Questions remain as WTVP announces suspension of Peoria Magazine's publication
Peoria Magazine is indefinitely suspending publication after the November issue.
It's the latest blow to WTVP, Peoria's PBS station. The station's financial problems have become increasingly public over the past month. The magazine called the last 30 days "very challenging" in a note to readers.
The magazine was purchased from Central Illinois Business Publishers for $100,000 in 2021, according to the station's 2021-22 annual audited financial statement.
It is still unclear who actually funded the public television station's purchase of the for-profit magazine. Station leadership has never disclosed that information. WTVP board chairman Andrew Rand at the time of the purchase said community investors had backed the purchase, and claimed no general membership funds went into the purchase. Then-president and CEO Lesley Matuszak told Current magazine in November 2021 that she had "an angel or two" in her pocket, adding "that's just how I operate."
Board minutes suggest there were questions about the magazine's profitability. The minutes of a special Sept. 6 meeting say Matuszak claimed the magazine had made $750,000, but board treasurer Helen Barrick corrected the statement, saying the magazine had grossed $750,000. That's the profits before the costs of producing the magazine are subtracted.
WTVP earlier this month slashed its budget by $1.5 million and laid off nine employees. Matuszak was found dead in her home on Sept. 28, a day after she resigned. The Peoria County Coroner's Office says no foul play is suspected in her death, but the Peoria Police Department has declined to release any additional information, citing an ongoing investigation. The focus of that investigation isn't clear.
The station's executive committee sought to establish a "leadership-advisory" relationship with Matuszak after the board learned station management had tapped $100,000 in credit and sold off $320,000 in investments in July to keep the station's short-term cash flow going. That executive committee includes Rand, his domestic partner Sid Ruckriegel, Barrick, and Stephen Shipley. Ruckriegel, the board vice chairman, was appointed to be Matuszak's "supervisory representative" and tasked with reversing the station's negative cash flow.
At an Oct. 10 meeting, Rand said the executive committee had acquired evidence suggesting usage of station funds and expenditures that were "questionable, unauthorized or improper." He said it was believed those issues had stopped, and that the executive committee is reviewing every station expenditure.
When asked about the future of the magazine last week, interim station manager Julie Sanders referred the request to Rand. He didn't reply to that request. Peoria Magazine editor-in-chief Mike Bailey also didn't reply to a request for more information.
A Bradley University spokesperson says the magazine's 40 Leaders Under Forty event is still scheduled for Nov. 1 at Renaissance Coliseum.
WTVP is asking subscribers to consider donating their remaining balance to the station, but they say they will honor requests for refunds.