No money, no problem: mag created for ‘Broke’ students

What do you get when you take a couple of strangers and force them to work together in a magazine editing class? You get Broke a new twice-a-year zine highlighting young Toronto artists. 

The first issue of Broke magazine. (Tiffany Crawford / Ryersonian Staff)

The first issue of Broke magazine. (Tiffany Crawford / Ryersonian Staff)

Current fourth-year journalism students Sarah Amormino and Dylan Bell were absent on the first day of Ryerson instructor Stephen Trumper’s magazine editing course last year. When they showed up the following week and everyone else already had a group for their main assignment, Trumper paired them up.

If you saw them today, you would assume they had been best friends for years.

“Magazine editing was the first time we said hi to each other,” Bell said. “We had one class together before and never looked at each other because I was intimidated.”

Immediately they were tasked with developing a magazine concept. Their original idea was a street-style mag they intended to call Outfitted. After being questioned by a guest speaker about the audience they wanted to reach (broke, university-aged Torontonians), they scrapped their initial plan and Broke was born.

Sometimes stylized as BRØKE with a backslash a design choice that alludes to the zero dollars young people have after rent and tuition — Bell said the name of their publication may be the main reason people pick it up.

“The name Broke jumps out at you,” he explained. “Being alive and living is expensive for everyone, but especially so for young people who don’t have (a retirement savings fund) or a 9-5, and doubly so for young creatives.”

Dylan Bell at Lake Devo (Courtesy of Sarah Amormino)

Dylan Bell at Lake Devo (Courtesy of Sarah Amormino)

Amormino and Bell agree that things couldn’t have worked out better.

“We have never done anything like this before and if it weren’t for that class we probably never would have,” Amormino said.

Broke’s first issue, which was released in late July this year, was funded by a Kickstarter and consists of a combination of edgy written work and photography. Described as a magazine “by youth, for youth,” they teamed up with over 40 artists from around the city.

Some of their major pieces include “Coach House Sound,” a feature about a recording studio in Parkdale built by a group of friends, and a fashion spread starring androgynous twin brothers, along with the issue’s cover story titled “The New Toronto” — a 20-page feature about four lesser-known musicians who are starting to make waves in the music industry.

“When we got in touch with them the first time, none of them had been in any magazines, no one had ever heard of them,” Bell said

While Amormino and Bell produced a few of the pieces in the magazine, their work was mostly behind the scenes.

Last week, the pair gave out free copies by Lake Devo.

“We want to give back to Ryerson because Ryerson gave us this amazing opportunity,” Amormino said. “But honestly it’s benefitted us.


Broke magazine giveaway (Courtesy of Dylan Bell)

The pair said the amount of positive feedback they’ve received has been overwhelming. Lately, a number of students have even reached out to them via social media, wanting to talk about their own art, music and designs.

Now that the duo, who jokingly call themselves a “cute little married couple,” have mastered magazine-making 101, they want to make small tweaks to future editions. Their aim is for Broke to be double the size and have more content when the second issue comes out in the new year. They also want to take the mag online.

When asked what their grade for the course was, neither could really remember. Amormino said the marks weren’t important.

Sarah Amormino at Lake Devo (Courtesy of Dylan Bell)

Sarah Amormino at Lake Devo (Courtesy of Dylan Bell)

“Our ultimate goal with Broke was to start a community for these creators to collaborate,” Bell said. “I think the easiest way to do that is to take something that people don’t like to brand themselves as and say, ‘No, it’s OK to be broke, you’re young and you’re filled with passion. Be proud of that.'”

This article was published in the print edition of The Ryersonian on Nov. 4, 2015.

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