On editing a community magazine
by Agata De Santis
as long as I could remember, I wanted to be a writer. I was always a talker,
always asked questions, and always acted the storyteller. It’s what I loved to
When I was in high school I got my first real taste
of journalism. My computer teacher wanted to start up a weekly high school
newspaper. My good friends and I enthusiastically agreed to help. And so at the
age of 15 I became the co-editor of V.M. Times. It was an arduous task that I took to heart. Every week,
I made sure my writers got their stories in on time. I spent numerous late
afternoons in the computer lab working on the layout. And the evening before
publication was spent in front of the photocopier (our very own makeshift
Despite our careful planning though, something would
always go array. Two hours before going to print, you might find us in front of
the computer creating a last-minute piece titled “why I refuse to eat
cafeteria food” because an article had fallen through. Or, at copy number 288
(of 400), the photocopier might overheat or simply refuse to co-operate. Never a
The hours were always long and criticism sometimes
harsh. But despite the spelling mistakes pointed out to us by non-supportive
teachers (once the newspaper had already been distributed to every homeroom
class), despite receiving the blame for the broken photocopier, it was worth it.
Nothing beat watching students enthusiastically searching through V.M.
Times for their horoscope (we had it all!) or for the latest stats on their
basketball team. My fellow students showed their appreciation for the newspaper,
and that’s what made it all worthwhile.
Once I graduated from high school and passed on the
editorial duties to another eager student, I felt somewhat at a loss. Not so
much at the fact that I would no longer be an “editor”, but that I would no
longer be using my creative juices to create and produce a publication.
As I continued on in my academic career, I dabbled in
other non-writing interests. I got my feet wet in radio, in television
production, in soccer. But I seemed to shy away from the school presses. It was
as if subconsciously I knew that there was nothing there for me to create. The
school newspapers were already established; they didn’t need me. On occasion I
would write for papers like The McGill Daily, but it wasn’t the same.
Once out of school, I began working as a freelance
writer for various publications. It was exciting – mostly because for the
first time I was actually getting paid to write. But again, the creative process
ended when I emailed my story to my editor. The final look and content of the
newspaper or magazine was as much a mystery to me as any other reader.
Earlier this year I was approached by the Quebec
Chapter of the National Congress of Italian Canadians to edit a publication for
the Italian Montreal community. I was very familiar with the Congress – and
they with me – since I had actually covered some of their activities and
interviewed some of their members in my freelance work. The Congress’s
community publication, appropriately titled La Comunità, had been created in 1977. It was an informational
newsletter that covered activities in the community. Published irregularly –
sometimes four times a year, sometimes six – the newsletter served as a
promotional tool for the various Italian-Montreal associations. Their last issue
had been published in 1996.
So when the present executive board decided to
re-launch La Comunità, I jumped at
the opportunity to run it. You see, I had a vision. First off, I suggested to
the board, we should stop calling La
Comunità a newsletter. It’s going to look and feel like a magazine and
that’s what we’re going to call it. I envisioned regular features, photo
essays, short stories, and cover stories. The works. The layout would be hip and
the advertisers would be knocking on our door. And we were going to have a logo
– a mission, if you will – that highlighted our magazine’s purpose. “By,
for and about Italian Montrealers”. It can’t get clearer than that.
That was nine months ago. Since then we’ve
published two issues, and we’re working on our third. Advertisers are a little
harder to come by than I had anticipated, but they are slowly coming. Some
features are still being ironed out and I’m not completely satisfied with the
layout. But it is coming along. This baby is still a work in progress.
Starting next year, we’ll be publishing La
Comunità every three months, in March, June, September, and December.
We’ll be introducing color pages, more regular features, a student essay
competition, magazine-sponsored activities and much more. We’ll be adding
pages and widening our distribution.
And so once again I’m excited. Excited about
creating something new. Excited about seeking out writers and story ideas and
readers (oh, and advertisers). It’s been hard, it will probably get even
harder. But no other feeling can compare to flipping through a magazine and
knowing that you’re responsible for its existence. I love this job.
Agata De Santis can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
The December 2000 issue of La Comunità featured stories including: Faces and voices we’ve come to love – Italian Montreal media personalities (cover story); Carmen Colombo on wowzone.com; Italian culinary traditions; and more.
Unfortunately, La Comunità Magazine was shelved in Spring 2002 for financial reasons.
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