Print media’s future unclear but hopeful say panelists

In a panel discussion held at SAIT for first-year journalism students on Nov. 13, editors from successful magazines and newspapers throughout Alberta discussed the somewhat ominous but exciting future of print media.

At a unique time in print media history, when the future of newspapers and magazines is being questioned, a handful of editors believe that the legacy of print will go on.

“Nobody knows what’s going to happen,” Kathe Lemon, the editor of Avenue Magazine, explained to students.

“Your advantage right now is that you are at a unique time when everybody knows that nobody knows.”

According to Lemon, the way people retrieve information has changed, but the radical difference is the way that people are using their access to online content.

“They only need to take a piece of the information they want.” She explained. “They don’t have to buy the whole magazine, they don’t have to buy the whole newspaper, and they just want that particular piece. It’s like only buying the cover story.”

Evan Osenton, Editor of the political magazine Alberta Views, senses that there will always be a need for good information about the place you live because we’re so distracted by national and international news.

“We can read the New York Times online.” he explained.  “You couldn’t do that 20 years ago.”

According to a Fact Book of statistics released by Magazines Canada, in 2012, the vast majority (71 per cent) of Canadian readers still prefer print over digital magazine media, and approximately 59 per cent of Canadians read a magazine last week.

Osenton agrees with the data.

“Our subscription rate is up, and we keep hearing about how people are leaving magazines and its doom and gloom and the whole industry is shutting down, but our rate has gone up and up and up.” He explains.

Alberta Views’ 2012 July issue was the second best-selling magazine edition in the publications’ history.

“Maybe don’t believe so much of what you’re hearing about doom and gloom.”

Great West Newspapers, the company that owns various newspapers in Alberta, recently purchased a $12.5 million printing press, showing faith in printed media.

“We wouldn’t have done that if we felt that newspapers were about to go the way of the dodo bird.” said John Barlow, Editor of the Western Wheel in Okotoks.

Barlow, whose motto for the Wheel is to keep stories “hyper-local,” thinks that dailies are struggling because they were moving away from covering local stories.

“If I wake up in the morning, I can get my world news online no problem.” Barlow said. “What I want to see in my daily paper is what’s going on next door, what’s going on with my friends and family, and how does that affect me.”

Bruce Masterman, a journalism instructor at SAIT who also works freelance for magazines Outdoor Canada, Reader’s Digest and Explore, said that stories will always have to be told.

“There will never ever be a machine that a bunch of acts are put into and it spits out a good readable, compelling, interesting, factual story,” said Masterman.

“There will always be stories.”

Bruce Masterman, journalism instructor at SAIT, speaks during a panel session he organized consisting of members of the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association for first-year journalism students on campus in Calgary on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013. The panel consisted of Kathe Lemon, Editor of Avenue Magazine; Carolynn Semeniuk, Editor of LINK Magazine; John Barlow, Editor of Okotoks Western Wheel; and Evan Osenton, Editor of Alberta Views. (Photo by Cara Howlett/The Press)
At the Podium: Bruce Masterman, journalism instructor at SAIT, leads a panel discussion on the future of print media. (Photo by Cara Howlett/The Press)
About Cara Howlett 7 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Cara Howlett worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2013-2014 academic year.