About the Awards
For nearly 40 years, the National Magazine Awards Foundation (NMAF) has supported quality Canadian magazine content, in both official languages, by recognizing, celebrating and promoting literary excellence through an annual program of awards. As a bilingual institution committed to nationally honouring the quality of written and visual communication, the Foundation strives to promote Canadian literary artists and encourage the development of literature through a national writing competition, a mass media publicity campaign and at the industry’s largest and most celebrated promotional networking event.
Each year, the NMAF receives over 1,000 submissions from nearly 200 different Canadian magazines featuring thousands of literary artists. Approximately 56% of all entries are from Ontario; 18% are from western Canada; 20% are from Quebec; the Atlantic provinces represent 1% and northern Canada 1%. Nearly 15% of all submissions are French-language entries.
In adjudicating the submissions, the NMAF’s 120 volunteer judges award nominations to approximately 225 notable entries, which represent over 80 different magazines and more than 400 Canadian artists.
Surrounding the Awards and throughout the year, the Foundation actively promotes the winning literary artists through a targeted mass media publicity effort and through its website, which hosts an extensive collection of award-winning articles.
A fifteen-member volunteer board of directors drawn from all regions and facets of the Canadian magazine industry governs the NMAF.
In 1976 Andrew MacFarlane, Dean of Journalism at the University of Western Ontario (UWO), was trying to revive the university’s recently defunct President’s Medal for Canadian Magazine Journalism. His original idea was to create a new award divided into English and French counterparts. But MacFarlane eventually developed a proposal for a series of magazine awards, whose salient features were that the program would be bilingual — and therefore truly national — and would recognize individual excellence in the many aspects of the magazine industry — writers, illustrators, editors, photographers and art directors.
MacFarlane together with John S. Crosbie, president of the Magazine Association of Canada, secured the participation of the Canadian Periodical Publishers Association (CPPA), representing 193 Canadian magazines, and CPPA’s former president Michael de Pencier. MacFarlane reached out to his counterpart at Université Laval, Roger de la Garde, Alan Edmunds, head of the Periodical Writers Association of Canada (PWAC), and veteran newsman Pierre Berton, among others. As the collective effort began to take shape across the country, by the spring of 1977 the National Magazine Awards had developed a clear mandate.
On November 14, 1977, National Magazine Awards Foundation received its charter of non-profit foundation status from the Province of Ontario.
The first awards
There were more than 1300 entries to the first National Magazine Awards for the year 1977. 62 judges evaluated the entries and awarded winners in 14 categories. The first National Magazine Awards gala was held on Thursday, May 11, 1978 at the Hotel Toronto.
Pierre Berton emceed the event, where the 660 guests dined and danced to Jack Collins and his five-piece band. Before presenting the awards, Berton proclaimed to the audience, “In a bold departure from tradition, there are to be no thank you speeches. We can do that because we are giving money, not some cheap statuette.” True to his word, if any winner started to talk on stage, Berton reportedly waved a large hook in the speaker’s direction.
Awards were handed down in 14 categories (with separate French- and English-language winners for the President’s Award for General Magazine Articles). 11 different magazines won awards. The NMAF also honoured outstanding achievement by a magazine: L’Actualité (French) and Harrowsmith (English) took the awards.
Magazine of the Year
Each year the National Magazine Awards concludes with the naming of Canada’s Magazine of the Year. Previous winners are:
2014: Nouveau Projet
2013: Cottage Life 2012: Corporate Knights
2009: Up Here
2007: Toronto Life
2006: The Walrus
2003: Border Crossings
2001: Canadian Geographic
1997: Vancouver Magazine
1996: Canadian Living
1995: Canadian House & Home
1994: Canadian Art
1993: Owl & Chickadee
1992: Cottage Life
1989: Toronto Life
1988: Applied Arts Quarterly
1987: Report on Business
1986: Quill & Quire
1985: Toronto Life
1984: Saturday Night
1983: Vancouver Magazine
The National Magazine Awards has a total of 40 awards categories: 21 written, 5 integrated, 9 visual, and 5 special awards.
The submissions process for the National Magazine Awards is generally open from December until the second week of January. Nominations are announced in April, and the awards gala is held on the first or second Friday in June.
The funding for the Awards is largely drawn from the supportive magazine community itself, through direct donations, ticket sales and submission entry fees. The Awards also rely on the generous support of recurring and new corporate sponsors through financial contributions, endorsements of the Foundation and its integral role in the Canadian magazine industry and through a wide variety of invaluable in-kind contributions.
As a non-profit organization, the Foundation strives to make the most efficient use possible of limited resources. It has a 15 member volunteer Board drawn from the magazine community, which together with a paid Managing Director, Communications Manager and part-time staff do the work of the Foundation.
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