Canada’s newsmagazine enters Year Two: a progress report to Maclean's readers

Peter C. Newman October 4 1976

Canada’s newsmagazine enters Year Two: a progress report to Maclean's readers

Peter C. Newman October 4 1976

Canada’s newsmagazine enters Year Two: a progress report to Maclean's readers

Peter C. Newman

For more than 70 years of its life as a general interest publication, this magazine was dedicated to searching out the Canadian identity, stalking the unknown heroes and closet villains who populate these northern latitudes. Then, 12 months ago, Maclean’s switched to a news format. The transition has had its share of large problems and small triumphs, but a year later we feel satisfied in our own minds that this country is willing and even anxious to support a newsmagazine, in terms both of reader interest and advertising revenues.

Having gone this far, we intend to continue improving the appearance and contents of the magazine; to remain pickled in the aspic of any rigid publishing formula is to invite the oblivion that has overtaken all too many Canadian periodicals. A magazine that has any pretensions to being alive and in charge of its own destiny must continually b' redefining itself through the

Subscribers in their prime

process of reacting to the events and people within its pages. So this anniversary issue probably tells more about where the magazine has been than where it’s going.

Recent changes in our crowded labyrinth of cubicles at Maclean-Hunter herald some future directions. Under the inspired guidance of Jim Ireland, our new art director, a sprightly fresh feeling has been injected into these pages. Marci McDonald, whose writing pen we use for art department dart games between her assignments, is about to depart for a year as our Paris-based European correspondent. Mark Nichols, a Vancouver native who rose to be second in command of Time's Canadian edition, hasjust been appointed our new National Editor to direct expansion of our Canadian news section; while Kevin Doyle, a native of Fitzroy Harbor, near Ottawa, who attended the London School of Economics and was until recently a Canadian Press correspondent in Washington, has just joined the staff as Foreign Editor. Judith Timson, a bright

The movers and the shakers

and energetic young lady with talent to burn, is maxing her mark as our new bureau chief in Vancouver. Graham Fraser has recently become our Montreal Bureau Chief, following his successful stewardship as leading municipal reporter for The Globe and Mail. Peter Brimelow, a thoughtful young writer who graduated from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and put in a distinguished apprenticeship with The Financial Post, has taken over direction of our business coverage. This new team will be working along with the rest of us veterans who enjoy a full year’s seniority.

Editing a magazine is a mad profession, depending as it does on a mixture of assumptions and insights about what’s important or trivial. Any successful magazine must echo and articulate the half-formed (but no less deeply felt) intuitions of its readers, voicing underlying themes of which they may be only barely conscious. Within the limits of truth and libel, the journalist’s most essential talent is the creation of interest. Our news format carries with it a special obligation to combine a sense of prophecy with a sense of confirmation in trying to deal with the torrent of daily despatches, scoops, rumors, sensations and trial balloons that arrive in our offices from an unfolding universe.

To help both Maclean’s editors and advertisers refine their sense of audience, we

A word to the learned

recently undertook the first of three surveys of our subscribers’ attitudes. The study’s highlights, summarized in the accompanying pie charts, provide an important profile of our readers, who spend an average of 99 minutes with the magazine. (Some 75.2%, incidentally, turn its pages one at a time, while 16.6% thumb through, pausing at selected items.) Encouragingly enough, each issue is picked up at least four times and, surprisingly, 6.3% of our most loyal subscribers pick us up more than nine times. (At least once, I suspect, to swat some offending fly or mosquito.) While many of Maclean’s readers approved our old format, an overwhelming 67.8% prefer our newsmagazine incarnation. Nearly eight outof 10 members of our audience believe that we provide the kind of coverage that is not fulfilled by any of the other media. Probably the most typical comment to come out of the survey was from an engineer in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, who wrote: “I feel at home with Maclean’s and use certain articles for reference. I don’t always agree with the magazine, but I certainly wouldn’t want to be without it.” The most common complaint was that we cannot be a genuine newsmagazine until we achieve weekly publication.

True enough, and ever since Lloyd Hodgkinson became publisher of this magazine, back in 1971, and I became edi-

Financial considerations

tor, it has been our intention eventually to move into a 52-issue publishing schedule. In 1977, we will be accelerating our frequency from the present 23 to 26 issues and within a year from now we will either be making the giant leap into weekly production or at the very least have committed ourselves to a definite starting date. The final decision will depend on the kind of realistic economics that have kept Maclean’s afloat this long. Whatever happens, as long as I am editor this magazine will constantly be changing, reaching out to grab more attention from you, our readers.