Jim Kepner’s First Resignation from ONE
This letter is reprinted with minor editorial corrections and in its entirety. A copy of this letter is on file with the HIC Archives.
February 27, 1955
2141 Baxter Street
I’ve tried several times since my resignation to write out a more comprehensive explanation of my reasons. This has proved a very difficult job, since there were many reasons, and it is hard for me to be sure which were most important. Some of the complex reasons should require pages of explanation, and on others, my own thinking has changed.
Explanation would hardly be necessary if I had completely lost faith or interest in ONE. But my faith and interest in the magazine were and are still at a peak. My letter of resignation implied no criticism of the magazine…“Profound disapproval of Corporation procedure, mounting distrust of my ability to function within the organization as constituted, and belief that some aims of the Corporation are likely to defeat their own purposes in the magazine…
My statement in discussion with Bill [Lambert] and Chuck [Rowland] that I still considered the magazine somewhat amateur was neither a criticism of the magazine nor in any way a reason for my resignation, but merely an attempt to assess the tasks that still lay before us.
Knowing that some of my reasons stemmed from my own weaknesses, I still think that much of it lies with weakness in the Corporation. An elaboration of these criticisms may help the Corporation prevent such future difficulties—even though its hard for those who have stayed with a project to accept criticism from one who has quit.
The easiest course would be for me to start by saying I love every one of you dearly, but that would ring false even if it is not very far from the truth. Unfortunately there were bits of personal friction involved in this misunderstanding, chiefly a sometimes inability to communicate with some members of the groups, and a resentment at feeling that I, and others, were often being manipulated like puppets. These are problems any organization has to face and they always lead to serious personnel difficulties. The Corporation, I think, has a responsibility to constantly reexamine the effectiveness of its working methods. ONE, Inc., lacking the usual hard cash assets most Corporations start out with, has, as I see it, exactly two assets, and these must be carefully used for they are not limitless: There is first, the willingness of a few individuals to contribute their efforts to the organization. And second, there is the barely taped reservoir of those who are ready to feel that the magazine, or the Corporation, offers a personal hope to them in their problems. The Corporation must constantly judge itself as to how it is using these resources. My own feeling is that these resources have been handled a bit too wastefully.
And now for my reasons for resignation, as briefly as I can put them, even though I feel brevity sacrifices the chance for convincing argument, and sometimes makes the statement sound more than necessarily antagonistic.
1) At the end of December, recalling Dale [Jennings]’s departure, and Ben’s, I felt that any opposition on my part to Chuck’s project would lead to my expulsion. I think I was wrong in this, and I since have come to feel that my understanding of the conditions of Dale’s leaving may have been badly in error.
2) I felt that Chuck’s project [Church of ONE, Brotherhood], premature and unwise, was very dangerous to the future of the magazine. Remember that I was judging this in the only way I could, in light of specific proposals for raising a specific sum of money to lease a house as a sort of home for the lost ones from Main Street, and not in the light of later watered down proposals of which I might approve. My chief feeling here was that in spite of assurances to the contrary, this project would tend by its nature to draw off time and money that ought to go to the magazine.
3) I felt that I had been improperly told to mind my own business. I was never interested in sticking my nose into the business of other departments, so long as it seemed that business was being handled reasonably enough. But sometimes, the work of one department affects the work of another and interdepartmental “understandings” become necessary. However, this isn’t really a matter of two departments. It was a question of setting up an entirely new project, not at all complimentary (at the present time) to the magazine, and at a time when the magazine was faced with serious time and money problems.
4) I felt that the Corporation seriously underestimated the importance of quality in the magazine (partly because of the next item) that is, of the necessity for making the magazine indispensable to a large class of homosexuals. There was a tendency to feel that as long as the pages were filled the magazine was okay. The example was used that some of the poorest issued had been best sellers, and vise versa. This is natural enough. The question to ask, however, is not did the good issues sell, but did the good issues impel the readers to buy the subsequent issues, and this can’t be answered by a superficial look at the circulation figures.
5) I felt that the Corporation, being the policy making body, suffered from representing almost exclusively the business view of the magazine. I think it a highly unworkable arrangement that the Editor-in-Chief should have no vote in policy matters.
6) I felt that the plans for launching too many projects too soon were dangerously grandiose.
7) I felt the Corporation’s predilection for interdepartmental secrecy and intrigue made for impossible working conditions. Perhaps such methods have their place in larger groups…..
8) I felt that the Corporation’s view of employer-employee relations were bad. For purely monetary reasons, my bosses at Canco can give me orders and expect me to carry them out with minimum regard for my own opinions. I tend to view ONE as something of a cooperative venture where some of those in the group have more seniority than others, but where all are basically volunteers in a common cause whose direction is determined not by private profit, but by the needs of the “minority.” A magazine that is able to hire and fire editors at will, and that can pay the editors enough to expect them to express the publishers’ viewpoint down to the last letter, is a bit different from a magazine that is asking the editor to contribute his services gratis and in his spare time, while earning his living elsewhere.
9) I felt that the Corporation was not yet ready to make the changes necessary to set up a proper-functioning editorial department. I have since come to feel that I was quite mistaken in this. I did feel that the ghosts of Ben and Dale would haunt the group too much in determining the editorial functions.
10) I felt that the Committee method (Editorial Board) of doing the editorial work, while okay as a stopgap measure, was inefficient and that it often led to a sort of “lowest common denominator” effect in editorial decisions. This doesn’t mean that I was unwilling to work under such methods, but merely that I feel that this method doesn’t get the best results. (Imagine how poorly the work would have proceeded if the business end of the magazine were handled by committees rather than by individuals.
11) I felt that the job of Editor-in-Chief was just too big a job for a spare-time assignment. While there is still a good bit of force I this, and while I think that whenever the Corporation gets an Editor-in-Chief (unless he was a private income) a pressing item on the agenda must be to raise the job at least to the part-time level (rather than spare time) but I think in the main, this reason was really more affected by my own feelings of personal inadequacy. I think I could have handled the job, but I got a bad case of cold feet, and was too much diverted by other sore points.
12) Finally, there was the feeling that any decision must be made quickly. I knew it would not do for me to take the job for a month or so and then quit. The Corporation deserved an immediate decision, so as long as I felt there was a serious chance of being forced to quit, I felt I had to do it immediately. It was not a thing I wanted to do, and I have since become quite convinced that I made a serious mistake, that if I had stuck with the job, most of the other problems would have tended to resolve themselves.
I suppose that’s more than enough. If the Corporation wishes further discussion of any of the above items, I should welcome that.
I repeat my offer to resume some sort of regular working-assignment with the magazine. I have told several members of the group already how important I consider ONE to be, and in particular how important I think the differences between ONE and MATTACHINE REVIEW will come to be.
I regret deeply the difficulties that may have been caused by my unfortunate decision (though perhaps, in some way, my foolishness may bring about some necessary reconsideration of policy.) And I sincerely hope that this experience will not be added up with the former difficulties with Dale and Ben and force the Corporation to the unwise decision that an Editor-in-Chief is undesirable. I hope that the Corporation will continue the search for a suitable Editor-in-Chief (and may I strongly suggest Chuck, or Woody?) and the search for a smoother organization in the Editorial Department.
Be assured that The Homosexual Magazine (and, whatever its seeming shortcomings, the Corporation as well) has my continued and hearty support.
Yours, sincerely and regretfully,