Sunday, June 12, 2011

Quite a night at the National Magazine Awards

At the risk of redundancy and playing catch up, here are some of the highlights, observations and shout-outs (a word I am henceforth banning) for me among the category winners at the 34th annual National Magazine Awards on Friday night.
  • Unquestionably it must have been a difficult task choosing between the three finalists for Magazine of the Year (Print) -- Cottage Life, Canada's History and Money Sense. The selection of Money Sense, one of the most ambitious magazines launched in this country in recent years, was a good one. It has won 9 National Magazine Awards (4 Gold, 5 Silver) in the service: personal finace and business category since its creation in 2003, a good reflection of how it sticks to its knitting. But equally worthy, I think was Canada's History -- which has succeeded extremely well in remaking and rebranding itself from the days of being The Beaver -- and Cottage Life, which hands down is one of the most focussed consumer magazines around, with an unerring sense of what its readers want and need to know. 
  • I was pleased to see the award for magazine cover going to The Feathertale Review, a magazine that most of the people in the ballroom at the Carlu had probably never seen. It was Feathertale's first-ever NMA win. The magazine is published twice a year by the team of Lee Wilson and Brett Popplewell. They have a wicked satirical sense in prose and illustration and somehow manage to create this little gem of a magazine as a sideline to their day jobs, which are in Toronto (Popplewell works on the investigative team at the Toronto Star and his byline has been seen most recently on a series of hard-hitting stories about the G20 debacle) and New York (Wilson, who works for Bloomberg Business Week.) I sincerely hope that this win will attract more attention and readership for this quirky, endearing publication.  
  • All the nominated work for illustration was the best I have seen for some time. 
  • Domenic Macri must be chuffed to be the first art director to have ever won both awards in one category, winning both gold and silver for art direction of a single article. Macri now has won a total of five awards (including 3 gold).
  • In what must have been the weirdest "break" in the long history of the magazine awards, there was a brief demonstration by two people of some mashup of dance and martial arts, apparently providing the opportunity for the guy to do some very impressive back flips. At least they didn't ask the whole audience to Zoomba.
  • I was somewhat preoccupied on the night, but noticed a few complaints about the variety and availability of the food and the shortage of sweets (several people lamented the non-appearance of a chocolate fountain, though I don't understand the allure). Also, one of the reasons why there is such a hubbub in the room when the awards are going on is probably a direct result of people having been drinking from 5:30 to 8 p.m. before being allowed into the auditorium. (The hubbub may have seemed worse to those seated under the balcony where it was quite difficult to hear what was going on.)
  • The most commendable acceptance speech of the night was from Charlie Wilkins, who lauded the sensitivity and generosity of his editor at Outdoor Canada, Patrick Walsh (a former president of the awards foundation.)
  • The most useful intervention was Gary Ross, who accepted an award on behalf of one of his contributors, but took the opportunity to update the crowd on the Canucks-Boston score. 
  • Not surprisingly, The Walrus led the awards tally with 9 awards (6 gold) and the Report on Business magazine 9 awards (3 gold). Toronto Life, which within memory used to dominate the awards won 1 gold and 4 silver.
  • One of the welcome innovations of the awards was to integrate digital category results into the main program,  with winning as magazine of the year (digital),  Ch√Ętelaine winning for best multimedia feature while The Walrus took the award for best digital design. 
  • The Malahat Review strides like a colossus through the poetry category, this year with Shane Rhodes winning gold, making it the fourth year in a row Malahat has won and adding to an astounding total of 11 golds since 1978. 
  • Tweeting has completely replaced the more stately press releases and reporting. I didn't tally them up, but there must have been hundreds of individual comments, reports of wins etc., at least those with the hashtag #nma11. Therefore this post will be old news to those bent over their smartphones.   
Complete results can be found at the NMAF website.  



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