Happy 80th birthday, Chatelaine—you could use a good party

Happy 80th birthday, Chatelaine—you could use a good party

So Chatelaine, Canada’s premier women’s magazine, is having a mad old party tonight. The Windsor Arms Hotel will be packed to the gills with publishing types, there to celebrate Chatelaine’s 80th birthday, a new design and a new editor. It’s all sweetness and light these days at the Rogers-owned publication, having just put a rough patch behind it (four different editors in four years and the rest of the Canadian media running plenty of who’d-a-thunk-it stories—including David Hayes’s hereabouts two months ago). None of the roughness seems to have made a whit of substantive difference, though: the magazine still has a circulation of 550,000 and $50 million-plus in revenue. All of which suggests that the rough patch was set off by Chatelaine managers who—looking at a slight drop in PMB numbers and believing that change solves everything—made a classic, fundamental error: “It ain’t broke but we’re going to break it anyway.”

Not unexpectedly, everybody’s pretending it didn’t happen.

“That sort of history seems so distant to me. It doesn’t affect the reality or the way the place functions or the spirit that’s here,” incoming editor Maryam Sanati told The Globe and Mail.

Now that’s a world-class non-denial denial.

Moreover, Sanati’s observations of her readership are what one industry insider termed “weirdly cynical.” To wit, reports the Globe: “Sanati is fond of referencing ‘the typical reader’ or, in her case, ‘the typical contemporary Canadian woman.’”

Do you know anyone who wants to be described as “typical”? And it only gets creepier. The magazine staffers refer to somebody named Robin (who is apparently a “real person”) as the barometer of all things Chatelaine—as in “‘Robin likes Patrick Dempsey’ or ‘Robin would be interested in that.’”


Anyway, being for or against the direction of a magazine like Chatelaine is like being for or against the course of a battleship: at the end of the day it’s more about who’s steering the thing than any intelligible sensibility. Which, if I do say so myself, ain’t news.

Chatelaine turns a new page [Globe and Mail] • Who’s the Boss? [Toronto Life]