Interview with Publisher Steve Polyak
by Joe Siegel
Geographic coverage area: Canadian province of Alberta
Year founded: 2003
Staff size and breakdown: Full time publisher/editor/sales representative, copy editor, 10 or so freelance writers
Physical dimensions of publication: 8” x 10.5”
Average page count: 64-80
Print run: The magazine is now online only in PDF and ISSUU format
Web site: gaycalgary.com
PPQ:Who came up with the name Gay Calgary and what is the inspiration for it?
Publisher Steve Polyak: GayCalgary.com was set up to be a center hub for the LGBT community in Calgary, so it was a logical choice to continue using that brand for when launching the magazine in 2003. It eventually became trademarked across Canada.
PPQ: What challenge has your publication had to overcome?
Polyak: There have been a lot of challenges that we had to overcome during the past 12 years of the magazine. We had major issues with another gay publication that was located in Calgary. The problems got so bad that we had to sue them for violating our trademark. Even though they were saying they were a national gay publication, they constantly saw us as a threat.
PPQ: What challenge or challenges is Gay Calgary facing now?
Polyak: In 2014, our editor and partner in the magazine Rob Diaz-Marino decided to call it quits. After being part of the magazine for 11 years, he wanted to have a life away from the day-to-day operations of the magazine. We had also decided at that point to announce that the December 2014/January 2015 edition would be the last printed edition and go online only. We had been running into problems with lack of distribution points of the magazine with closures of gay and gay-friendly businesses, but also the gay community moving away from Calgary’s downtown core and into the suburbs, making it harder to find new distribution locations. We originally had 300 locations and the last year or so it was down to 35, so we reduced the print run down to 2,000 copies.
PPQ: How has the publication changed since it was first launched?
Polyak: When we first launched, it was dedicated to the Calgary market. Edmonton, which is a 3-hour drive from Calgary, had two gay publications covering it. But after they both shut down, it was requested by businesses and community groups for us to expand to cover all of Alberta.
PPQ: On the Kinsey Scale of 0-6 [exclusively straight to totally gay], how gay is your publication?
Polyak: Gay Calgary should be about a 5 out of 6. We have seen too many gay publications censor themselves assuming their customers and readers want the sexuality toned down. We believe that we can still show our sexuality without going overboard. So we do have about 20 percent to 25 percent straight readership because the articles and interviews that we have are of interest to everyone.
PPQ: Do you see yourself as an ‘activist journalist’? If so, in what way?
Polyak: Well yes and no. In the past, another gay publication that we were getting advice from said we should push more articles about negative things going on in the community or things that are politically charged. What we notice in Alberta is that our gay community is extremely fractured. So articles that are needed to help explain to the readers what is going on could easily have a backlash from other parts of the gay community.
PPQ: What’s the most surprising feedback you’ve received from a reader?
Polyak: We are floored when straight politicians say that they read our magazine and they will pose for our cameras, then ask for it to be in our community photo section of the magazine. Another surprising feedback came from a cashier at Costco. She saw the name Gay Calgary on our membership card. While she was scanning our items, she explained that she was trans identified, was in the process of transitioning, and loved reading our magazine.
PPQ: What advice would you give to anyone who may want to launch their own GLBT publication?
Polyak: Several years ago, I would have told people to do it. Now, I would say hold off. I have had several people contacting me for advice in regards to setting up a magazine in Canada. If it is for a gay audience, or another type of demographic, I suggest doing it only if they are willing to put out a lot of money and time to get started. If someone is wanting to do it, they should do a lot of research too to see if the market can handle it.
PPQ: What one change would you like to make?
Polyak: If possible, more time in the day. I never seem to have enough time to get everything done.