Posted in Media, Montreal

Rue Frontenac hits the streets

The first edition of the Rue Frontenac weekly (a collector's edition!)

Rue Frontenac, the website run by locked-out workers of the Journal de Montréal, launched a paper version of its public-relations campaign on Thursday morning.

The first edition of what will become a weekly newspaper is 48 pages, all of them colour.

It has a cover piece by Gabrielle Duchaine on how some pregnancy crisis centres hide their militant anti-abortion stance in order to manipulate expectant mothers. (Online, the piece is presented as a Flash graphic.) There are also interviews with Guy A. Lepage (one of Rue Frontenac’s biggest supporters among the artistic community – the paper rewards him by devoting an entire page to showing just his head bigger-than-life-size) and Louis Morissette, a piece about how Quebecor has pulled ads from Le Devoir (supposedly as punishment for Le Devoir’s criticisms of the Journal), and the usual arts and sports news you’d find in a newspaper, plus some puzzles.

Notably, though, there is no wire content (and, of course, no advertorials). All of the articles are written by Rue Frontenac’s journalists. This means the paper won’t present anything close to a complete perspective on the news, but the point is to show that they can still produce serious, quality journalism worth its weight in gold.

Only time will tell whether it’s worth the price. It’s not cheap to print 75,000 copies of a newspaper.

This is the second time Rue Frontenac has actually printed on newsprint. A one-off special issue last year at the start of the Canadiens’ season appears to have been well received, at least enough for them to try again.

The paper has advertising, the vast majority of which is from other unions. There are also ads from sympathetic left-wing politicians including Québec solidaire’s Amir Khadir, the Projet Montréal Plateau team, and NDP MP Thomas Mulcair.

A man hands out copies of the Journal de Montréal for free outside the Mont-Royal metro station

It was 8:30am on Thursday as I came out of the Mont-Royal metro station, the heart of the Plateau. Just inside the doors was a man in an orange vest handing out copies of Metro. Just outside, another man in another vest handing out copies of 24 Heures. Next to him, a lady in a La Presse hat handing out free copies of La Presse. And nearby, what I had originally confused for a homeless man handing out free copies of the Journal de Montréal.

For the most part, commuters breeze by not touching any newsprint. Some will pick a paper they like, or just take the ones that normally aren’t free. Some collect the different papers.

What’s clear is that even here, in the plateau known for its “clique” and which elected Québec solidaire’s only MNA so far, any effect of the Journal de Montréal conflict on its newspaper’s popularity is invisible. People young and old, poor and rich were taking copies of the newspaper at the same rate as those who took La Presse or the free papers. The fact that it is heavily reliant on wire copy and overhyped articles from its remaining managers seems to be of little consequence to those rushing to work in the morning.

That, above all, is what Rue Frontenac has to fight: indifference to their cause from regular folk. The paper might put enough wandering eyes on the quality of their journalism to make an impact. Or it might just annoy Pierre Karl Péladeau even though it’s not doing him much harm. Or it might do nothing, coexisting with its writers’ previous employer for months or years as a settlement of the conflict becomes no closer to arriving.

A stack of Rue Frontenac papers at a metro on Mont Royal Ave.

Not seeing any Rue Frontenacs at the metro station, I made my way eastward in the direction of the giant Journal de Montréal logo. I eventually picked up a copy at a recently opened Metro grocery store near the Journal’s offices. I was a bit surprised by this. Even though there were spaces for all sorts of publications, the fact that a major company would appear to take sides in the conflict is noteworthy. (Though the fact that the paper is distributed through Diffumag allows it to reach a lot of distribution points quickly.)

(Micro Boutique, a reseller of Apple products, also took a stance with a half-page ad in Rue Frontenac.)

A Google map shows the hundreds of distribution points for Rue Frontenac, spread out all over the city and surrounding region as far as Valleyfield, St. Jean sur Richelieu and Assomption. There are also distribution points in the Mauricie, Sherbrooke and Outaouais regions, and subscriptions are available for an unpublicized price.

A van appeals to Cardinal Turcotte to stop a lockout

Just across the parking lot from the Journal’s offices (and ironically just after the point where Frontenac St. turns into Iberville St.), a handful of union members at the offices of Rue Frontenac chat jovially before they pile into a van with a giant photo of Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte on top. Even though this conflict has been going on for 21 months, morale hasn’t been as low as it had been expected to be. The rejection of a contract offer the union had considered insultingly bad brightened spirits and resolve even though it meant the conflict would last longer.

Maybe it’s naive. Or maybe it’ll work.

A typo in the website's address got by the proofreaders on Page 3.

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16 thoughts on “Rue Frontenac hits the streets

  1. Joe Mason

    That’s a very appealing cover layout. Far more so than the Journal de Montreal. They should just quit and turn it into a full paper.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Rue Frontenac isn’t anywhere near profitable. And it certainly wouldn’t last long if it didn’t have the strike fund and financial support from other unions.

      Reply
      1. Joe Mason

        I assume part of the reason they’re nowhere near profitable is that they’re not actively selling ad space. They’d obviously need to change some priorities if they wanted to be a profit-making business.

        Reply
  2. wkh

    People who read JdeM don’t care about unions. This is the fundemental problem. JdeM has made a mint pointing out those fat lazy ass money sucking blue cols. Do they think people who like reading that, who pay for it, will be all bleeding heart about the Rue Frontenac struggle? It’s like asking Habs fans to stop watching the Canadiens because they beat up the poor Senators. They’re looking at you going “huh wut now?”

    Reply
  3. AlexH

    Good for them.

    I think it is important to realize that the JdeM feels sufficiently threatened as to need to give away their papers for free as well. It’s a good indication of what is going on.

    If the RF people can continue to print and continue to work the ad market, there is no reason they should not be able to move this forward towards profitability. I can picture a point where this might become the best alternative to metro and 24 heures, perhaps they can make it work out and become a 5 day a week daily. That would be sticking it to the man.

    I fear that these people will never work again for the JdeM, I think that is a dead end now. More power to them if they can pull this one off.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I think it is important to realize that the JdeM feels sufficiently threatened as to need to give away their papers for free as well. It’s a good indication of what is going on.

      I don’t think the Journal feels that it’s losing readers to Rue Frontenac. If the Journal is doing more dumping (so far we really have only anecdotal evidence that this is so), then it’s probably more because they recognize that the value of their own paper has suffered from the lack of journalists and they’re threatened by La Presse or Metro.

      If the RF people can continue to print and continue to work the ad market, there is no reason they should not be able to move this forward towards profitability.

      I think it’s a dream that this could become profitable. A weekly newspaper simply can’t sustain 250 employees, and Montreal already has two free French-language dailies, which makes demand for a third almost zero.

      Reply
      1. AlexH

        But this asks the question: If Rue Frontenac cannot make it as a viable commercial entity, why would the JdeM want to take all of them back onto staff, considering that the currently locked out paper is increasing in readership without all those extra people? Something doesn’t add up here.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          If Rue Frontenac cannot make it as a viable commercial entity, why would the JdeM want to take all of them back onto staff

          They don’t! Their latest offer would have kept one in five employees.

          There’s also a difference between the Journal de Montréal, an established newspaper with a subscriber base, business and advertising contacts, a printer, a distribution system and all the other stuff a major newspaper has, and a start-up like Rue Frontenac. The Journal can be profitable with hundreds of employees, while Rue Frontenac can’t – at least not at its current scale of operation.

          Reply
          1. AlexH

            Yet, before the strike, JdeM was a viable, profitable newspaper. The current situation (as I mentioned elsewhere) is that the owners have found a way to produce a paper that people still like enough to purchase and subscribe to without having very many on staff journalists, for the most part because of QMI and other arrangements. Rue Frontenac would have a very long way to go, but if the content is compelling enough to compete, you never know what could be done, especially if they find someone with deep enough pockets to finance it.

            Reply
  4. William Raillant-Clark

    No wire content? That’s pretty cool actually. I can read the Canadian Press stuff on my iPhone, and I certainly don’t see any point in reading AP cheaply translated into French. I like the idea of a paper that’s 100% local and original content.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      No wire content? That’s pretty cool actually.

      It’s the same policy as their website. All the text is created by the journalists. There’s an exception for some photos, where they have a deal with Reuters, for things like Canadiens road games or major international events. But the entire point is to showcase the work of their journalists, not fill pages for cheap.

      If only other newspapers could learn from that.

      Reply
  5. Nancy

    I read through this newspaper on Friday morning while waiting around for a doctor’s appointment… I loved the articles, I hated all the ads from fellow unions and other political parties stating “WE READ RUE FRONTENAC” or “BOYCOTT JOURNAL DE MONTRÉAL”… it got a little tiresome, especially since there were 1-2 of these ads per page.

    I hope these ads won’t reappear in future publications of Rue Frontenac… if they do, I won’t even bother picking up this paper.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I hope these ads won’t reappear in future publications of Rue Frontenac… if they do, I won’t even bother picking up this paper.

      You won’t pick up a newspaper with articles you love because you don’t want to see ads from unions?

      Reply
      1. Nancy

        Yes. To be quite honest, these ads were nauseating, and it was hard to miss them when they were on pretty much every single page. I dislike unions in general, so to see all this union support rah rah rah was quite ridiculous. Are we to believe that every single unionized person has cancelled their JdMtl subscription/stopped reading JdMtl altogether? Please.

        Reply
  6. Félix Cauchy-Charest

    First off, the van isn’t RueFrontenac’s, it is a van used by the employees of the “Cimetière de l’Est” who have recently put in lock-out as well.

    Secondly, the ads are pretty much the only thing that keeps any newspaper afloat. As a new publication, RueFrontenac could not muster an enormous ammount of traditional ad revenues so that’s where unions kick in. I personally dislike ads in general, but I prefer seeing a union backing a fight like this than a 10000000000th ad from Breault And Martineault trying to sell stuff for monthly payments as low as 36,95$…

    Reply
  7. Pingback: The future of Rue Frontenac – Fagstein

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