Electric City Magazine: A Difficult Potential of Success

12496044_934230636671933_3158978605231025943_oPeterborough’s newest arts and culture magazine was officially launched last night – and it was a hell of a party.

The Electric City kickoff packed Artspace with an exciting mix of youth, slightly longer-in-the-tooth Peterborough scenesters, and even longer-in-the-tooth established artists and writers (I was twice told that I fit into that latter age category).  The downtown arts scene, meanwhile, has been buzzing about the publication for the past week.  The excitement surrounding the magazine is genuine and far-reaching.

As for the product itself, the first edition was a solidly produced mix of stories on music, food, politics, and more.  It promises to be a thoughtful and though-provoking source of features.

I’m intrigued by the paper.  While you can count me in as a fan of the fledgling periodical, my experiences with Peterborough funding/advertizing and as both a participant and patron of the arts will have me watching its maturation process with genuine curiosity.  It has a difficult course to navigate — which, of course, is the case for any print publication these days.

Securing stable advertizing revenue will be one obstacle.  As a culture publication that skews decidedly towards the “counter,” they may scare off traditional advertizers with their political leanings.  I do believe, however, that there are plenty of progressive local businesses that will recognize the purchasing power of Electric City’s potential regular readership, but it will take some serious advertizing sales effort on the part of the publishers to bring them to the table.

Balanced content is the other hurdle.  We have an extremely nurturing arts scene – one that is supportive almost to a fault.  As a community of artists, we celebrate our local productions and pieces with much gusto and back-patting – offering praise that is often not countered by a tougher critical appraisal.

If Electric City is to truly examine the arts, culture, and politics of Peterborough, it may have to take a less insulating stance.  And while this is a publication that will serve the greater Peterborough community, its success will ultimately depend on how it is embraced by its subjects and core supporters.  Which will make editorial balance particularly difficult.

While co-editor, Dave Tough, has told me that he doesn’t believe bad reviews are worthwhile (and, in fact, doesn’t see the role of the paper to offer reviews), he has said that the magazine will take a critical stance in its editorial practice.  How critical — and how this criticism is accepted — will be most interesting to see.

Should the right balance be struck, Electric City Magazine will act as a tremendous tool for nurturing the arts. It will not only be a spotlight, but an opportunity for artists to receive an honest, sober study of their work.  It will also be a great read.

It won’t be easy, though. And it will require a sometimes uncomfortable buy-in by both advertizers, artists, story writers, and editorial staff.  But the potential is definitely there.

I wish Electric City the greatest of success and prosperity.  Partially because I believe our community both needs and deserves such a publication.  But, also, because I very much look forward to reading in for years to come.

I hope that a future big party will be for a major milestone anniversary.