Growing Independent Media

This is not at all related to gardening but as this site is about to hit its seventh anniversary early next month (I no longer have a record of the exact day but Feb 2000 was the launch), today’s cover story in local Toronto weekly Eye Magazine really hit a nerve, touching me in all the right and wrong places.

The story, “Fight Club: For Independent Magazine Publishers, Love is a Battlefield” written by Dale Duncan one of the founding editors of the brilliant local indie publication Spacing Magazine, addresses the difficulties and challenges of running an independent magazine and brings attention to public misconceptions both in terms of how profitable such an endevor is and how much work and sacrifice is involved.

“…there is a gap between how much we’re loved and the financial support we receive in return for what we do. When publishing your own magazine takes up almost all your free time, the awards you receive, the readers you inspire and the influence you wield will only keep you going for so long. The issue here is sustainability – if you don’t eventually receive a paycheque for your work, burnout sets in, and when that happens, magazines that fill those gaping holes left by mainstream media run the risk of extinction.”

I’ve been struggling with these issues for nearly the entire seven years I’ve been publishing this site. I have tried over the years to find ways to either make this a profitable, paying endeavor for both myself and contributors or keep it casual, reduce the workload and even minimize my own internal expectations. This has been easier said than done and it’s been quite a ride navigating both roads all in a race to avoid that inevitable burnout monster. The last year alone has been nothing short of insane with an increasing weight looming over the last six months. Part of it simply comes down to the fact that seven years is a long time and I’m getting older. Both the site and myself have reached a critical point that follows that old, rather crass adage, Shit or get off the pot. This project has the potential to be more than I can possibly continue to grow on my own but how to get there without selling out has been trying and filled with big starts and even bigger stops.

I don’t want to turn this into a festival of self-pity since this is also an experience I would choose again despite the pitfalls. But I want to thank Dale for writing this piece for both giving me a sense of connectedness at a time when I feel alone and unsure, and for bringing wide attention to the importance and need to seek out and provide support to indie media in this country. It’s in independent media that I most see my own life and values reflected and where I find challenging information, connectivity, and spirit.

“We need to challenge this idea of [publishing being a] labour of love because we really need independent media,” she argues. “There’s a difference between saying I want to run a magazine that pays its staff and I want to be Ted Rogers. It’s hard to say to people ‘I want to get paid for my work.’ But living costs money.”

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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