Publisher’s Notebook: My “Pick Me Up” Email

Sometimes I am not completely sure where I am going. I know I am not alone. Many have passion, and many of us try to feed it; but sometimes, when we’ve started a journey toward a long-held dream, we tend to second guess ourselves.

I started agelessNB in earnest during the summer of 2011. In December of that year I published the first issue.

In the spring of 2012, we published our second magazine with very few ads. I had a hard time with ad sales that winter. I was concerned I had made a mistake – that my dream wasn’t something others wanted to read or support.

In May of that year I attended the Atlantic Journalism Awards Conference in Fredericton. The guest speaker was the head of one of the largest journalism programs in the country – Ivor Shapiro. After he spoke, I sheepishly introduced myself and handed him a copy of the spring issue. I asked for his honest opinion. He promised he’d read it and send me some feedback. I feared what he would say.

Less than two hours later, he emailed while waiting for his plane to take off from the Halifax airport.

His email lifted my spirits and gave me hope. Since then, that email has been my ‘go-to’ place when magazine pages get a little rumpled.

Here’s an excerpt from the email:

“Hi, Theresa. Congrats on agelessNB.

I believe that the single most important measure of a magazine’s worth and success is the extent to which it shows its heart. The rest – design, editorial mix, freshness – are all important, but not nearly so much as that first principle.

The reader should know WHO the magazine is – should feel it has a soul, not just a brain. So many magazines these days seem to exist merely for pragmatic reasons (making money, above all), manipulating readers and selling them on content by playing on their basest instincts. By contrast, your magazine takes a stance of being a proud and passionate part of its readers’ community, and cares about the people in the stories and the people reading those stories. I imagine readers will respond by returning that warmth. I loved that I could connect with Terry and Susan Hunter via those very home-made slides and their voices by just scanning the QR code.”

Ivor Shapiro is the Chair of the School of Journalism at Ryerson University in Toronto. He’s one of the most respected journalists in our country, and he knows magazines – intimately. He is a former contributing editor of Saturday Night Magazine and former managing editor of Chatelaine magazine. He has written feature articles for those magazines as well as Toronto Life, The Walrus, Maclean’s, Today’s Parent, and The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business Magazine, among others. Ivor has been honoured six times at the National Magazine Awards.

Ryerson School of Journalism Chair, Ivor Shapiro

On bad days, I reach for this email to remind me I’m doing something right. And how do I know I’m doing things right? A man who knows the ins and outs of the magazine industry told me so. I wonder if he knows how much he’s supported my little magazine just by sending a few heartfelt words in an email? I really can’t thank him enough.

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