Monday, June 10, 2013

An intense, enjoyable and celebratory
magazines week

Coverage of Magazines Week events has improved dramatically in recent years, so it seems(ed) redundant for me to report on the outcomes of the National Magazine Awards when there is an excellent summary distributed moments afterwards by the National Magazine Awards Foundation.

However, here are a number of miscellaneous observations about things that struck me at the event and during the MagNet conference and Magazines Week which preceded it.
Best cover
  • The proverbial pin could have been heard to drop as this year's recipient of the Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement, Stephen Trumper, spoke from his wheelchair and from his heart. He struck a pitch-perfect balance between advocacy for the disabled and his love of being an editor and mentor.
  • Small literary and cultural magazines are indeed the seedbed of the industry, giving people their start and making them available, if they wish, for transplantation into mainstream publications. Certainly that's true with Sierra Skye Gemma who won for best new magazine writer for her piece "The Wrong Way" in The New Quarterly. It's the kind of prize that reflects the effort and passion that TNQ puts into developing new voices.
  • The buzz of MagNet was probably about the MagNet Marquee keynote with the charming publisher of Garden & Gun magazine Rebecca Wesson Darwin. The fact that she and her team get readers to pay a fee to belong to Garden & Gun clubs (some as much as $500 a year) had people talking. As did her emphasis on following her "gut". Of course it was a fairly experienced gut; she was no neophyte, having been the first female publisher of The New Yorker and publisher of Mirabella.
  • Every MagNet seems to have a "trend"; this year it was several seminars that were in whole or in part about responsive design.
  • I enjoyed Paul Wells's speech at the Magazines Canada luncheon. I didn't know he was funny. 
  • Cottage Life editor Penny Caldwell's repeat win as editor of the year from the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors (CSME) ties her at three with Patrick Walsh of Outdoor Canada. Several of us briefly mused about a showdown between them next year (a cage match?) but quickly dismissed it as being in bad taste. 
  • I wish people (presenters) didn't feel obliged to protest that magazines are not dead or dying; since they aren't, doesn't it seem defensive and unnecessary to say so. The audience for the MagNet conference  is mostly made up of people with an investment in the health and diversification of the industry. 
  • There's no way round the fact (rule?) that sessions you'd really like to attend at MagNet seem invariably to run concurrently. 
  • I really liked the best cover choice of Adbusters (shown) which, though it is heavily sold on newsstands, made one photo illustration do the heavy lifting, with a single, small, intriguing coverline. 
  • No one seemed to be more surprised (and thrilled) than the people at the Feathertale Review when the magazine won for best single issue at the Magawards. This is truly a labour of love, led by two guys with day jobs. Brett Popplewell earns his living working for Sportsnet magazine and Lee Wilson as a designer at  Bloomberg Businessweek in New York. The longtime friends put out the twice-annual Feathertale -- a hybrid of comic art and satire -- in their spare time. 
  • Within living memory, Maclean's magazine protested that its work didn't get appropriate recognition. That certainly wasn't the case Friday, winning two golds, two silvers and 16 honourable mentions. 
  • While congratulations are due to Corporate Knights as magazine of the year, any of the four finalists was equally worthy of the award. Frankly, I was sort of pulling for uppercase. 
  • L'actualité, the Quebec equivalent of Maclean's, was one of the small number of Quebec magazines nominated and wound up with the most golds (6); proof once again that you can't win it if you're not in it. Québec Science, a perennially strong entrant, won 2 silvers and Reader's Digest 1 gold and 1 silver. 
  • The most celebrated single article at the awards was a deserving one: “Building with the Brigadier” (Report on Business) by Greg McArthur and Graeme Smith—about the SNC-Lavalin investment in Libya -- winning two golds, in Business and in Investigative Reporting, as well as silver in Politics & Public Interest.
  • No doubt there will continue to be grumbling about The Grid, which led all publications with 7 Magazine Awards in total (including 5 golds). Most criticism is that it is a newspaper, not a magazine, although it is self-described as a weekly magazine. But look at the work that won, particularly the fun and creative and prize-winning packaging it does. 
  • The foodies at the Magawards were impressed by the fact that there were two chocolate fountains available at dessert time, one of them dark chocolate. 
If you've got some reflections-after-the-fact about MagNet,the Magawards or anything else connected with Magazines Week, click on Comments, below, and have your say.

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