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The Revival of content

By Dick MacDonald

Fourteen years after it was created, content, the magazine for Canadian journalists, appears to have a new lease on life.

Rescued earlier this year by an ad hoc group of writers and editors — appropriately calling themselves Friends of content — the bi-monthly has been restored to a regular publishing schedule, already is showing increased advertiser interest and most importantly reports a "gratifyingly positive" response from readers.

Friends of content, recently incorporated, has negotiated a transfer of ownership from Toronto's Humber College, which ended its subsidy funding. Humber assumed responsibility in 1982 after Barrie Zwicker, publisher of Sources, was forced by financial realities to suspend publication. Zwicker had published content from the beginning of 1975, having bought it from Dick MacDonald in Montreal.

MacDonald, content's founding editor in 1970, is again editor. He teaches full-time in the journalism program at Humber College. He has worked for the Moncton Times, Vancouver Sun, Montreal Star, Canadian Daily Newspaper Publishers Association and the Royal Commission on Newspapers.

In the first issue produced by the Friends of content (May-June, 1984), MacDonald said: "The challenges facing journalism are no less formidable today than in 1970. To be sure, it is not hard to argue that the need for this sort of critical review of journalism may be greater now than then."

General chairman of the Friends of content is long-time daily and now freelance journalist John Marshall. The group includes some of the country's best-known print and broadcast bylines.

Says Marshall: "We are committed to producing a magazine that is invigorating, probing, and provocative. We will be diligent in surveying the state of Canadian journalism — where it falters, of course, but also where it sometimes is exemplary."

Both MacDonald and Marshall hold to the magazine's original mission. "Simply put," says MacDonald, "it is to help enhance professional standards in this country. And we will try to achieve the goal, elusive as it may seem, by solid reporting on and assessment of the craft itself, as well as by discussion of conditions in the broader society which affect journalism."

Humber College has continued to provide lodging and access to production services, but a move to independent premises is imminent. The magazine acquired the services of an experienced commission advertising salesperson. And a major subscription campaign was launched this fall.

Through the generosity of a non-journalist "who cares about the quality of news he receives," in MacDonald's words, financial assistance provided breathing space for reorganization and restructuring, as well as a graphic makeover and a broadening and strengthening of content's editorial content.

Costs have been kept manageable through the contribution of talent and time by both the active Friends and newsroom and journalism school supporters across the country. As the economic base improves, MacDonald expects to start paying at least nominal fees for stories and artwork.

A regular subscription, for six issues, is $15. There also is a sustaining contributor category of $65; the difference is a donation to help ensure content's continued operation. (See subscription advertisement elsewhere in Sources.)


Published in Sources, Winter 1984

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