New Captain At Saturday Night
by Chris Blank
aturday Night magazine has a new editor and his name is Paul Tough.
Tough is 31 years old and has loads of experience working for U.S. magazines such as Harper's (for eight years). National Post writer Dan Brown aptly points out that "Saturday Night has to be the equivalent of Harper's, Atlantic Monthly, Vanity Fair, and People all bundled up into one," which is indeed a tough job.
"The project is to create a great magazine that is about Canada. And that's sort of the question that's been motivating us for the past few months," Tough said. "There is no magazine like Saturday Night in the American marketplace," he added.
Saturday Night was founded in 1887 as an week-end read for businessmen in an era when Sunday papers were illegal. Originally it cost a nickel and ran 12 pages.
The magazine has seen a lot of changes over the years, but maintains its focus of trying to provide stories of general interest to Canadians. This is to be questioned, however.
In one particularly dumb-assed comment, Dan Brown writes, "After decades of redesigns and editors, [Saturday Night]'s the only general-interest magazine published today by Canadians for all their countrymen. (Like the National Post, Saturday Night is owned by Southam Inc.)"
There are some things to be questioned in his comments.
Firstly: OK, sure, it is a general-interest magazine from what I've seen; but does it cover articles dealing with First Nation's issues, women's issues, gay right's issues, or other groups on a regular basis?
Secondly: He then plugs the National Post as being something "by Canadians for all their countrymen." Doesn't the Globe & Mail also strive towards this? He makes this comment like Southam is some wonder publisher that really understands Canadians. Maybe he should stop inhaling Southam's printer cleaning solvents.
As for Paul Tough's policies, there are also a few questions that beg to be asked that the Southam reporter wouldn't.
In a recent CBC Radio interview Tough came off quite well as a young, energetic individual who really wants to take Saturday Night somewhere. This requires changes.
One of the changes is that Tough will not blink an eye at having his U.S. writer-buddies commenting on Canada. For instance, the main article on West Edmonton Mall in his first issue as editor is written by an American, Jack Hitt. I realize that an outside perspective could be healthy on certain issues, yet I am concerned that Tough, representing a Canadian magazine, will not encourage Canadian writers. It should be an important mandate of any magazine, anywhere, to exploit and foster local talent.
The Editorial Information page on the website states, "Because Saturday Night's subject is Canada and Canadian affairs, all non-fiction proposals must relate to ideas, events, and personalities in Canada." I have to at least commend their policy, but once again refer to above comments on the actual writers.
Saturday Night appears to be a highly successful Canadian magazine, with a circulation of 405,400 copies. However, it is also distributed freely through papers in the Southam chain. I would be curious to learn what its actual "subscribership" is. It is difficult not to come to the conclusion that Saturday Night is just another Conrad Black-mobile that is being given away by the truckload in order to espouse his political slant.
Even after all my complaining here I still hope hope Tough can help create a magazine which truly does represent Canada. Good luck.
Chris Blank is a Vancouver, B.C. based minimum-wage slave.