It takes a village to raise a magazine

By Leslie Campbell, July/August 2012

Holiday wishes: buy local, keep it simple, practice gratitude.

Last year, David and I decided to publish just one edition for the summer—and now we don’t know how we managed to go for so many years without a real holiday. 

So I am feeling particularly blessed as my July vacation nears, and want to say a big thank you to our readers and advertisers who have supported Focus over the years—it definitely takes a village to raise a magazine.

Our advertisers are virtually all small, locally-owned and operated businesses, often family-run and, in this new economic paradigm, they’ve had to be very adaptable and resourceful, very good to their customers, and just plain determined (or crazy, some would say). They have certainly embraced the buy-local movement as crucial to their own well-being and that of the community at large. And that, in part, explains why they buy ads in Focus.

The money each of us spends at locally-owned businesses tends to stay here, circulating and making for a healthy and interesting place to live. Studies show local businesses are the best route to a stable employment scene, too. They add to our community’s resilience. We cannot live by big box or chain stores alone.  

And we cannot rely solely on big internet and social media companies to tell our stories or to promote our businesses and causes. 

People often innocently suggest to me that Focus has no real competitors. But this is far from the truth; for advertising we compete with anyone who wants a piece of a promotional budget—that means all local media (print, TV, radio, digital, buses, fences, elevators, you name it), social media, and even Google. Just today, I got yet another robocall from Google urging me to buy advertising, saying, “Hi, this is Sharon, your local Google specialist.” (Can Google and local really be used in the same sentence?)

So we (and you) are fortunate that so many local businesses do use Focus to let you know about their services. Our arts coverage has remained vibrant throughout the economic downturn, largely due to the incredible support of galleries, artists and other arts-related organizations. This is not a sector that has a lot of money to spare, so we are especially proud of their support. 

Though our advertisers remain our mainstay, recently we decided to dip our toes into the subscription waters. We’ve found them warm and welcoming; and they are helping us nurture our investigative reporting.

We don’t expect all readers to pay for Focus—we are pleased to provide the magazine free to anyone who wants to read it. But if you love this magazine and have $30 to spare, we invite you to become a supporting subscriber (see page 39 for details). 

The money and well wishes we’ve been receiving over the past few months have been heart-warming. Most cheques come with a short note saying something like this one from Susan Brown of Salt Spring: “Thank you for producing such an amazing and informative magazine.” I often have short conversations with many of those who call in with their credit card payment. Their kind words keep me cheerful through the trials of each edition. 

This new, direct connection with Focus readers has impressed upon me the power we all have to let others know we notice and appreciate what they do—the power to lift each other’s spirits so we can all continue doing whatever work we’re meant to do. So thank you again to both our readers and advertisers. We notice and love you!


This month Focus’ talented writers—who also play a big role in our “village”— bring you a number of interviews with some very interesting people: CBC’s Gregor Craigie; artist extraordinaire Duncan Regehr; Raging Granny Fran Thoburn; writer/runner/teacher Gregory Marchand; and Tom Swanky, who Rob Wipond interviewed about his research into what was happening in these parts in 1862, the year of Victoria’s birth. Swanky has made disturbing allegations about this city’s and province’s past, and has backed them up with original research. 

He presents his case like a lawyer, suggesting that Governor James Douglas and his cronies were behind a successful plan to spread smallpox among First Nations so they could “pre-empt” the land and sell it to settlers—both in Victoria, up the coast and through the Chilcotin. The resulting decimation of the aboriginal population—in some areas as much as 75 percent died in the space of a month, according to Swanky—was a pivotal event in BC’s history. I doubt Swanky planned his new book to coincide with Victoria’s 150th festivities, but perhaps it will give us incentive to know the past—in all its sadness—so we can understand the present better.

I’ll end with a few words of wisdom from a more personal, contemplative book, Open Heart Runner by Greg Marchand. A year after he came back from the dead (quite literally), he sat down and wrote out what he’d learned during his year of recovery:

“I learned that life is tenuous. I learned that we can’t count on anything staying the same. I learned that lack of health can stymie ambition, creativity, and achievement.

“I learned that family is paramount, that prayer has power, that simplicity beats complexity, and that people waste precious time in pursuits that are often meaningless. I learned that we can see much more by walking than by running, that we need very little to survive comfortably, and that it’s easier to be kind than cruel. I learned that people respond positively to goodness and that everyone is searching for something…”

Wishing you a summer full of simple but meaningful pleasures. 

Leslie Campbell looks forward to engaging with the real world (as opposed to a computer screen) this summer—weeding her garden, kayaking the sparkling sea, visiting people who turn their smartphones off, contemplating art in local galleries, and listening to live music wherever she can find it. (She’ll be checking phone messages too.)