Canadian Journalism’s Budget Cuts
Avery Nowicki // Communities Editor
Everybody, break the tissues out and get ready to cry. The beloved Reader’s Digest Canada is closing its doors after 76 years of production. It is a sad, sad time for Canadian readers.
Reader’s Digest first began in 1921, with its conception proposed by DeWitt Wallace. Originally intended to include condensed, easy-to-read articles for its originally American audience, to which Reader’s Digest still serves today. In 1922, the first issues of Reader’s Digest began to arise, creating a new space for American readers, with the expansion of a Canadian branch, not far off. Wallace’s wife was a Canadian born publisher, originally from Manitoba. In 1938, Reader’s Digest expanded to the U.K. The magazine would then go on to expand to 163 countries, including Canada in 1946. This first Canadian publication included a French-language edition, the magazine then expanded to English speaking Canadians in 1948, becoming one of the most influential and well-read magazines across Canada.
After a storied history with Canadian citizens, Reader’s Digest Canada will shut down in March of 2024, saying goodbye to its Canadian audience for good. The news of the publication’s ending was announced in a meeting with the Globe and Mail in attendance, to which they broke the news. As to be expected, the shutdown was caused by declining advertising revenue, rising production costs and a loss of readership. By November of 2023, 10 Montreal employees of Reader’s Digest Canada had received layoff notices, effective January 1.
While Canadians may remember Reader’s Digest issues as their preferred reading in their rural dentist office, or as the dated photo clips they’d cut out and elmer’s glue in elementary school, it was a brand we recognize, and grew nostalgic for. Reader’s Digest operated on an odd form of nostalgia, sure maybe you never read it, or cared much for the contents, but it was that recognizable face in the grocery aisle above the candy bars. It may have been the least compelling purchase, but it will feel like an odd blank space, crowded by E! and the People’s magazines once it’s gone. Gone…but not forgotten.
The readers may be able to bid Reader’s Digest Canada adieu but those who will pay the real price will likely be the many writers, editors, and journalists who’ve committed to Reader’s Digest for their underpaid, yet valuable steady jobs for these workers. Any journalist will be well familiar with the current state of Canadian journalism and the lack of jobs in this industry. For reader’s digest alone, by 2021 revenue shrank by half compared to 2013, and this trend has translated throughout nearly all Canadian publications with no end in sight.
In a quote to Montreal CTV news, the former owner of Reader’s Digest Canada stated, “it’s a crisis caused by our lack of interest in reading,” he said. “If people read more and got away from screens, they’d open up to lots of other things. That would allow a lot of publications to live. Maybe people would spend more time reading them than tapping away on their phones.”
Though, while this may be the opinion of some in the industry, the answer to revolutionizing the state of Canadian journalism may lie on the screens themselves.