PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The fallout from the fiscal woes of Peoria’s public broadcasting company continued as Peoria Magazine announced Friday it would “pause” after publishing its November edition.
The magazine was taken over by WTVP-TV in 2021. Whether the magazine was self-sufficient or losing money has been an issue, a review of board minutes showed.
“We know Peoria Magazine created a niche for itself in the central Illinois media scene. The feedback we received from the community was consistently positive,” said interim WTVP Station Manager Julie Sanders. “Unfortunately, our current fiscal situation is such that we need to take this action.”
In an emailed statement Friday morning, the TV station noted the past 30 days have been “very challenging.” That time frame has seen the death of former CEO and station manager Lesley Matuszak, increased scrutiny into the station’s finances, and layoffs of nine people.
“As a result, the difficult decision has been made to put Peoria Magazine on pause. November will mark the final issue for the foreseeable future. The PM Weekly email will also continue through the end of November,” the statement said.
WTVP said the move would not mean any more staff reductions.
An attempt to reach the magazine’s editor, Mike Bailey, was not successful.
According to a Bradley University spokeswoman, the annual Forty Leaders Under 40 event, which showcases younger adults who are deemed emerging leaders or success stories, will still take place on Nov. 1 at Renaissance Coliseum.
The event is one of the signature items of the magazine. The final issue, said the station, would focus on the annual selections. Any restart of the magazine, the station said, would be pending an ongoing review of the station’s fiscal health.
The emailed statement said WTVP hoped subscribers would use their remaining balance as a donation.
“However, we will honor requests for refunds as well. Whatever your choice, please let us know by contacting our Development Department at Development@wtvp.org or 309.495.0547,” the statement said.
Sanders said she and others at WTVP appreciated the support the magazine has gotten over the years.
“We appreciate all who have supported Peoria Magazine by reading the stories we have told about the special people and places of central Illinois. WTVP is committed to continuing to tell those stories, as we have for over 50 years.”
Questions have swirled on social media over the past few months regarding the station’s fiscal well-being. At a board meeting in early October, directors voted to slash the station’s operating budget by $1.5 million to the 2019 level of $3.5 million.
According to board meeting minutes, there were also issues regarding Peoria Magazine. Matuszak told board members at the Sept. 6 meeting that the magazine made $750,000 in profit, but Helen Barrick, the board’s treasurer, said it grossed $750,000 before taxes.
The Sept. 6, meeting minutes state the station used “$100,000 of credit capacity (PNC) and management had liquidated $320,000 of the investment account.” Additionally, the minutes state that neither of those moves was known to the board’s treasurer or executive board committee before getting a draft of the July financial statement.
The station was expected to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars, so much that the board appointed one of its own to work with Matuszak to reduce the “chronic operating losses.”
Rand, at the meeting in early October, read from a prepared statement and said the station had “some unauthorized, questionable, or improper expenses.”
“The Executive Committee has accumulated papers and documents, letters, and financial records that provided insight into expenditures and uses of funds of WTVP that were questionable, unauthorized or improper. We believe such expenditures have been stopped,” Rand said.
While only words on a page, the minutes seemed to convey a sense of urgency regarding the matter. The board plans to use a strategic planning expert to help with the next year or so to get the station back on track.
A week later, in mid-October, nine employees were laid off as part of a staff reduction.