Wednesday, June 04, 2008

History of Magazines

I do a fair amount of magazine journalism, mostly about topics related to Canadian history (and, blush, a piece of mine is currently in the running for two magazine awards -- bless you, Beaver magazine). I've long wished there was more journalism about Canadian history.

But at the same time I don't much encourage young history grads to look in that direction as a career choice, and I think of my own periodical writing mostly as a sideline to my principal work. Unless one is extremely dedicated and focussed in the field, it's almost impossible to be adequately rewarded for one's time in most kinds of periodical writing today. Rates have not changed in fifty years, and publishers have become much more demanding in the rights they expect for a flat fee.

Magazine journalism has become a hostile environment for freelance journalists. As a result, many professional writers have simply migrated away -- to corporate writing and other ancillary fields that may be less satisfying but permit them to aspire to a reasonable living. The Periodical Writers' Association of Canada recently changed its name to the Professional Writers' Association; nowadays too many of its members simply look much farther afield than the periodicals.

The always interesting Canadian Magazines blog currently has a post about new proposals to transform the economics of magazine publishing. For it ain't just freelance writing that is in crisis; it's the whole industry. Could be a historic transition; could even start to make magazine journalism a paying proposition again.
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