Despite delays, a best practices guide for the Canadian magazine industry is on its way

There are some things that are right about the magazine industry in Canada and some things that need changing.

With that in mind, and with what appears to be a goal to establish shared standards, three groups—the Professional Writers Association of Canada, Magazines Canada, and the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors—have been working together on a best practices guide for the Canadian magazine industry.

The guide is confidential, but we were told that it lays out the responsibilities that magazine writers, editors, and publishers in should strive to fulfill. While the document is not binding, it’s hoped that once major organizations in the industry give it their stamps of approval, the best practices guide will establish basic standards and could give writers, editors, and publishers steady ground to stand on when settling disputes.

The guide has been in the works for at least four years and the final draft, written by D.B. Scott, was distributed to stakeholders last February for final consideration, but the guide remains unpublished. Stakeholders were told early last year that the guide would be unveiled at MagNet 2011. Both the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Cultural Human Resources Council have provided financial support for the project.

We asked PWAC executive director Sandy Crawley and Magazines Canada CEO Mark Jamison why the guide isn’t out and when Canadian writers, editors, and publishers might expect to see it.

“A draft is in motion and moving along in the discussion process,” Jamison replied. Noting that he has been involved since the guide was first discussed, he attributed the length of the process to the complications of working with numerous stakeholders. “I have learned in managing association activity that conversations among interested groups of volunteers unfold as time permits. And of course this country is bigger than Toronto and we have two languages to consider. So this all seems normal to me. It will move along.”

When asked to elaborate and clarify, in light of the amount of time and money that various parties have put into the guide, Jamison wrote, “We are aware of our commitments but we have nothing to add right now.”

Crawley echoed Jamison’s assertion that the delays have more to do with administrative considerations than the content of the guide. (We’ve heard that the draft guide contained some contentious clauses, particularly for certain publishers.) “The delay has been due to process at Magazines Canada not content as I understand it,” he told us via email.

The good news from Crawley, though, was that there is now a plan in place to share the guide soon. He said that a panel will discuss the guide at this year’s MagNet conference in June. While Magazines Canada would not confirm the names of panel members, Crawley said that D.B. Scott will lead the panel, which will include a writer (David Hayes), editor (Jess Ross), and publisher (Neil Hiscox). “We also hope to have the guide published by then,” Crawley wrote.

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