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Why I won’t sign the Transcontinental contract: Ann Douglas

December 10, 2009

Ann Douglas is the author of 28 books, many of which focus on pregnancy and parenting. She is a columnist for Conceive Magazine, Yahoo! Canada, and The Toronto Star’s ParentCentral.ca. Her byline has appeared in Chatelaine, Canadian Living, Homemakers, Today’s Parent, Canadian Family, Parents Canada, The Globe and Mail, and other publications, both print and online. She refuses to sign the new Transcontinental contract. Here’s why.

I feel like Canadian Living has been part of my writing life forever.

Canadian Living was one of the very first magazines to carry my byline.

I’ve written feature-length and short articles for Canadian Living magazine and its website. I’ve appeared on Canadian Living Television. And I’ve been featured as an expert in many articles written by other writers.

Canadian Living was also one of the first publications to rally behind me when I starting writing pregnancy and parenting books. Shortly after The Mother of All Baby Books was published in 2001, Canadian Living named it one of the top ten reference books every Canadian household should own. And, more recently, Canadian Living ran excerpts of Sleep Solutions for Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler on its website.

I’ve been proud to be able to contribute to Canadian Living over the years because the magazine celebrates Canada and Canadians. It has also made a point of welcoming and nurturing new writers. (Every writer is a new writer at some point, after all.)

Recently, I had to turn down my first interview with Canadian Living. It’s not because I didn’t have a lot to say about the topic. In fact, the interview was on one of my favorite subjects and, because I have been doing a lot of new research in that area, I had a lot of information I was eager to pass along. Nor was I too busy to do the interview. I always make time for Canadian Living because I feel it has a unique place in the hearts and minds of Canadians. I had to turn down the interview because I felt it would be wrong to do it while Canadian Living’s parent-company, Transcontinental, is insisting that all Canadian Living writers agree to sign a contract that would erode their traditional rights as freelance magazine writers, and that could set dangerous precedents for the industry.

I hated having to do this, given my long-standing relationship with the magazine and the writers and editors I have come to know and greatly respect at Canadian Living.

I also hate not being able to pitch story ideas to Canadian Living – story ideas that, I feel, would be a great fit for the magazine. I want to tell them about the woman I know who has dedicated her life to a particular cause – and who has proven that there’s almost nothing that one woman can’t do if she puts her mind to it, including transforming attitudes in her own community. I also want so share some very personal stories about my journey as a mother in recent years. But I can’t erode the rights of writers by signing my name to the contract that is currently on offer – a contract that would be binding forevermore.

I hope the powers that be at Transcontinental — the company that owns Canadian Living and many other highly respected Canadian magazines — will decide to do the ethical thing by treating writers as true partners in a mutually beneficial working relationship. This would mean including writers in contract discussions affecting their livelihoods, as opposed to simply announcing contract terms after the fact. Failing to do so ignores the decades-long relationships built up between writers and editors, and the fact that readers also have strong relationships with the writers who contribute to a particular magazine. These facts may not show up on the numbers that are crunched by lawyers and accountants when contracts are drafted, but they ultimately determine which magazines thrive.

As always, the readers will have their final say.

P.S. I just finished ordering magazine subscriptions for family members – a holiday shopping ritual for me. I hope these contract issues will be behind us by this time next year so that I’ll be able to give the gift of Canadian Living and other Transcontinental publications next year.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 10, 2009 4:24 pm

    Well said, Ann! I hope more writers follow your lead and refuse to sign the contract or work for Transcon until they change the terms being asked for. Another reason we need the CFU. Everyone join before the end of the month and get the discounted membership rate: http://www.CFUnion.ca

  2. Donna Geary permalink
    December 29, 2009 12:15 pm

    Interesting Ann! Transcon is too big and greedy! I agree that the readers (customers) get the last vote with their wallets. It’s a shame to drive a wedge into all these beautiful relationships. I write for Rogers publications… wonder if they will follow suit? Where can I get the whole lowdown on the contract changes?

  3. December 29, 2009 12:21 pm

    Bravo Ann! As always, you are a leader in courage and integrity. You set quite the example.

  4. shelley permalink
    February 26, 2010 6:45 pm

    I am a newbie in this world, and am puzzling as to what the Transcontinental contract contains?
    It sounds as if they will seize your first born? What am I missing?

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