discover the Networks. Accessed May 18, 2019.
  6. Miller, Stephen. “Well-Heeled Wildcatter Was a Giant on North American Oil Fields.” The Wall Street Journal. December 8, 2007. Accessed May 18, 2019.
  7. Newman, M.W. “How a Chicago Newsman Saved Harper’s From Death Row.” The Chicago Tribune. May 23, 2000. Accessed April 23, 2019.
  8. Company Overview Harper’s Magazine Foundation. Bloomberg. Accessed May 18, 2019.
  9. Company Overview: William Reed Business Media. Bloomberg. Accessed May 18, 2019.
  10. Accessed June 29, 2020.
  11. Shafer, Jake. “Lewis Lapham Phones It In.” Slate. September 15, 2004. Accessed May 18, 2019.
  12. Quoted in Shafer, Jake. “Lewis Lapham Phones It In.” Slate. September 15, 2004. Accessed May 18, 2019.
  13. Shafer, Jake. “Lewis Lapham Phones It In.” Slate. September 15, 2004. Accessed May 18, 2019.
  14. MacArthur, John R. “Wall Street Sharks Circle the UAW.” Harper’s Magazine. April 15, 2009.
  15. Levy, Nicole. “Harper’s Staff to Decide Union Fate.” June 30, 2015.
  16. Levy, Nicole. “Harper’s Staff to Decide Union Fate.” June 30, 2015.
  17. Bercovici, Jeff. “Are Harper’s Directors on Board with Publisher’s Feuds?” Forbes. January 21, 2011.
  18. Sherman, Gabriel. “Venerable Lefties at Harper’s Divided by Union.” New York Magazine. January 18, 2011. Accessed May 18, 2019.
  19. Barr, Jeremy. “Harper’s Employees Bust Out of Union.” Politico. July 15, 2015. Accessed May 18, 2019.
  20. Bercovici, Jeff. “Are Harper’s Directors on Board with Publisher’s Feuds?” Forbes. January 21, 2011. Accessed May 18, 2019.
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: February - January
  • Tax Exemption Received: May 1, 1981

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2017 Feb Form 990 $6,955,135 $6,738,764 $2,279,838 $2,195,716 Y $4,405,000 $2,505,650 $4,389 $939,107
    2016 Feb Form 990 $7,262,961 $7,123,823 $2,156,348 $2,289,177 Y $4,679,000 $2,538,565 $4,291 $1,041,563 PDF
    2015 Feb Form 990 $7,145,012 $7,371,847 $2,199,737 $2,177,277 Y $4,384,500 $2,684,188 $3,972 $1,150,946 PDF
    2014 Feb Form 990 $8,523,482 $8,212,747 $2,350,138 $2,162,714 Y $5,436,600 $3,011,652 $2,740 $1,098,838 PDF
    2013 Feb Form 990 $7,898,547 $8,015,469 $2,151,994 $2,274,456 Y $4,565,000 $3,219,812 $4,807 $1,104,189 PDF
    2012 Feb Form 990 $8,913,788 $8,528,840 $2,254,711 $2,255,102 Y $4,962,500 $3,819,701 $4,136 $1,138,310 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Harper’s Magazine Foundation

    NEW YORK, NY 10012-2317