Not only was Joyce Byrne shocked to learn the National Media Awards Foundation would honour her with the 2018 Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement, but she said it came far sooner than she could have ever imagined.
“In my head I’m much younger than I actually am so I always looked at this award as something that I would hope to receive near the end of my career…I have a lot more road ahead of me as a publisher,” the publisher of Avenue Calgary said.
But Byrne already has a well-travelled road behind her, which the NMAF said in a press release is filled with “dedication,” “enthusiasm,” and “tireless advocacy for service and volunteerism.”
Byrne was publisher of This Magazine from 2001 to 2005, where she helped them earn their first and only nomination for Magazine of the Year at the NMAs. She also acted as vice-president and associate publisher at the award-winning Venture Publishing in Edmonton.
She has been the director of Magazines Canada, served on program development committees for the Ontario Media Development Corporation, been on the boards for Word on the Street and Edmonton’s Theatre Network, chaired the Advertising Club of Edmonton Awards and is a current board member of the National Media Awards Foundation, where she once served as a director and had a two-year term as president.
And this doesn’t even list it all.
As the current president of the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association, Byrne said she understands that sometimes her industry is a tough one to stay positive about. But she insists that it is still very much alive.
“I have three new magazines on my desk to evaluate today. And I said to my colleague, ‘Look at that, people are still starting magazines.’ ”
Byrne recognizes this isn’t always a reality though.
She talked about her friend and mentor, Ruth Kelly, who was the president of Venture Publishing. Kelly died by suicide in 2017. At the time, her company was facing serious financial woes. The CBC reported that freelancers were owed nearly $40,000 in pay.
“Part of my processing in getting this recognition has come in the wake of that terrible year, where so many of my friends and colleagues have dealt with the end of a business and an important one,” Byrne said.
Byrne said it’s crucial to continue delivering content in new ways. One of her best sources for fresh ideas is through volunteer work.
She said it’s a necessary part of how the journalism industry learns, particularly around professional development.
“I can only learn so much from sitting in my office with the door closed, and that’s true of my staff as well,” she said. “Getting out of the office to talk to somebody (is) the way to move an idea forward.”
Although Byrne is pleased with the high-standard of credibility the magazine industry holds itself to, she said a higher bar needs to be set for inclusion.
At Avenue Calgary, she said they’ve sought to hire people of different abilities and communities. But Byrne said the answer to a more inclusive environment isn’t as simple this.
She said she is pleased the NMAF now offers an Indigenous Community Outreach Intern, but adds that this is just one of many communities that require more inclusion.
Right now she said she doesn’t have an answer, but noted that more work needs to be done collectively to encourage diverse voices to enter the field.