Part four of the multi-part series The New Magazines on the excellent new magazines currently being published in Montreal. Except that this one is actually from Toronto!
Well, Satellite was strongly recommended by a whipsmart and knowledgeable friend of mine, and they’ve dedicated an issue to Montreal, so I guess I had no choice but to include it. Satellite is a “biannual magazine focusing on cities, culture and politics." Each issue features an “in-depth look at a single city, alongside interviews, art, and nonfiction”. Previous issues have focused on Toronto, Montreal and New Orleans.
The magazine’s eclectic mix of collaborators includes amongst others artists, political thinkers, urbanists, academics, authors and activists.
If you’re looking to find out what Noam Chomsky think of drones or Iran, Satellite is for you. You’ll also find interviews, articles, art and essays on a wide-array of subjectcs, such as the violence in Mumbai, the new Norwegians or Montreal-based architect Phyllis Lambert.
The Toronto issue is now available.
Editor-in-chief at Satellite
Steven Garbas lives in Toronto.
1. How did your first get interested in magazines and get the idea to start Satellite specifically?
Satellite came out of another literary magazine that we were doing out of New York a few years ago. We could see the things that weren’t working and the some of the things that were, and decided to start something new. After a few issues, I think editors in general want to kill each other. (We were there after one.) The concept of focussing on a new city each issue was a leftover. But doing nonfiction, long-form journalism, and architecture is new. We were just more interested in botched subway expansions than, say, poetry. Not that there’s anything wrong with poetry. So, Satellite came out of trial and error.
I first became interested in magazines when the Laetitia Casta Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue came out in the late 1990s. I might’ve bought a MAD Magazine before then.
2. Can you tell us a bit more about Satellite and its mission/purpose? Who is your reader?
Satellite is a bi-annual print magazine that focusses on a different city in each issue. So, we look at architecture, urban planning, affordable art, etc. As well, we have a politics section that covers anything going on in the world. Noam Chomsky has been in every issue so far. And then we publish some weirder people that wouldn’t get the chance otherwise. Like the elderly puppeteer who went to Peru to take ayahausca with a witch doctor to treat his parkinson’s disease. Marc Thorpe. He invented Robot Wars. I just met him in San Francisco and we thought it was a good story. Not all of them are that good though.
We don’t really know who are readers actually are. That’s the thing with print sales, you don’t get the data you get with website analytics. You can assume some engineers. And anarcho-syndicalists. Fans of robots.
3. Why is publishing a print copy still relevant in the digital world of 2013? How do you think about distribution?
Well, a strong argument can be made that it isn’t relevant. It certainly isn’t profitable. We have a website that we update all the time, since the print edition only comes out twice a year. We aren’t luddites. But the print issue is really thoughtfully done. The week the new issue comes out is the least depressed you feel working on this type of thing.
We just use the traditional distribution system: some corporation. One in the US, one in Canada. Then we have independent contracts throughout both. A couple in Europe and the Middle East too.
4. What is the editorial process of Satellite? How are the topics for each issue chosen?
I work with an editor/art director in New York, Sarah Wesseler, on what the city is going to be. Then we work out some topics that need coverage. Then we give out some assignments to writers we like. And we accept some submissions. (It probably ends up being half assignments and half submissions in the end.) Then, once the drafts are in, we kick them back and forth. Then Wesseler does the layouts. Then I stop answering emails for a while.
We just try to pick topics we think are interesting. There are other factors and we hardly ever agree, but that’s the main thing.
5. What are you working on now? What’s next?
The Toronto issue just came out, so we’re promoting that. We’re doing the Word on the Street Book Fairin Toronto on the 22nd. Then we start the next one. We’re looking at New York City.
Read more from LP Maurice's The New Magazines series:
This article and The New Magazines series was originally published on Swell.