Monday, August 22, 2011

"Writers' editor" Youngblut leaving Calgary's Swerve to join Globe

Shelley Youngblut, the creator and editor of Swerve magazine at the Calgary Herald, is leaving the magazine to become a western editor for the Globe and Mail. She informed staff and contributors in a message on Friday. 
It's a blow to freelancers who found her eager for and open to new ideas, perhaps one of the principal reasons that Swerve won so many editorial awards.  As one writer told us:
This is an incredible loss for Swerve and the Calgary Herald. Hard to overstate, really. She's so well-respected here, and has done so much for magazines not only in Calgary, but in western Canada. I always say she's the best editor I've worked with, and I mean it. She simply lets writers and artists do what they're best at, and gives them the space to do it.
Photo: Heather Saitz
Swerve, which is a weekly supplement to the Herald, has a circulation of 110,000 and is quite unlike any such publication in Canada, in format, approach and regard. Just in December, it launched, an ambitious online extension of the magazine.
Under Youngblut's direction, the magazine has received over 100 national, regional and international award nominations, winning 53 times; in its first year of publication (2004), it was named best new magazine and magazine of the year at the Western Magazine Awards. Youngblut herself was given a lifetime achievement award by the WMAs.
An excellent profile of Youngblut by Marlee Kostiner in the Ryerson Review of Journalism details her peritpatetic career (and how she wound up in Calgary) and explains that the prototype of Swerve that Youngblut created varied considerably from the garden-variety events and listings pub which the newspaper had in mind (and which Swerve remains, in part). Instead, the square magazine with the feel of an old rotogravure has pursued longer-form journalism, audacious visuals,  big, well-researched cover stories and a fairly quirky take on arts, culture and city life, (all on a relatively paltry budget). 
“I hate magazines that make you feel that if you don’t have the right haircut or eat at the right restaurant or you don’t know the right people, your life is shit,” [Youngblut told the RRJ]. “We can appeal to the best in people by celebrating everybody.” That’s also how she treats her contributors. Maybe it’s the fact that she thinks she’s a bad writer, or that she considers writing the hardest thing to do, but contributors see Youngblut as a writer’s editor.
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