It was a heady, if odd, triumph for a fledgling magazine. The congratulations were delivered before the birth of the publication. Officially, the first edition of Canada’s newest “alternative” (antiestablishment) magazine, Goodwin's, is tentatively scheduled to appear on newsstands across the country on April 15. But, as protests against plans to test the U.S. cruise missile over
Alberta heated up earlier this month, the magazine’s editors decided to release advance copies of the first edition’s investigation into the trials of chemical and biological weapons in Canada throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
Journalist Peter von Stackelberg sifted through 5,000 pages of previously classified U.S. military reports, which he obtained through the U.S. Freedom
of Information Act, and he concluded that Canada, the United States and Britain have been simulating tests of lethal chemicals by releasing other toxic chemicals over the Prairies and Newfoundland. The article prompted a sharp controversy. In the Commons, Defence Minister Gilles Lamontagne told Saskatchewan New Democrat Simon de Jong earlier this month that the tests are carried out only “on a defensive or protective basis.” De Jong countered by citing documents indicating that Canada urged its allies to produce “new-type lethal weapons.” Said de Jong later: “This magazine will fill a tremendous gap. That whole story has not been told before—and this fits in the pieces in the puzzle.”
Goodwin ’s—named after pioneer B.C. labor organizer Albert (Ginger) Goodwin — is the flagship of a national nonprofit foundation cobbled together last year by nine Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto journalists and activists. Their aim is “to explore social and economic alternatives” by chronicling the concerns of movements ranging from women’s groups to peace protesters. The preview edition includes an examination of police infiltration of the Ku Klux Klan in Canada, a profile of Toronto documentary film-maker Laura Sky and a look at the current problems of Canadian union leaders. The magazine is glossy, professional and nonstrident. “You don’t have to be a leftie to pick up Goodwin's and enjoy it,” says its editor, freelance writer Ron Verzuh, 35. “We have tried to put ‘journalism’ back into alternative journalism. This magazine borrows the social vision of the 1960s but tempers it with the realities of the 1980s.”
Meanwhile, Goodwin's main problem is a lack of cash—and the foundation members are determined not to run up bills they cannot ultimately pay. No advertiser paid to appear in the first issue, but Goodwin's hopes to attract social agencies, unions, lobbyists and “enlightened corporations.” So far, there are 1,100 subscribers at $10 each for the four editions of the first year, along with the preview copy. The magazine’s editors expect they can keep their deficit from exceeding $40,000 and eventually break even through fund-raising and subscription drives. CBC media analyst Barrie Zwicker says that Goodwin 's has a chance at succeeding because the management is businesslike and there is a growing need for “stories that do not have profit-system or businesscommunity values at the top.” Still, Zwicker warns that Goodwin's must compete with a host of individual magazines catering to individual movements, so the challenge is to become as successful as an establishment magazine without betraying the notion of an alternative society.
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