Frank (magazine)

Frank (magazine)

"Frank" is a bi-weekly Canadian scandal or satirical magazine, inspired by and often compared to the British "Private Eye". One edition is sold in the Maritime provinces and the other recently relaunched from Ottawa. The magazine is available on newsstands throughout Halifax and across the Maritimes, as well as Ottawa, Toronto and other major centres. The two editions are legally separate entities.

Halifax edition

The idea for "Frank" can be traced to Halifax-area newspaper publisher David Bentley. Using money he received from the sale of "The Daily News", Bentley, along with Lyndon Watkins and Dulcie Conrad, started a bi-weekly "gossip rag" or "scandal magazine" which they gave the name "Frank".

The first issue was published in November 1987 and focused on gossip about the private lives of the rich, famous and politically connected in the Maritime provinces. It was designed to sell the sensational news coverage that mainstream press in the Maritimes was averse to covering and was somewhat of an extension to Bentley's vision for "The Daily News" during the 1970s and early 1980s.

Bentley followed a successful formula with "Frank" by feeding the need for sensational gossip among the rich and powerful as well as the average citizen. The publication found its niche in a Canadian media which was traditionally reluctant to pry into the personal lives of politicians and other notables, often covering material found nowhere else. All articles in "Frank" are published anonymously although some of its contributors have at times been revealed to be reporters working for more mainstream media outlets.

It was often rumoured that each issue of "Frank" was incorporated as a separate legal entity, leaving no assets for potential lawsuits over libel, although there is no proof that this was ever done. Unusually, the magazine had no real advertising and operated solely from its subscriptions, although it does contain a great deal of satirical "advertising".

Bentley expanded the "Frank" franchise to include an Ottawa edition in 1989 with the help of former Canadian Press reporter Michael Bate, while continuing with his publication of the Halifax edition. The Halifax edition of "Frank" gained considerable coverage after scooping local and national media to reveal the charges of sexual assault against former Premier of Nova Scotia and Trudeau-era cabinet minister Gerald Regan. Regan was subsequently acquitted. Local targets of the magazines satire and gossip have frequently included members of the billionaire Sobey, Irving and McCain families, as well as prominent local media personalities and politicians in all three provinces.

Dulcie Conrad sold her share of the Halifax edition of "Frank" in the mid-1990s to Bentley and Watkins. In September 2000, Bentley and Watkins sold an equity stake in the Maritime edition of "Frank" to one of the magazine's reporters, Clifford Boutilier.

From 2002 to 2004, David Bentley's daughter Carolyn Wood was the editor/publisher of the Maritime edition.

The 500th issue of "Frank" hit newsstands in the Maritimes on February 6, 2007.

Ottawa edition

Bentley's expansion of the "Frank" franchise from its Halifax base to include an Ottawa edition in 1989, with the help of Michael Bate, proved extremely successful during its first decade of publication, as the edition quickly outsold its Maritime cousin by feeding off the void of gossip news among mainstream media in the nation's capital.

Bate subsequently bought out Bentley and his other partners to make the Ottawa edition of "Frank" independent of its Halifax roots, although both magazines maintained similar coverage and continued much as before.

Bate did make several changes including adding a "Remedial Media" section which printed gossip tidbits on the internal politics of local media outlets. Michael Coren, whose humour column "Aesthete's Diary" was retitled "Michael Coren's Diary" after he revealed his true identity, was one of the few contributors ever to use his real name in the magazine.

The final page of the Ottawa edition of "Frank" also featured a humour column, usually satirizing the point of view of a real Canadian political figure such as Sheila Copps or Preston Manning. In later years, the back page column was titled "Dick Little's Canadian Beef" -- Little was not a real figure, but simply a curmudgeonly character of mostly conservative views meant to satirize a typical "angry Canadian."

The Ottawa edition of "Frank" received incredible notoriety during its most famous edition during 1991 when the magazine ran a satirical advertisement for a contest inviting young Tories to "Deflower Caroline Mulroney." Mulroney's father, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, was incensed and threatened physical harm toward those responsible before joining several women's groups in denouncing the ad as an incitement to rape -- the magazine maintained that it was commenting on Brian Mulroney's perceived habit of using his daughter as a political prop.

The Ottawa edition of "Frank" broke a number of notable stories, including being the first to publish the tale of Mel Lastman's wife's shoplifting arrest and was the only Canadian publication to cover the sordid divorce trial of cabinet minister Paul Dick. Other "Frank" targets included notorious teen killer Karla Homolka, CBC Radio host Peter Gzowski, and comedian Dan Aykroyd. "Frank" continuously followed the marriages of personalities, such as CBC Television news anchor Peter Mansbridge with fellow journalist Wendy Mesley then with actress Cynthia Dale, and Bank of Montreal CEO Matthew Barrett with pin-up model Anne Marie Sten.

"Frank" frequently mocks what it sees as banal or clichéd journalistic prose, particularly that of lifestyle columnists such as Leah McLaren and Russell Smith from "The Globe and Mail" and Rebecca Eckler from "The National Post".

Other regular features of the magazine included parody movie or television advertisements and a two-page fumetti comic which used television screenshots, usually of newscasts, to mock journalists and politicians through the use of satirical dialogue balloons.

Many of those who had been written about or "Franked," threatened lawsuits, and many issues toward the end of Michael Bate's ownership contained printed apologies as a means to warding off the expense of lawyers' fees. The magazine bit the bullet on only two legal battles -- one to a Quebec judge and one to Mike Duffy, a Canadian television journalist whom the magazine deemed a "fat-faced liar" and had called "Mike Puffy" (in reference to his physical appearance). Although the magazine settled on the latter case, the legal expenses launched the Ottawa edition into a downward financial spiral.

In 2003 Bate made it known that he was looking for a buyer. A bid was soon on offer by Theo Caldwell, who had no publishing background and was apparently returning to Canada after a bid to become a Hollywood actor. Likely backed by his father, an investment adviser, Caldwell offered $150,000 for the company. Caldwell claimed to be interested in making "Frank" a "kinder, gentler" magazine.

A counteroffer was soon made by a group of Toronto investors led by former "Globe and Mail" business reporter Fabrice Taylor. After a reportedly bizarre meeting at Bate's house, he sold the magazine to Taylor's group. Taylor moved the magazine to Toronto and relaunched it in late 2003 — however, circulation dropped dramatically, and lingering financial difficulties resulting from libel lawsuits ended with the final issue on December 3, 2004. It should be noted that the Halifax edition was unaffected and continued publishing.

The Ottawa edition of "Frank" was resurrected after Bate reportedly reacquired the property from Taylor, returning the satire magazine to the nation's capital. The new ownership created an online magazine using the name, with the first issue publishing on September 27, 2005. Several features from the original printed version of the Ottawa edition were retained and a full print version returned to newsstands in late November 2005 (issues are numbered as "Volume 2"). With the print version, subscription-by-mail again became available and overall circulation numbers are returning to previous levels.

The return of "Frank" to Ottawa coincided with the fall of the government and launch of a federal election. The Ottawa edition of "Frank" scooped national media by being the first to report controversial remarks by Liberal media spokesperson Scott Reid. These remarks formed the first of several controversies that led to the defeat of the Liberal party which had formed the government for the previous 13 years.

"Frank" jargon

"Frank" often incorporates custom jargon and phrasing in articles. Examples include referring to news reporters as "bingo callers", public relations staff were referred to as "bum boys" and "fartcatchers". When the magazine alluded to two famous Canadians having sexual relations, it would refer to them as "horizontal mambo partners", while gay public figures — whether publicly out or not — were often referred to as "avid pianists".

"Frank" also referred to many of Canada's elite in a derogatory manner based upon their personalities, name, or other unique characteristics. Prime Ministers were always referred to by nicknames such as Byron Muldoon or Jean Crouton rather than their real names.


Both the Maritime and Ottawa editions of "Frank" have been the subject of numerous libel complaints. In the case of the Ottawa edition, several of these actions were successful and are cited as a major reason for the collapse of that edition in 2004.

Some celebrities who have sued "Frank" include:

* Mike Duffy, a CTV political correspondent who was reportedly awarded $50,000 in civil court.
* Mary Hogan, former Ontario Deputy Attorney General.
* Warren Kinsella, journalist.
* Joe Magnet
* Steve Petherbridge
* Pamela Wallin, a TV personality.

"Frank" was also censured by former Prime Ministers, Premiers of Quebec and the Canadian House of Commons for defaming the province of Quebec.

ee also

* Media in Canada


External links

* [] Libel Noose Closes on Frank: Satirical Rag Has Few Friends.
* [] The Ballad of Electronic Frank (re: libel suits after Ottawa re-launch).
* [] The online version of the Ottawa edition of "Frank", relaunched on September 27, 2005.
* [] The online discussion group for readers of the relaunched Ottawa edition of "Frank".
* [ eFrank supporters]
* [ Franksters] An online discussion group for fans of the Ottawa edition of Frank
* [] An online discussion group for fans of the former Ottawa edition of "Frank".
* [ Debunk and Whinge ] An online American-based discussion group for fans of the Ottawa edition of Frank
* [ Google's archive of the alt.frankmagazine newsgroup] .

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