All in the Family: Faith, Hope and Old-Time Religion
Family Canada Publications Inc., a Winnipeg-based company, determined to close what it calls a “huge gap” in the Canadian magazine market, plans to launch Family Canada, a monthly “profamily” general-interest magazine, this September. FPC is owned by the Family Institute of Canada, a two-year-old nonprofit organization dedicated to “reinforcing JudeoChristian ethics and the strengthening of the family through research and publishing.”
Modelled after Reader’s Digest in appearance, the 48-page, nonprofit publication will have a pro-life bias, but will not be “preachy,” according to Charles Norman, an FCP director and spokesman for the magazine. Instead, he says, Family Canada will be a “magazine with a conscience” that promotes Christian values. But Norman, a 50-year-old former mechanical technologist and devout Roman Catholic, says Family Canada will not try to”sell any religion.”
The publication’s 14-member advisory board contains representatives from most of Winnipeg’s mainstream religious groups, including the Roman Catholic, Ukrainian Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Lutheran, Mennonite, Anglican, Baptist and United churches, and Orthodox and Conservative Jewish congregations. However, the board has yet to play an active role in the magazine’s development, having met only three times in the last year.
FCP will publish 20,000 copies of a promotional issue in June that will be distributed free to churches and religious organizations across the country. By the time the first regular issue appears in September, the magazine hopes to have “about 20,000 subscribers,” according to Norman. (As of late February, there were 75 subscribers.) A one-year subscription costs $12; the single-copy price is $1.50. To finance the June and September issues the company has a budget of $350,000, raised by ad sales and through private donations. Family Canada was initially conceived as a controlled-circulation magazine, but FCP was forced to abandon this idea because of the costs.
Norman refuses to identify the magazine’s committed or targeted advertisers, saying only that the publication won’t accept cigarette or alcohol ads. “These ads are not appropriate for a family magazine,” says Norman. So far ad sales have been slow. “Without the magazine in hand it’s difficult to sell ads,” he admits.
Although the magazine is seeking writers, no one at FCP will discuss the magazine’s editorial content in anything but vague terms. One advisory board member, Salvation Army Major John Nelson, says the monthly will not put forth “an expression that is naive, but one that is honest, factual and correct. We’re not always quite happy with what we see in some other magazines as to what they would like us to believe life is really all about.” Says Norman: “The family is in trouble and traditional values are not getting much press time. We plan to help change that direction.”
How? Norman insists on concealing the identity of the magazine’s editorial staff, whom he says have not given him permission to release their names; nor will he comment on the criteria they’ll use to decide what’s appropriate editorial content for the publication because that aspect is “still under discussion.” But he does say Family Canada will emphasize the way in which basic human values can help people cope with day-to-day issues confronting the Canadian nuclear family. He adds that the editorial approach will be nonjudgmental, refraining from promoting any side of a controversial argument and ensuring instead that articles are based on “factual evidence.” Monthly features will include a section entitled “Faith,” which will be geared to readers who don’t have any religious background; a first-hand account of a family crisis, in which the writer explains how he or she dealt with the problem; and a true story illustrating virtues such as courage. Family Canada will also carry regular sections on food and nutrition, and family budgeting.
It seems at least curious that a magazine touted by its optimistic publisher as a unique publication that will fill a void in the market would be kept under such tight wraps so close to its debut. Without the magazine in hand, it’s not only difficult to sell ads-it’s impossible to describe the publication itself. And how does Family Canada propose to deal in a nonconfrontational way with such issues as abortion, birth control, marriage, divorce, health-all of which have a bearing on contemporary Canadian famil y life? FCP won’t say. But it still has a few months before it has to show its readers what Family Canada is all about.
This is a joint byline for the Ryerson Review of Journalism. All content is produced by students in their final year of the graduate or undergraduate program at the Ryerson School of Journalism.