Verge Turns 10!

Looking back over a decade of Verge.

Ten years of Verge—how did that happen? We’ve come a long way since our launch ten years ago, just two of us working in two rooms of a falling-down farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, sorting subscription copies on the floor of the living room; leaving the computer to download advertisements through the night on a dial-up internet connection; figuring out how to do everything from using our new desktop publishing software to building a website from scratch (no Wordpress or Drupal in those days).

Of all the time we’ve invested over the years, producing informative, objective, well-written editorial has always been—and continues to be—our priority. We’ve combed through the Verge archives and pulled some of the key articles we’ve published over the past ten years. Verge publisher and editor-in-chief, Jeff Minthorn, takes you behind the scenes and shares his thoughts on what made these articles important milestones in the continuing evolution of Verge.

Volume 1 issue 1, Fall 2002: Editor’s notes—Palm Reading and Unsolicited Advice

In September of 2002, a new Canadian publication found its way into Canadian schools. It was a thin, 16-page stab in the dark that had begun ten months earlier as a conversation over coffee on the ramshackle porch of a falling-down farmhouse near Palmer Rapids, Ontario. A couple of days before it went to press, I sat down to write my first-ever editor’s letter.

In some ways this was the most difficult editor’s letter I’ve had to write: how to sum up the thought behind ten months of intense 16-hour days and all the grappling with everything from incorporating a company to deciding on and gathering content, to breaking the bank with our first computer equipment —a G4 Power Mac, a 17” monitor, an HP laser printer (which we still use) and a Nikon film scanner—remember when you had to put film in your camera?

In many ways, the editor’s letter became our mission statement. Looking back at it ten years later, it’s something we still adhere closely to and, I’m proud to say, we’ve never lost sight of.

Volume 1 issue 3, Summer 2003: Don’t Let School Get in the Way of Your Education

Waiting at the printing plant while files for the summer issue of Verge were uploaded and checked by pre-press, Tannis and I were desperate for coffee, having worked straight through the night before. We ducked into the nearest coffee shop, a Starbucks attached to a Chapters bookstore. In this issue of Verge, we had included a feature article that explained the idea of a gap year. The deck for the article asserted that while the term gap year was a familiar one in the U.K., it wasn’t even in the dictionary yet in this part of the world – but we were certain that was about to change.

Well, the brand-new edition of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary had just been delivered to Chapters that week. Out of curiosity, we cracked a copy open to the “G” section. Uh oh…

We raced back to print plant, re-wrote the deck and lead paragraph on a scrap of paper and commandeered one of the press computers so that we could type the revisions directly into the press files. “Gap year” in the Canadian Oxford…the ball was rolling!

Read the article: here

Volume 2 issue 1, Fall 2004: The Irrepressible Jane Goodall

One year in and we were beginning to find our legs – and our voice. And evidently, others were listening. Out of the blue, we got a call from Gail Grolimond in Montreal, then the executive director of the Jane Goodall Foundation, Canada. I remember getting off the phone and calling over to my co-publisher, Tannis, “You’ll never guess who just phoned...”

The interview we ran with legendary conservationist and chimp researcher, Jane Goodall marks an important point in the development of Verge Magazine. With it came the credibility and weight of publishing content that had, at least in my opinion, enormous scope and significant reach. And meeting Jane was a highpoint (I actually took my grandmother along because it was such a big deal). Her unassailable sense of purpose, and her quiet but indefatigable perseverance and patience—in spite of her decades-long struggle to protect chimpanzees—was utterly inspiring.

Read the article: here

Volume 2 issue 2, Winter 2004: Teach to Travel

While planning content for our second winter issue, we recognized that, right about the time it would hit newsstands, many of our readers would be looking at finishing a university degree and—equipped with minimal work experience and saddled with massive debt— would wonder what in the blazes they were going to do next. Clearly that long-awaited post-graduation travel break was out of the question.

But wait!

This article marks Verge magazine’s first foray into the realm of TESL uh…TEFL er…TOFL…uh,…teaching English to non-English speakers.

Read the article: here

Volume 3 issue 1, Fall 2004: Alexandre Trudeau Gets Down to Basics

Journalist Alexandre Trudeau travels to some of the world's most troubled and dangerous places in an effort to understand them through the eyes of the people living there. He is a passionate supporter of international experience for young people, encouraging them to take a more active role on the world stage. This interview is, for me, emblematic of Verge magazine’s strong emphasis on the social and political context of travel.

In this same issue was published our first-ever Go Abroad Directory. Verge has always been conceived of as a resource for people who travel with purpose. In 2003, as we planned content for the following year, we came to the conclusion that one of the hardest things to find when researching go abroad options was a good, succinct list of programmes and opportunities. (Just try a Google search for “volunteer overseas” and see what you get). Turns out we weren’t the only ones thinking this. People tore the entire section out of the magazine to share with friends; teachers photocopied it for their students and posted it in their offices, and long after the fall directory issue had been cleaned off the newsstands, people continued to order back issues. We’ve published the directory in every fall issue ever since.

Read the article: here

Volume 3 issue 2, Winter 2005: Wade Davis-Tales From the Ethnosphere

Wade Davis, ethnobotanist, author, National Geographic Explorer in Residence, asserts that the world’s myriad cultures represent the sum total of man’s acquired knowledge—a rich and complex repository of skills and understanding which he calls the “ethnosphere”. He argues that this knowledge is being lost at an alarming rate, akin to a loss of the world’s biodiversity. I remember being barely able to keep up with Davis’ rapid-fire responses to my questions during what was intended to be a 20 minute interview, but which carried on for well over an hour. Davis sees his role as that of a story-teller, shedding light on the diverse and wonderful cultural realities that make up the our collective understanding of the world. The interview, and the article that came out of it, was instrumental in helping us define more precisely how we shaped Verge magazine’s editorial content and it’s emphasis on cross-cultural learning.

Volume 6 issue 2, Winter 2008: Verge magazine Photo Annual Edition

Turns out, not only are Verge readers avid travellers who do some very cool things, but they’re pretty accomplished on the view-finder end of a camera as well. In 2007 we introduced the first Verge magazine Travel With Purpose photo contest. Our expectations were modest. We thought by the time people actually got round to digging through their photo albums and the photo files on their computers, we might get a few dozen shots. We thought.

On the Sunday night deadline (we didn’t make that mistake again) we found ourselves holed up in the office frantically downloading files from the server before our website crashed under the sheer volume of submissions—around 1,200 of them—many of them stellar photographs. We mounted an exhibition that year which was admired by thousands of travellers across the country and the exhibition and photo annual edition of Verge continue to be enormously popular.

Check out the galleries: here

Volume 8 issue 1, Fall 2009: How to Choose an Ethical Volunteer Programme

Fall 2009 marked our eighth year and how things had changed—from, “what’s a gap year?” and, “what do you mean, pay to volunteer?”—to, “is this organization doing credible work toward a sustainable goal?”

This article puts the idea of international volunteering squarely in the crosshairs, and asserts that all volunteer projects and programmes are not equal. For me, this article marks an important affirmation that Verge magazine, while encouraging people to consider activities like volunteering abroad, takes the position of being a critical supporter of international volunteerism and not simply a cheerleader for what has the potential to become merely an increasingly popular and lucrative sector of the tourism industry.

Read the article: here

Volume 9 issue 3, Summer 2011: Celebrating 50 years of CUSO-VSO and Peace Corps

In 2011, two seminal volunteer sending organizations, CUSO-VSO and Peace Corps, celebrated their 50th anniversaries. While profiling these two organizations for the summer 2011 issue of Verge, it became clear how work in development and international volunteering has evolved in a half century: changes in terms of awareness of needs and opportunities that exist; shifts in the level of discussion, increased questioning the field of international volunteering and the beginnings of some hard statistical research into the effects of these sorts of programmes on both the volunteers and host communities. The debate has matured, tough questions are being asked—and addressed—and the field continues to evolve. Verge is celebrating its tenth anniversary at a very exciting time. I feel as though the magazine and the related resources we now produce, have reached a certain maturity just in time to engage in a far more robust, far less naive, and potentially much more engaging debate.

Here’s to the next ten years!

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