The National Media Awards Foundation is delighted to announce a unique occurrence in the presentation of the 2023 Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement, as two exceptional recipients are honoured: Jennifer Varkonyi, publisher of Maisonneuve, and Jean-Paul Gagné, publisher emeritus of Les Affaires. This unparalleled decision is due to the Outstanding Achievement Award’s postponement in 2021 and 2022, amid pandemic-related restrictions on in-person events.
Hailing from Saskatoon, Jennifer Varkonyi holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Language and Literature from Concordia University, where she honed her skills and embarked on her journey in the publishing industry.
In 2007, Jennifer became the publisher of Maisonneuve, a Montreal-based, English-language quarterly magazine with a focus on arts, literature, ideas, and culture. Showcasing established and emerging writers, artists, and photojournalists, Maisonneuve features award-winning design in each issue.
During a 2017 interview for our Off the Page series, Jennifer credited the exceptional team at Maisonneuve for the magazine’s success at the 2016 NMAs, stating, “Maisonneuve has been blessed with great editors, art directors, writers, artists, and interns who give their all to the magazine.”
However, at the heart of the magazine’s enduring success is Jennifer herself. As former editor-in-chief Haley Cullingham (now senior editor at Hazlitt) notes, “Maisonneuve wouldn’t continue to exist today without Jennifer’s skill, commitment, and passion. Many journalists working today can honestly say they wouldn’t have thrived in this industry without her support.”
Former editor-in-chief Drew Nelles recalls Jennifer’s “superhuman efforts” in maintaining the magazine’s viability, from courting advertisers to applying for grants and handling printing logistics. Jennifer’s dedication and hard work have contributed immensely to the Canadian magazine industry, fostering numerous careers and enabling the publication of countless talented writers and artists.
While Jennifer’s financial acumen has played a vital role in keeping Maisonneuve afloat on a limited budget, it’s her personal relationships with staff members that have truly sustained the magazine. As former editor-in-chief Selena Ross (now with CTV News) remarks, “It’s Jen’s everyday attention and care that has allowed the magazine to stay in business.”
andrea bennett, another former editor-in-chief (now senior editor at The Tyee), fondly remembers the supportive atmosphere at Maisonneuve, describing it as “the first media job I ever held where I could discuss my career openly and receive good, supportive advice.”
Under Jennifer’s leadership, Maisonneuve has earned dozens of National Magazine Awards, solidifying its reputation for editorial excellence. Former editor-in-chief Daniel Viola (now senior editor at The Walrus) emphasizes Jennifer’s instrumental role in achieving these accolades.
In addition to her role at Maisonneuve, Jennifer has also demonstrated a commitment to the broader Canadian magazine industry. From 2019 to 2021, she served as the Chair of the board of Magazines Canada, the country’s trade association for magazine media. In this capacity, she worked tirelessly to promote the interests of Canadian publishers and to advocate for a diverse and sustainable magazine ecosystem.
The National Magazine Awards jury praised Jennifer’s accomplishments, stating, “Being brave enough to tackle the publisher role on an independent arts and culture magazine in Canada is one thing—making a multi-award-winning success of it year after year is nothing short of legendary in this business. Jennifer Varkonyi, after a decade and a half at the helm of Maisonneuve, can lay claim to both.”
Jean-Paul Gagné, an alumnus of Laval University with a bachelor’s degree in economics, began his illustrious career as an economic journalist. Subsequently, he spent 12 years at the daily newspaper Le Soleil, where he served as both the head of the economics section and head of national news. However, his most significant impact was during his tenure at Les Affaires, where he truly left an indelible mark on the industry.
Pierre Marcoux, president and founder of Contex Group, notes that, upon Jean-Paul’s arrival at Les Affaires in 1980, Québec journalism hardly covered economics and finance. Jean-Paul has been instrumental in fostering the growth of top-tier business journalism within the province. Under his adept leadership, Les Affaires witnessed a remarkable expansion in readership, soaring from a modest few thousand to over 100,000 at its peak—an unparalleled accomplishment for a Québec business weekly and the highest market penetration in Canada.
Throughout his career, Jean-Paul has mentored multiple generations of journalists, instilling his own meticulous, patient, and determined approach to journalism. Stéphane Lavallée, one of Jean-Paul’s “former students” and the former Director General of the Coopérative nationale de l’information indépendante, attests that Jean-Paul has groomed dozens of journalists who have subsequently embarked on distinguished careers, either with Les Affaires or in other prominent national news media.
Even though Jean-Paul Gagné assumed the role of publisher emeritus at Les Affaires in 2007, he is far from retired and his dedication to the industry remains unwavering. Not only does he contribute a column in every issue and maintain a blog on LesAffaires.com, but he also actively participates in organizing events and representing the publication within the business community. Additionally, Jean-Paul is sought after for his insightful commentary on current events across various media platforms and as a distinguished speaker at conferences.
Praising his accomplishments, the National Magazine Awards jury lauded Jean-Paul Gagné as “a visionary who understood what audiences wanted and was able to develop a financially sustainable way to deliver it.”
The National Media Awards Foundation proudly celebrates the achievements of Jean-Paul Gagné and Jennifer Varkonyi as joint recipients of the 2023 Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement. Their dedication, leadership, and passion have left an indelible mark on journalism and enriched the Canadian media landscape. Congratulations to Jean-Paul and Jennifer for their well-deserved recognition and unwavering commitment to their publications and the broader industry!
Nominations — 2023 National Magazine Awards
Finalists for the 46th annual National Magazine Awards will be announced tomorrow, May 2, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. EDT. The 46th National Magazine Awards gala is set for June 2, 2023 at Arcadian Court in Toronto. Tickets are on sale now, and we look forward to seeing you there!
About the Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement
The NMAF’s most prestigious individual prize is the Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement, an award that recognizes an individual’s innovation and creativity through contributions to the magazine industry. The award is open to circulation experts, editors, marketing, sales and promotion professionals, publishers, creators, designers, production managers—in short, to everyone in the industry. It cannot be given posthumously.