What a boring Saturday Night

Rating: NNNNNHardly "The Return Of Saturday Night" as the National Post trumpeted, Conrad Black's edgy, red-ink-stained glossy has been transformed.

Rating: NNNNN

Hardly “The Return Of Saturday Night” as the National Post trumpeted, Conrad Black’s edgy, red-ink-stained glossy has been transformed into “The Sleepy Dawn Of Sunday Morning.”

Relaunched last weekend as a 124-page National Post insert, Saturday Night went for the New York Times Magazine feel but came up with Chatelaine.

You weren’t going to find titillating scandal, international intrigue or a riveting profile here.

Instead, the new Saturday Night delivered a sleeper cover story on “The Queen Mum at 100: sweet old thing or racy old bat? A special report for Mother’s Day.” Uh-huh. The Home Depot catalogue has to be in here somewhere.

How about a feature on the twisted personal life of Canadian Tire heiress Martha Billes? (Ooh, she’s passionate about Lakeland Terriers. I want to know every sordid detail.)

Plus, Lynn Crosbie gets nostalgic about hockey violence. A puff piece on Saul Bellow. A Q-and-A with a Yank wine critic. And the bourgeoisie discover foie gras.

I guess I’ll have to cancel my Toronto Life subscription.

Is this the beginning of the end for Saturday Night?

After a long run as a prestigious stand-alone national magazine, being downgraded to an insert could be the kiss of death.

Consider the Financial Times Of Canada, an 83-year-old weekly that wasn’t a money-spinner and was put out of its misery by Thomson not long after it was inserted in the Globe and Mail. Apparently, the advertisers just couldn’t see the value-added of a business insert when the Globe already had a comprehensive business section.

For the moment, anyway, it’s business as usual at Saturday Night. The freelance rates haven’t changed. They’re still a dollar a word. But for how long?

Word is, the magazine won’t be taking writers or stories from the Post. But it has moved from Front to the sterile suburban confines of the Post offices in Don Mills. It also isn’t making money, and if the Post doesn’t live up to Black’s prediction that it will be profitable by year’s end, you’ve got to wonder how long the magazine will be left to bleed.

Despite Black’s political agenda, which is promoted daily in the pages of the Post, Saturday Night has always seemed to keep itself at arm’s length. I recall that it was Black who told his friend Brian Mulroney that he wouldn’t kill an unflattering profile by Mordecai Richler in the magazine.

I wonder how he’d react today if Saturday Night pursued an unflattering piece on Tom Long.


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