By Frank Moher
Your feckless Media blogger has been off cheating with his other mistress — theatre, of all things — which is why this section has been quiet as a dying newsroom lately. While I was away, Canada lost one of its few genuine sources of shit-disturbance, Frank magazine. Its folding was duly reported but went curiously unremarked upon, as if the pundits it had routinely skewered knew that, if they got started, there’d be no end to their grave-dancing.
To my knowledge, I only made Frank once, when something I’d written in The National Post appeared in its “Drivel” section. I was elated. It was not commonplace for a writer outside the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal axis to merit its scorn. (Despite some game efforts, Frank was generally as Upper Canadian as the publications and broadcasters it covered.) I felt I had passed some career milestone. And the fact that I couldn’t see anything wrong with what I’d written suggested to me they might be on to something.
Others, of course, were less delighted, when their extramarital canoodlings or unceremonious dumpings from various media or political aeries were revealed. But Frank was exactly what this snobby contry, with its left-over notions of aristocracy and deluded notions of meritocracy, needed. I understand it was based on the British magazine Punch, but having never seen its progenitor, it all seemed quite new and brilliant to me.
Frank relied on a network of “contributors” (read: tattlers) who provided fodder, often from inside various newsrooms and editorial offices. If one was oneself on the inside of an organization, it wasn’t particularly hard to figure out who the moles were; you simply came up with a mental list of likely suspects, and then waited to see what happened when they left or were fired. If items on that publication dried up, you knew you had your double agent. It was fun.
In recent months, I had come to appreciate it for additional reasons. Whenever anyone searched on the net for “Frank” and “magazine,” it tended to bring traffic to backofthebook, since my name is Frank and this is a magazine. Thanks, fellas. I also appreciated its entrepreneurial spirit. I was a subscriber to eFrank.ca, the electronic wing of the magazine, but earlier this year had decided I would let my subscription lapse — it was pricey, and I rarely had time to visit (though always found it rewarding when I did). I accomplished this, I thought, by simply not sending in my new credit card information. When renewal time came up, they sent me a “Hey, your credit card info is no longer up-to-date” message. When I ignored that, they apparently went through various possible new expiry dates until they found the right one. Despite my best efforts, I found myself still a subscriber after all. Some might consider that, oh, I don’t know, let’s use the word “shady.” I thought it was pretty clever.
And possibly also desperate. Seven months later, Frank publisher Michael Bate announced its closing. (An unrelated Atlantic-only edition continues.) It was a great run, Mr. Bate; thanks for the laughs.
Now who is going to keep the “braünnosers” and “fartcatchers” and “moist but garrulous” windbags in check?