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A separate publication in Ottawa, Ontario, of the same name was published from 1989 to 2004 and then revived from 2005 to 2008. This publication was a legally separate entity, although it was spawned from the Halifax publication.
Frank was inspired by, and is often compared to, the British Private Eye. The magazine is available on newsstands throughout Nova Scotia.
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 Maritimes. 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.
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.
In 2004, Wood handed control of the magazine to John Williams, previously a Frank staff reporter. No money changed hands.
Williams sold Frank Magazine to Cape Breton-born businessman Douglas Rudderham for an undisclosed sum in November 2010, in order to concentrate efforts on his gay publication, Gaze Magazine. Based in Montreal, Rudderham is also the president and CEO of Pharmacy Wholesale Services, primarily a supplier of diabetic supplies.
In June 2011 conventional media outlets such as CBC and The Chronicle Herald reported that the publication's newsroom underwent a massive shakeup when four of its five reporters left, three having been fired by managing editor Andrew Douglas and one resigning. CBC reported that the first reporter to be fired, Mairin Prentiss, occurred after she had questioned a recent column on sexism. The firing of Prentiss apparently triggered Walsh's resignation, which was followed by terminations for Neal Ozano and Jacob Boon who allegedly acted insubordinately.
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 Canadian 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 notoriety in 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 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 mocked what it saw 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 of 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. Caldwell offered $150,000 for the company, and 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. 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 efrank.ca, 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.
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.
An announcement was sent on October 28, 2008 that the print and web versions of the publication were ceasing publication. In 2013, Bate announced an intention to revive Frank as an online publication.
Frank often incorporates custom jargon and phrasing in articles. News anchors were referred to 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 "homosexualists", or "avid pianists" (if male) and "sushi enthusiasts" (if female).
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, and people with difficult-to-spell surnames, such as CBC journalist Tina Srebotnjak, typically had their surname replaced with the epithet "Alphabits".
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.
- Steve Petherbridge
- Pamela Wallin, a TV personality.
- The Chronicle Herald (June 2011). "Frank magazine sheds four reporters in massive shakeup.". Halifax. Retrieved 2011-06-15.
- Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (June 2011). "Frank Magazine guts newsroom.". CBC News (Halifax). Retrieved 2011-06-14.
- "Memories of Mike Duffy: lawsuits and ‘smear’ campaigns". Toronto Star, February 22, 2013.
- "Political satire magazine Frank to return". CBC News, May 27, 2013.
- Libel Noose Closes on Frank: Satirical Rag Has Few Friends[dead link]
- The Ballad of Electronic Frank[dead link] (re: libel suits after Ottawa re-launch)
- Frank Magazine - Atlantic Canada Edition