The cover image of the first issue

The battle to engineer a National Magazine

This article was published in the inaugural issue of Project Magazine in December 1984. In light of the recent evolution of Project Magazine into CFES PUB, this article provides a good historic perspective.

Welcome to the inaugural issue of Project Magazine. It has required a lot of time and effort over the past couple of years to reach the stage where 30,000 copies are distributed to students at 23 engineering schools across the country, but the moment of fruition is now upon. Now you may remember having heard about the Project a year or so ago when referenda were held at a number of schools in an effort to raise needed working capital, but likely haven’t heard much about it since. Because this is the magazine’s first issue, it is appropriate to identify some of the goals of the magazine as well as to describe the varied and somewhat harried history that has accompanied it. Therefore, sit back and relax and find out where this magazine is going and where it has come from.

The stated goal of Project Magazine is “to serve as a medium to unite Canadian engineering students across intercollegiate rivalries and to enable them to discuss their concerns and interests,” as well as “to impart to students a sense of professional responsibility as members of the Canadian engineering community.” To be published four times in bilingual text, Project Magazine consists of submissions from each engineering society in the nation. These are co-ordinated by regional editors at each school and approved by the school`s dean of applied science. In addition to this direct link between faculties, the magazine also contains articles solicited from various Canadian corporations.

Unlike most other Canadian engineering publications, Project Magazine will primarily deal with the non-technical aspects of engineering. This is emphasized in the magazine’s guidelines for submissions: “Use your imagination. Do what you like – brag, boast, poke fun at yourselves. Be fictional, be factual. Just be non-technical… Tell jokes, exchange recipes for your ‘favourite rocket fuel’ – whatever. Just keep it well within the bounds of good taste.” As you can see, the first issue is introductions with descriptions of each society’s academic and extracurricular activities, as well as such articles as “The Role of CCPE”, “What is NSERC?” and “Spar and Canada’s Role in Space”. Appropriately enough, the inaugural issue also contains a Bell Canada submission entitled “The Importance of Effective Communication”. Future issues will have a central theme, which both student and organizational submissions will address; the theme for March’s issue will be environmental protection, and is certain to elicit a wide spectrum of opinion.

Enthusiasm, if it’s backed up with some pretty
good intelligence, can accomplish miracles.

All of the above suggests that the project is a massive one – it is! And the headaches and organizational hassles seemingly endless – they are! But, in the words of Project Magazine consultant George Gilmour, formerly president of the Maclean-Hunter Business Publishing Company and head of his own advisory firm, “Enthusiasm, if it’s backed up with some pretty good intelligence, can accomplish miracles.” The miracle in the case of Project Magazine is the direct result of the enthusiasm (and extremely hard work) of two Queen`s students – magazine originator Sam Fujimoto (Mechanical `83) and architect Alex Winch (Engineering Physics ’85), the magazine’s general manager. It is through the perseverance of these two over the past two and a half years that have brought the magazine from a concept to a reality, complete with a $40,000 annual budget and staff across the country.

While Fujimoto can claim the idea of a national magazine for engineering students as his own, the story does not begin with him. The Project Magazine story (perhaps a future CBC documentary) actually began at a CCES conference in January 1982, where delegates decided to begin publishing a bilingual newsletter to improve communication among engineering societies, with then Golden Words editor Glynis Carling chosen as its first editor. As she explained at the time, “Since Golden Words is published weekly and mailed out to all of the other schools, Queen’s was the obvious choice as the editing school.” (Golden Words is the weekly newspaper published by the Queen’s Engineering Society and every two weeks copies are mailed to every other school`s engineering society.)

Unfortunately, the newsletter never filled the gap in communication that it was intended to. Limited in scope, and distributed only to the engineering societies’ executives, the newsletter solicited poor and sporadic response. It was at this point that Fujimoto came into the picture. He began mulling over the limitations of the newsletter and, on Groundhog Day 1984, he claims to have struck upon the idea of a full blown glossy covered magazine distributed nationwide whose flashier format would make students want to contribute and so ensure the magazines success “I was taking a shower in the phys-ed centre when it hit me” Fujimoto recalls But in very non Archimedan style he didn’t dance around yelling ‘Eureka!’ he says. Being an engineer of good standing Fujimoto took the obvious first step of determining what kind of numbers he’d be working with, he first established the market size at around 35,000 and then tried to determine the more difficult figures of cost and revenue As the advertising manager of Golden Words Fujimoto was aware of the terrific amounts of money that corporations were spending on career type advertising. Based on this apparent potential abundance of advertising revenue he was convinced that the magazine he’d envisioned could “fly” without further funding.

The magazine can fill the communications void between engineering societies that currently exists.

But March 1982 saw the new phenomenon of doming when a worsening economy forced many companies (most prominently Dome Petroleum) to revoke job offers they had made to graduating engineering students in January. Further evidence of tough corporate times occurred when the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business was forced to lay off 80 of its people in the summer of 1982 because reduced corporate advertising revenue. Suddenly the production of a national magazine supported only by corporate advertising was no longer a sure bet.

Undaunted Sam pressed on! The rest of 1982 was spent assessing the magazines status and in thoroughly briefing the Queen’s delegation of the January 1983 CCES Conference in Vancouver. A workshop on Project Magazine (as it had now been christened by the EngSoc president Dave Rivington) was presented at the conference and the Queen’s delegation tried unsuccessfully to convince the CCES to accept the role of publisher.

Despite this new obstacle Fujimoto continued to work at broadening the contact network and at soliciting advice and support from students and deans in every Canadian engineering faculty. Also by this time Fujimoto had recruited Winch as his right hand man. Winch had been the year scribe for Science ’85 providing his years news for Golden Words and it was through this association that Fujimoto became aware of Winch’s abilities. Winch recalls sitting in the EngSoc lounge reading the paper when Fujimoto approached him with the concept; upon agreeing with it he “suddenly became Sam’s assistant”.

In the spring of 1983 responses to Sam and Alex’s writing campaigns began to trickle in. By March nine societies had expressed support for the idea; by May the list had grown to 22.

All good partnerships must at some time come to an end and the same occurred at Project Magazine. In May 1983 Fujimoto graduated and was off to seek his fortune in the corporate world leaving Alex to keep pressing for the magazine’s realization. A new partnership evolved however Alex found an ally in Todd Hartwell the newly elected vice president of Queen’s EngSoc (Society Affairs). Unemployed at the beginning of that summer, Winch wound his way west by motorcycle and met up with Hartwell in Calgary.

After a couple of enthusiastic meetings (as well as a few beers I presume) the two had developed a feasible concept in terms of money frequency content and hierarchy. According to Alex “It was the genesis of the magazine as it is now.” As the summer progressed a prospectus was drawn up and letters sent out to all the Ontario and Quebec societies attending the Regional Engineering Student Society Association (RESSA) Conference in Ottawa that November.

The idea had grown to be more than just the idea of a couple of half crazed students.

They were aided at this pont by Queen’ s Dean of Applied Science, David Bacon. After first fixing up the grammer in the prospectus Bacon distributed copies of it at a meeting of the Canadian Engineering Deans and asked for their views on the project. The deans not only provided valuable advice but also gave the concept their unanimous support. “This was the turning point in my mind” Alex says. “The idea had grown to be more than just the idea of a couple of half crazed students.” The success continued at the RESSA Conference where Winch and Hartwell bluffed their way into the desired result. Only the two of them were working on the project but having done their homework they were able to convince the delegates at the time that “We have a national executive and everything’s place. All we need is your support.” The result? Unanimous approval.

Since that conference things moved quickly and efficiently Project Magazine was finally given unanimous support by the CCES at their January 1984 conference and fund raising has been pushed into high gear with many positive results. Ranging from letters to school boards in Vancouver Halifax and Yellowknife offering subscriptions, to such corporation heavyweights as Argus Corporation and Thomson Publishing, Winch and his staff seem to have left no possibly-helpful stone unturned. And the student response has been overwhelmingly positive. Referenda asking students for a 40 cent contribution to Project Magazine had “YES” votes of 96.5 per cent at Queen s, 97 per cent at UBC and 100 per cent at Carleton At the University of Toronto the engineering society took the idea one step further and changed their constitution so that each frosh will contribute $1.60 as part of their Orientation Week fees and so cover the entire society’s contribution! Queen’s EngSoc president Sean Guest said Students are really glad to see it. They’re really impressed that it can be done. He is confident that the magazine can fill the communications void between engineering societies that currently exists saying “It will really unite all the engineering societies. Project Magazine could very easily represent the interests of the CCES as a whole.”

As publisher for the next four years Queens will put out the magazine until 1988. At that time its production will be moved to another university (U of T, UBC and the University of Waterloo have expressed interest) for the next four years and it will continue on a four year rotational basis thereafter. Winch pointed out that the magazine is a status symbol for any university. “It is a good way for the university to pull itself out of the general milieu – they’re running it for everybody.”

It is also hoped that Project Magazine will help convince the non-engineering Canadian public what a dynamic group of people engineering students really are. “We’re not merely the stereotypical beer guzzling, greasepit wallowing hooligans who are always in the papers” says Alex.

Due to the hard work of a few and the support of many we now have a national magazine to uphold these ideals that also serves to link engineering students from coast to coast. Its continued success will be dependent on those students who continue working on the project as well as those new students who will follow. A device that brings together people sharing a commonbond and that also links us to the professional organizations to which we will eventually belong can only be a plus. With all of your support its continued success will be assured.

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