By Chantal Braganza, Associate Editor
The Ryerson Review of Journalism will launch a fundraising campaign over the next 18 months to help finance the magazine’s yearly print edition. In the meantime, the Ryerson School of Journalism will discuss what the future of that print edition might look like.
“It’s been a decade or so since we last looked at the RRJ and its mandates between digital and print,” said Ivor Shapiro, chair of the Ryerson School of Journalism. “The plan is to brainstorm to look at various options: print and digital, print-on-demand and digital, digital-only or otherwise. The only plan really is to discuss them.”
These discussions are due, in part, to the $10,000 to $13,000 in production and print costs associated with each issue of magazine, “but that’s no more the case for the RRJ itself than any other function a j-school has to do,” Shapiro said. “It’s not necessarily that it costs too much, but it costs a great deal to print and distribute it. We’re looking at how that money’s spent, and where it’s going to come from.”
The RRJ, a capstone project for a group of select Ryerson journalism undergraduate and graduate students, has faced funding issues for years.
“Its first year of operation there was some funding from Reader’s Digest, and then annually from Maclean-Hunter, which went away in the mid-nineties,” said Lynn Cunningham, a professor emeritus of the school who for years supervised production of the magazine. “In the past 20 years, no one’s been able to get it together to resolve that.”
“I also don’t think there’s been any real commitment for some time to circulation—which used to bring in not huge amounts of dollars, but a significant chunk,” said Cunningham. “That admittedly really tedious task was removed from part of the responsibilities of the magazine.”
In 2004, funding from the school’s Faculty of Communication and Design was cut by the then-dean Ira Levine. For four years afterwards, yearly fundraising efforts, including telemarketing by students, raised between $7,000 to $20,000. Other income streams, such as subscription and newsstand sales, have been minimal, said Shapiro, and revenue from print ad sales has sharply declined over the past eight years. In 2013, the School of Journalism cut the magazine's publication frequency from twice yearly to once.
Ryerson professor and graduate program director Bill Reynolds will head up the fundraising campaign that will, in part, determine what the RRJ’s future will look like in two years. “The print version is guaranteed for Spring 2016, but it’s not guaranteed for Spring 2017,” said Reynolds. “So I’m forming a committee over the next few months that will seek to investigate ways of fundraising in the 21st century…and I hope to enlist RRJ alumni.” The goal would include raising the magazine’s printing costs—and figuring out a way to do so on an annual basis.
Reynolds said the effort is largely to avoid a scenario beyond 2017 where the publication goes online-only, or print-on-demand, which would cut the RRJ’s circulation and newsstand functions out of its production.
“If it’s printed by the students who want it, you take all of those business decisions out of the equation,” he said. “It’s a magazine that gets shipped from the printer to Magazines Canada, then to a retailer that ships it to newsstands across the country. From an educational perspective, students have to realize that display type and cover lines and placements play a role in this.”
“I know print is shrinking in all different areas,” said Liam Casey, a reporter and editor with the Canadian Press and RRJ alumnus from 2011. “But you would lose, I think, working on key things like front-of-book, or back-of-book, which don’t seem to translate well to the online world.”
“It’s the only physical magazine I pick up. Everything else I read online. I still feel a strong loyalty to the magazine—I feel really proud of my time there.”
Note: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Ivor Shapiro's name.