Kim Pittaway’s impassioned Outstanding Achievement Award acceptance speech

At Friday evening’s 39th annual National Magazine Awards gala [read complete recap], Kim Pittaway received the Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement, acknowledging her long and distinguished career as a writer, editor, teacher and mentor in Canadian magazine journalism. Read Kim’s complete NMA bio.

On stage at Friday’s gala, Kim inspired a standing ovation from the audience of over 400 guests in attendance, affirming not only the Foundation’s decision to present Kim with this award but also the inspiration that Kim has been to so many of us in Canadian magazines.

Below, with her permission, we present Kim’s acceptance speech from the 39th annual National Magazine Awards gala.


Kim Pittaway: Thank you Beth, Rona and my other colleagues who nominated me, the Board of the NMAF and the friends and colleagues who have congratulated me following the announcement of this honour. I feel obliged to note that Joyce Byrne, President of the Foundation, called me with the news on April 1—April Fool’s Day. I chose to ignore that.

This is indeed an honour, especially as I review the list of those who have preceded me to the podium for the Outstanding Achievement Award. I’d like to begin my remarks by quoting one of them.

“It’s simple: We need each other.”

That’s how the late Catherine Keachie, then-president of the Canadian Magazine Publishers Association, described what she called the magazine publishing ecosystem. It was the early 1990s, and I was a 20-something writer, hired to help write position papers on split-run publishing, GST on magazines, the environmental impact of magazine publishing and more. It was a crash course in how the industry worked and Catherine was my instructor. Our best lines were crafted in conversation as she held forth passionately on why magazines were central to our national culture.

Catherine knew that it was essential for the industry to work together. The major publishers needed the cultural legitimacy of the small and literary publishers. The smalls and literaries needed the financial and political heft of the bigs. Sales and circulation teams needed strong editorial content to sell. Editorial teams needed the business support of those sales and circ teams to find their audiences and get their stories into readers’ homes and hands.

Magazines brands—on the page, online and in whatever other formats they may appear—are the products of many hands, an exciting mix of journalism, storytelling, sales, promotion, marketing and analysis, all geared to telling stories that will engage, delight and—at its best—challenge our audiences. And while all of us in this industry have a role in enabling that storytelling, at its centre are the creators: the writers, photographers and artists whose words and pictures speak to us, touch us, transform us, who tell our Canadian stories, celebrate our Canadian heroes and illuminate our Canadian perspectives—stories that are critical to our uniquely Canadian culture.

I can think of no other organization that I would rather be honoured by than the National Magazine Awards Foundation precisely because of the NMAF’s long focus on creators. The work I am proudest of hinges on creation: my own work as a writer, and my efforts to facilitate the creative work of others as an educator and editor.

After the announcement about this award was made, I joked with a colleague that the key to being nominated was to move away from Toronto—after a few years away, people forget what it was about you that irritated them. What I’m about to say may serve as a reminder.

Publishers and brands will inevitably tally up “their” wins tonight—a logical impulse, given that they provide the pages and the infrastructure to enable the sharing of those stories. But let’s be absolutely clear about why we are here tonight. We are here to celebrate the creators. We may call these the Mag Awards, but they are in fact the creators’ awards. Without the words, without the pictures, without the writers, photographers and illustrators, we’re not in the magazine business—we’re just peddling flyers. And we all know that as an industry where fees to writers, photographers and artists have not shifted appreciably in decades, a night that celebrates those creators, that thanks them for their efforts is, frankly, the least that we as an industry can do.

It’s simple, as Catherine told me. We need each other. And as we contemplate the way forward for our industry—and for this awards program—we would do well to remember that.

Thank you.

Kim Pittaway’s essay from the 39th NMA Gala Program

39th National Magazine Awards
Complete Gala Recap
Read Kim’s complete NMA bio
Press release: English | Français
Complete list [pdf] of all winners
Twitter highlights: @MagAwards | #NMA16
The Judges
Award Seals
La version française: magazine-prix.com

Photos by Steven Goetz.

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