And so it ended, not with a bang, but with … I don’t know how to describe it.
As Montrealers were celebrating Canada Day and moving their stuff into their new apartments, the online news outlet Rue Frontenac, that began as a pressure tactic of locked-out Journal de Montréal workers and made of itself a solid source of news and investigative journalism, quietly shut down.
The website remains, but stripped of all its content. Its empty shell has been taken over by a new owner, whose identity is protected by a confidentiality agreement (UPDATE: The new owner, Marcel Boisvert, has revealed himself in an open letter). Negotiations about keeping Rue Frontenac running were unsuccessful, and all the writers, photographers, editors and others who shunned a return to the Journal or other jobs to try to keep Rue Frontenac running on its own have quit their project in apparent disgust.
The writing has unfortunately been on the wall since the Journal de Montréal lockout ended this spring. Salaries haven’t been paid since the end of April, and it wasn’t long before the organization that had split from the union filed for creditor protection. There was hope for a big name to come in with money and take over, then when that didn’t work they regained hope with another potential suitor. But for reasons that will probably only become clear once we know who this second party is, their ownership of Rue Frontenac caused everyone to leave.
It’s too early to say what these highly skilled journalists will do now. Most long ruled out rejoining the Journal de Montréal (in fact, only one news reporter and three sports reporters went back to their jobs, which required the paper to actually post for the remaining positions and hire new reporters). The most likely scenario is they go their separate ways, working for other media, freelancing (as many already do), writing books or doing other stuff.
It’s sad to see Rue Frontenac go. But let’s be honest, it’s for the best. Rue Frontenac wanted to be a generalist French-language news source in a market that was already oversaturated with competition. It was too big a project for two small a slice of the audience pie. Now those talented journalists can get on with their lives.
It’s also sad to see all the work done over the past two and a half years disappear from the Internet. Links to Rue Frontenac stories no longer work,
and so far there’s no online archive of the stuff they posted. It’s a situation similar to what happened to MédiaMatinQuébec after the Journal de Québec lockout, although for a different reason. (UPDATE: Rue Frontenac’s archives have been reposted to ExRueFrontenac.com)
You can read more about the end of Rue Frontenac, including some interviews with its leaders, in stories from:
UPDATE (July 4): Marcel Boisvert’s open letter, which seems to present a reasonable case for why he thinks he’s the victim here, opens up a lot of new questions (and caused a lot of bitter comments from the Rue Frontenac people on Twitter). The letter is summarized in Le Devoir. I’ll try to make some sense out of this whole thing in the coming days if another journalist doesn’t beat me to it.