Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Group of big mag publishers intend to abandon NMAs and start their own awards program starting in 2017

Several of the largest magazine publishers in Canada have written to the National Magazine Awards Foundation saying they intend to drop out of the annual awards in 2017 and start an awards program of their own. 

The letter to the board of the NMAs dated November 19 is co-signed by 
  • Steve Maich, senior vice-president of publishing at Rogers Communications
  • Lucie Dumas, vice-president, managing director, magazines group, TVA Publications Inc.
  • Doug Knight, president of St. Joseph Media
  • Shelley Ambrose, publisher of The Walrus and executive director of The Walrus Foundation
  • Robert Goyette, vice-president and editor-in-chief of Reader's Digest
It says that there needs to be "far fewer and more meaningful awards" and that they should be "more closely aligned to celebrating excellence at the very highest level".

Joyce Byrne, the president of the National Magazine Awards Foundation told us
The NMAF received a letter in late November from five publishers communicating their decision to create a new awards program in 2017. The NMAF responded with a request for additional information as well as an opportunity to meet and discuss how the needs of the magazine industry could best be served by both parties.  This request was declined.  The NMAF remains focussed on celebrating excellence in the magazine industry and its call for the 2016 National Magazine Awards is now open.  It's the NMAF's intent in 2016 to continue to recognize and promote excellence in the content and creation of Canadian magazines, in a manner that is national, bilingual, and representative of the Canadian magazine industry.
The board of the National Magazine Awards Foundation met last Friday about the letter and confirmed that it intends to proceed with this year's awards program (the 39th) as planned. Entries are already being received; the deadline is January 15.  

This is not the first time that larger magazines have threatened to abandon or boycott the awards. The "Gang of Six" as they came to be known in the early '90s -- including editors of Homemaker's, TV Guide, Reader's Digest, Chatelaine and Maclean's -- complained that (among other things) there were too many awards and they didn't reflect what they published and therefore it wasn't possible for them to win (at least as often as they thought they should.) That ultimatum eventually fizzled out, although only after an exhaustive review of the procedures of the awards program and its judging; indeed one of the leaders of the Gang, Homemaker's editor in chief Sally Armstrong, eventually became the president of the Magawards. [Disclosure: I was president in 1991 during the contretemps.]

There has always been a conflict between those who feel the awards should reward excellence by contributors (writers, photographers, illustrators) and those who feel the awards should go to the magazines in which they are published (as in the U.S. magazine awards.)

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