Masthead News Archives
February 2004
February 26, 2004
Kerrwil Publications founder dies
MISSISSAUGA, Ont.—Jack Kerr entered publishing in 1964 at the age of 47 as the former president of a cable and wire company. He launched Electrical Business right under the noses of rival titles produced by Maclean Hunter and Southam. By the 1980s his company led the category and had spawned several other titles which were acquired by CLB Media in 2001 for an estimated $5 million. "He passed away last Saturday morning, quite comfortably at home," said his son John, who carries on the family's publishing business (including Canadian Yachting, Boating Industry Canada). "He had been up and had breakfast and decided he was going to go back to bed and didn't quite make it." Kerr was 87 and was still going into the office as of last December. His grandson John recently inquired if he still had pneumonia. "I've got oldmonia," Kerr is said to have replied. He died of congestive heart failure. A memorial service will be held in May at St. George's On-The-Hill in Toronto. Kerr was also a World War II veteran, serving as a flight navigator aboard a canvas-fuselage Wellington bomber. He flew 25 missions (138.59 air-time hours) over northern Europe, and was never shot down.

February 24, 2004
Poets back in NMAs, enRoute boycotts
TORONTO—The estrangement is over. After a brief separation, the National Magazine Awards Foundation announced today that it will re-embrace Canadian poets. A board vote eliminated the category last November to make room for three new service categories meant to accommodate large women's service magazines. The vote sparked an indignant outcry among literary publishers and their contributors followed by a vigorous letter-writing campaign to the NMAF and its funding partners (including the federal Department of Canadian Heritage). The foundation was urged to re-examine its decision. In a released statement, the NMAF said that it was impressed by the "outpouring of support for recognition of poetry as a significant cultural component of Canada's magazines, in particular of its literary publications." Literary magazine Taddle Creek led the charge by announcing that it would boycott the awards altogether. Editor/publisher Conan Tobias says the NMAF's mandate is to "support culture and those magazines that aren't always given the attention they deserve. If they're given government funding and aren't meeting their mandate then I have a problem with that," he says, adding that there are more than 30 magazines that publish poetry. Meanwhile, enRoute, the in-flight title published by Spafax Canada for Air Canada, informed contributors last month that due to philosophical differences with the NMAF as to what constitutes a magazine, enRoute will be boycotting the awards indefinitely. The NMAF does not currently fully recognize titles published under contract for companies whose principal activity is something other than magazine publishing. "[W]e find this unacceptable," says enRoute editor Arjun Basu.

February 19, 2004
Shearer to launch his own lifestyle magazine
CREEMORE, Ont.—For the first time in his life, Jeffrey Shearer is going to own a majority stake in a magazine. As a former president of Telemedia Publishing (1986-1990), publisher of Saturday Night (1991-1996) and vice-president of marketing at The Toronto Star (1996-2000), Shearer had no problem rustling up a group of silent investors. "We are well capitalized," he says, declining to reveal his start-up budget, but admitting that it is "well north" of $70,000. The magazine, which will appear three times this year beginning in June, and bimonthly in 2005, will be called On the Bay, a celebration of life for those living in the southern Georgian Bay area, including the towns of Wasaga Beach, Meaford, Creemore (Shearer's home base), Collingwood and Thornbury. "The area is literally booming [with development]," says Shearer. "I haven't been as excited in many years," he says of his publishing initiative. A prototype of the 20,000 controlled-circ title will be presented to the advertising community on March 25 at the Blue Mountain ski resort in Collingwood.

February 17, 2004
Walrus editor steps down
TORONTO—David Berlin stepped down as editor-in-chief of The Walrus last week after just three issues of the magazine he was instrumental in founding. Citing health reasons, Berlin says his association will continue as a contributing editor. Former deputy editor Paul Wilson becomes the new editor-in-chief, effective Feb. 23. Prior to The Walrus, Wilson was Review editor at the National Post and a senior editor at Saturday Night from 1998 to 2001. "The Walrus is, and will remain, a monument to David Berlin's vision," Wilson said in a statement. "In the many years of our friendship and collaboration on writing projects, we have shared a love of magazines and appreciation for their importance in public discourse. David has an abundance of both chutzpah and entrepreneurial smarts, qualities you need to give birth to a magazine as ambitious as The Walrus. Our start-up phase has been phenomenally successful and the entire staff is determined to ensure that this success will continue."

February 12, 2004
Magazine tax credit not likely this year in Ontario
TORONTO—Ontario's new Minister of Culture, Madeleine Meilleur, dumped cold water on industry hopes for a long-sought tax credit earlier this week. Asked if the magazine industry tax credit will be part of Ontario's new budget due this spring, Meilleur told "I don't believe that's going to be this year." Tax credit programs, administered by the Ontario Media Development Corporation, a government agency, are in place for all cultural industries except magazines. Meilleur, who attended the OMDC's recent annual conference, said all cultural tax credit programs are under review as the new Liberal government struggles to slay the $5.6 billion provincial deficit. However, she told the conference that "rumours our government was about to pull the tax credit on film and television making in Ontario were not true." OMDC head Michel Frappier said he hasn't heard about his agency's own budget. "We're just keeping our fingers crossed until [the budget comes out]." The CMPA met with Meilleur on Feb. 4 and continues to work with government officials to protect and enhance magazine industry programs in Ontario.

February 10, 2004
Ad revenue up 4.1% in 2003
TORONTO—An index of some of the largest consumer magazines in Canada posted a 4.1% gain in run-of-press ad pages last year compared to 2002, according to year-end data from Leading National Advertisers Canada. LNA tracks ad spending at about 80 member magazines which sold 40,353 ROP ad pages for $600.5 million last year compared to 38,780 pages for $568.5 million in 2002. Those LNA dollar figures represent full ratecard value; the real dollar amounts are likely 30% lower given frequency discounts and other incentive programs. See the March issue of Masthead for more ad revenue data. Canada's largest magazine in 2003, by ROP page count, was the alternative weekly Now at 2,211 pages. Next was Canadian Living at 1,223 pages.

February 5, 2004
Advertiser quits magazine over SARS cover story
TORONTO—Toronto Life's current cover story entitled "The next SARS" has been booed by the city's largest theatre production company, but editor John Macfarlane stands behind the piece as being in the public interest. Mirvish Productions, which stages several performances at various city venues throughout the year, says it will no longer advertise in the monthly title. John Karastamatis, Mirvish's director of communications, says Mirvish buys between 24 to 48 pages per year in the magazine, representing a current rate card value of between $277,000 and $554,000.
The article "stank of opportunism and sensationalism," he says. "If you want to speculate, go ahead," he added. "No one's stopping you. We just don't have to support it." The story recounted the epidemic called severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) that besieged Toronto last year, infecting 251 people and killing 44, and considered the grim but real possibility that it was merely a "dress rehearsal" for a much nastier pathological onslaught. That stance, says Karastamatis, is a poke in the eye to Toronto's beleaguered hospitality and tourism businesses, which are still recovering. Macfarlane has fielded strident calls and letters critical of the story but the sharp tones diminished, he says, following recent newspaper reports on a strain of avian flu spreading in Asia. "We see it as part of our job to tell people what they need to hear in addition to what they want to hear," he says. "If we see a freight train heading down the track, and we yell at someone [to get out of the way], is that sensationalizing or fear mongering, or just being a responsible citizen?"

February 3, 2004
Petraitis free on $3.15 million bail
PETERBOROUGH, Ont.—Alex Petraitis, who stepped down as chairman of magazine wholesaler Metro News last month following his arrest for conspiring to murder his wife, was released from jail last Friday on $3.15 million bail. During a jailhouse interview given to The Peterborough Examiner prior to his release, Petraitis said he was "mystified" and "shell-shocked" by the alleged murder plot and the charges against him (conspiracy to commit first-degree murder). Petraitis, his son Ian and James Neill each guaranteed $1 million toward the bail amount. William Thomas Neill pledged $50,000 and Prologix Distribution Services president Mitch Massicotte pledged $100,000. Prologix is co-owned by Metro News and The News Group. Peterborough County Ontario Provincial Police Const. Robert Lafreniere says Petraitis, 61, was arrested "without incident" on Jan. 16 while driving with his wife to a cottage in the Peterborough area, adding that a publication ban had been imposed on the judicial proceedings.

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Jaded says:
Wow, Torstar really seems to be on a mission to bankrupt one magazine after another....
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