Member Spotlight: Pandemic reinforces importance of positive news for airdrielife

Date: 24th May 2021

By Sarah Moore

In the past 18 years, the population of Airdrie has increased from just over 25,000 to over 70,000 people. Quarterly magazine airdrielife has evolved alongside the city over that time and is woven into the fabric of the community.

“When we started, the magazine, I did most of the writing and photography myself… I sort of cringe looking back because I was learning as I went.” says publisher Sherry Shaw-Froggatt.

“It became very apparent that to take the magazine to the next level I needed to turn to professional writers and photographers. The city was booming and we needed to reflect that in the most polished way possible. Joining AMPA also helped with this goal. I am very proud of how we have grown and evolved with the city.”

One thing that has stayed constant is a focus on positivity. As the tagline says, the award-winning magazine celebrates the good life in Airdrie.

“When you scroll through your phone and your Twitter feed, there’s enough bad news. There’s enough stuff to poison your brain in a day,” says Shaw-Froggatt. “We’re not Pollyannas here, but we just choose to find the good stories.”

Rather than covering stories about controversial topics, the angle in airdrielife focuses on what people or organizations are making positive change happen. Through uncertainties from the COVID-19 pandemic, that mission has continued.

The Spring 2020 issue of airdrielife came out March 6, 2020, about a week before life in Alberta changed.

“Between that issue and the summer issue was the most navel-gazing, angst, nail-biting time of my life at the publication,” says Shaw-Froggatt.

She wasn’t sure if airdrielife would ever publish in print again: “It was like the walls caving in, but you realized it was happening to everybody around you. It was just ‘now what?'”

Six weeks into the pandemic, she decided to forge ahead and plan their Summer 2020 issue as a digital flip book only, but with the same full design as the print editions. It went live June 15 to a very positive response. The magazine was back to print by the fall.

“Our revenues are way down, but we still are able to make it happen,” says Shaw-Froggatt. “What I learned was it was more important than ever that people needed these stories. They needed a reason to feel good; they needed something to escape into.”

Starting in mid-May 2020, airdrielife also started upping its digital content to complement the print magazine; there are now an additional 3-4 stories online each week. News and statistics about the pandemic were overwhelming, but there were also good things happening, like people making and donating masks. “That was our priority, keeping the good stories flowing.”

Though the magazine has discontinued door-to-door delivery, a large expense in the face of decreased ad revenue, Shaw-Froggatt says that they’ve increased the number of copies available in racks at 150 locations between Crossfield and Calgary.

She says they have difficulty keeping those racks full, a sign that people need good news in challenging times.  A mail subscription offer was also put together and readers have been joining this service every week.

“We’ve done a lot of stories over the years that have had an impact on people, that have changed people’s perceptions, changed their lives,” says Shaw-Froggatt. “In a lot of ways what [the pandemic] did for me was it reminded me why we actually publish in the first place.”

What was the first magazine you fell in love with?

Tiger Beat. it was like People Magazine for teenage girls. Donny Osmond was on the cover, that’s why I bought it. I loved Tiger Beat.

What is your favourite thing about working in magazines?

The creative freedom.

How would you describe Alberta’s magazine industry, in a couple of words?

Vital, brave, needed.

Who is someone whose work you especially admire?

Ellen Percival, the publisher and editor-in-chief of Calgary’s Child. She mentored me when all this shit was happening and I didn’t know whether or not I would ever publish again and how to go about it. I would consider her a role model and a mentor.

What are you looking forward to in the next year?

Some semblance of normal, whatever that means. Telling stories that don’t have the word pandemic or COVID in it. After the Spanish flu, there was the Roaring Twenties. And I really feel there’s going to be a renaissance of creativity and of the arts and people really wanting to celebrate. So, I think what I’m looking forward to is seeing more festivals and more live events, and people realizing, yes, they’ve missed it. The appreciation will be so intense for it and I think our pages will be bursting with life. 

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