The publisher ofXtra has purchased Fab, Toronto’s gay scene and entertainment magazine, leading to debate about media ownership in the community.
The deal between Pink Triangle Press (PTP) and Fab’s owner, No Fear Publishing, will officially close Feb 25. The new ownership will come into effect for Fab’s Mar 6 issue.
Brandon Matheson, the publisher and editor-in-chief of Xtra and Capital Xtra, PTP’s Ottawa newspaper, will oversee Fab. Matheson says Fab will allow PTP to reach a different audience than Xtra.
“It’s another avenue to reach readers,” he says. “I’ve never been under the illusion that one magazine can be all things to all people. I think Fab is a good fit in that neither publication has really strived to reach the same audience.”
Matheson says there are no plans to change the direction or content of Fab. He says the magazine will maintain its own office and a separate editorial and local advertising staff, although production and financial matters will be merged with PTP.
“Our plan is to continue the tradition of what Fab has been,” he says. “The change in ownership is not something that is going to resonate with Fab in terms of it being the scene magazine.”
But Paul Gallant, the editor-in-chief of Fab and the former managing editor of Xtra, sounded a note of caution about PTP controlling both publications.
“I’m obviously concerned that they might want to turn it into Xtra Lite,” he says. “I think it should be a bit of a red flag for people who are concerned about media concentration.”
Matheson says PTP is preferable to a large publishing company outside the community.
“The reality is Fab was for sale and I think it’s healthier that it become part of our non-profit company that cares about the community than it be picked up by a mainstream company like Torstar or Rogers,” he says.
Keir MacRae, one of Fab’s co-publishers, says Fab has been a unique presence in the community.
“It’s sassy, fun and sexy,” he says. “The community needs that and Fab certainly filled that role. It’s a magazine people love to criticize but even people who say they don’t read it read it.”
But MacRae says that after 14 years he and partner Michael Schwarz were growing tired.
“It gets to be a lot especially when you’re a small publisher,” he says. “My business partner has a new baby daughter and he wants to spend more time with her. And I have a dog.”
MacRae says he and Schwarz were approached in 2006 by Torstar, the owner of the Toronto Star and Eye Weekly, to sound out their interest in selling Fab. He says they also received offers from a number of small magazine publishers and decided to approach other publishers, including PTP.
After some hesitation MacRae says that extensive conversations with PTP made him comfortable about selling Fab.
“Operating competing magazines in a small market for a number of years, you’d think we’d know more about each other,” he says. “There might have been some initial ambivalence because of our being rivals.”
Gallant says he and the staff at Fab have been kept in the dark about whether they’ll be kept on.
“I really don’t know what to make of it right now,” he says. “They sent out the news release before they told us. We’re just going to wait and see with bated breath.”
Matheson says it will be up to No Fear Publishing to terminate its employment contracts with the staff at Fab. He says that PTP will then decide who to rehire.
Neither MacRae nor Matheson would comment on how much PTP paid for Fab.