May 31, 2005
For lit mags, Toronto rules . . .
by Dennis Johnson
Of the nearly 1,600 literary magazines and journals that the editors of the Utne magazine receive, Toronto “has always stood out as a return address of distinction,” say the editors. To investigate, they dispatched Leif Utne to profile Toronto’s position as “the hottest indie magazine scene in North America.” (A link to the full article is available to subscribers only, but the Vive le Canada site has made extracts available.) “Toronto,” Utne soon finds, “is Canada’s New York.” Noting that “the city has finally stopped comparing itself to other places and fallen in love with itself,” Utne describes a world where thoroughly independent magazines thrive. He profiles a handful of his favorites, including The Walrus, “Canada’s answer to Harper’s,” which features “long-form investigative reporting.” The Walrus already has a circulation of 50,000 — “huge by Canadian standards” — and hopes to start publishing in the U.S. Kiss Machine, meanwhile, describes itself as “A Conga Line of Arts & Culture,” and which Utne describes as “a playful romp through the surrealism inherent in daily life.” Others included on the shortlist include C Magazine, This Magazine, and Outpost. Utne says one reason so many independent magazines survive in Canada is that they are well supported. The Canada Magazine Fund gives $10 million Canadian dollars a year to 170 magazines, while the Canada Arts Council gives $1.6 million to 107 different magazines. Utne also finds that “The Canadian Magazine Publishers Association has an aggressive government-backed campaign to promote ‘genuine Canadian magazines.'” Utne’s profile, however, concludes by warning that the thriving Toronto magazine culture may be in danger of losing much of its support as international trade bodies take aim at the practice of “cultural protectionism.” Utne writes, “Canadian magazines are heavily dependent on government support, and trade negotiators in Washington, at the behest of giant media and entertainment conglomerates, have targeted cultural protectionism (local content requirements, government media subsidies) as a new area for deregulation in upcoming negotiations at the World Trade Organization and the Free Trade Area of the Americas.”
Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives