Well, this one's kind of a shocker. Mere weeks after Communications Voir finally pulled the plug on the struggling Hour, Quebecor has responded not by positioning Mirror as the dominant alternative weekly for anglo Montreal, but by simply shutting it down. Thursday's issue is its last.
Like Hour, staff were not told of the shutdown until after the fact, so there's no goodbye message. Quebecor says the shutdown will result in seven layoffs, plus two people being moved to other parts of the company. The paper was also a source of income for many freelancers, and (along with Hour) gave many journalists their first professional bylines.
For those employees, and regular freelancers, the news hit hard, especially when coming from a corporate giant like Quebecor.
Film editor Malcolm Fraser posted the following on Facebook:
[W]hen you go to the Mirror site, the note (which was NOT written by "the editors") claims the usual excuse about the internet killing off print media. This is a lame excuse. Publications that are thriving (or even just surviving), both in print and online, are due to the vision of people or companies who know and care about what they're doing. And our former corporate overlords are not that.
From Motion Picture Purgatory illustrator Rick Trembles:
The Montreal Mirror just went kaput today with zero warning to its contributors. I found out about it on Facebook. I've been drawing Motion Picture Purgatory for them every week since 1998. True story: Knowing full well how fickle the weeklies biz is, EVERY week I would mark a reminder like this down in my agenda to go pick up a print copy to see how my strip turned out, but I would always follow it WITH A QUESTION MARK because I was never sure if It'd see print or not.
From former film editor Mark Slutsky:
I was the film section editor at the Mirror from 2005-2011, as well as one of the paper’s resto critics. My first break at the paper, though, was compiling the Best of Montreal, which involved manually entering over a thousand polls, each with about 100 entries, a truly overwhelming job when you consider this was before the BoM was filled out via web form. I would go on to edit the paper’s listings for a couple of years, during which time I got another break from then-film-editor Matthew Hays, who kindly gave me the opportunity to try my hand at film criticism, which I parlayed into a loose definition of a “career.”
The shadow of Quebecor and the possibility of our eventual doom always loomed over us, but I think it’s a testament to the talent and dedication of the editorial staff that you rarely felt that in the paper. I have to pay particular tribute to the iron-willed dedication of longtime editor-in-chief [Alastair Sutherland], who managed to keep the corporate idiocy at arm’s-length. Al deserves so much credit for making the paper what it was—we all learned a lot from him and his unfailing eye for style and tone, not to mention a bullshit detector of the highest caliber.
It’s impossible to say what could have been if we’d been overseen by corporate management that seemed to have even the remotest clue as to what to do with this weirdo, left-leaning outpost of the Quebecor empire, and which had been even slightly prepared to deal with the realities of a rapidly changing media landscape. The higher-ups seemed more pre-occupied with backwards-looking attempts to actually de-brand the Mirror in favour of Quebecor—email addresses were changed from “@mtl-mirror.com” to “@quebecormedia.com”, and in the paper’s last days, I heard there was even talk of changing the website from www.montrealmirror.com to www.canoe.ca/montrealmirror. If you head to the former now, you’ll see they got their wish in the end, along with inexplicably taking the last two years of the site offline (everything post-redesign; the old archives from 2010 and earlier are still online, almost certainly because whoever was in charge of the hit job was too clueless to realize they even existed.)
That said, my heart’s with my newly unemployed former colleagues, though they’re all so talented I’m sure they’ll land on their feet. I worry, though, about every artist, impresario, promoter, musician, etc. who relied on the Mirror over the years to get the word out about their events and projects. My years as listings editor made it very clear just how many people needed the paper to support what they did, and I worry about the effect this will have on Montreal’s cultural landscape—in both languages. How many bands got their start with an article by Johnson or Lorraine? How many artists got their first nod with a piece in Artsweek? How many small film festivals attracted a crowd because of a review or a picture in the film listings section? As much as the web has been blamed for the death of alt-weeklies, I still haven’t seen anything online that’s replaced or replicated, what the Mirror did so well.
From freelancer Roxane Hudon:
It’s no secret that I’m an overly emotional person, but I can’t help it, and I don’t know where or how to start expressing what I owe these people. They let me get away with a lot, I mean, a fucking lot. Although Alastair loved reminding me when we were both drunk that he was the only one who wanted to hire me, they all eventually gave me a chance. Patrick let me call Peter Sergakis an asshole and share a photo of me grinding a photo of a male prostitute in Havana and then somehow entrusted me with interviewing Chris Hedges. Sacha Jackson let me review books about vaginas, dating and Jay-Z and thought that this somehow made me worthy of doing her job one too many times. Mark Slutsky let me put Step Up 3D in my top ten, and Malcolm Fraser had to apologize to one too many PR people on my behalf and deal with my “problem child” tendencies (thanks for once drunkenly telling me in Toronto that you thought I “was smarter than I let on”). And no matter how many times I fucked up, Alastair somehow always believed in me.
From Networthy columnist Mike Citrome:
I'm not sure what Quebecor was thinking by unceremoniously dumping the Mirror, when the Rant Line, Best of Montreal, Student Survival Guide, Noisemakers, event listings and dare-I-say-it Networthy all have value, an audience, etc. I'm as much of an outsider as you can get, but I've heard no official rumblings (from the big Q) of keeping any of this stuff alive in a new format, which is a real shame, not to mention egregiously leaving money on the table.
Citrome tells me later: "I think I'm ready to put Networthy out to pasture."
I'm guessing the shutdown of Hour didn't result in enough advertising shifting over to Mirror (there wasn't much to shift over), and Quebecor has decided that even a monopoly isn't enough to sustain a working business model.
The Mirror will be missed, if not for its scant news coverage, at least for its cultural coverage (particularly alternative culture, things that don't get big feature stories in The Gazette) and for regular features like Chris Barry's People profiles, The Rant Line and Sasha's sex column.
This also means no more Best of Montreal, unless someone else wants to take it over.
It will be interesting to see if regular columnists end up elsewhere. It's obviously too early now, but Sasha's sex column is still being published in Toronto's NOW, and listings editor Vidya Lutchman (who called the shutdown "an unceremonial sucker punch") wants to keep the service running in some way, preparing "a new venue to get everyone's listings out there."
- The Gazette, which includes comments from sex columnist Sasha
- The Globe and Mail, with quotes from news editor Patrick Lejtenyi and co-founders Catherine Salisbury and Julien Feldman
- OpenFile, which also has some comments from contributor Tracey Lindeman, who says the online statement from "The editors of The Mirror" was not actually written by any editor at The Mirror
- CTV Montreal, with comments from co-founder Daniel Sanger and former Mirror columnist Kristian Gravenor (who now works at CTV). It also interviewed Jason Rockman to give analysis on the demise of alt-weeklies in Montreal.
- CBC Montreal, which did a TV report (starts at 4:00) filled with archival footage from the late 1990s.
- Global Montreal, which did some Storifying of people's Tweets on the subject. (The news was just a brief during the evening newscast.)
- La Presse, which quotes editor Alastair Sutherland saying the closure was a surprise, and adds context of what's happening to other cultural publications including Voir.
- HuffPost Québec
- Midnight Poutine, with a quick and dirty Photoshop job and some brief thoughts on how the online community must step up
- Forget the Box
- Canadian Press
- Projet J
- Le Devoir
- Journal de Montréal (Agence QMI), which uses a stock photo of German newspapers for some reason
- Former Hour columnist Bugs Burnett on the demise of what was once his arch-nemesis
- Mirror co-founder Brendan Kelly reminisces on his Gazette blog
- Former city columnist Kristian Gravenor offers random bits of memories of his years there, and goes a bit contrarian in lamenting that the paper hadn't really done anything noteworthy the last few years
- A heartfelt ode from a longtime reader
- Another goodbye from CJLO's Brian Joseph, one of many profiled by Chris Barry
- CKUT interviews Mirror music writer Jonathan Cummins
- Kevin Laforest (who was Hour's editor when it was shut down) posts his first Mirror story
- A piece from Drawn and Quarterly discussing its history with the paper
- A Maisonneuve article from September by Justin Giovannetti on Montreal's alt-weekly scene (done in the period between when Hour laid off most of its staff and when the paper shut down for good)
- A piece by Will Straw in HuffPost looking at the evolving business models of alternative weeklies, and why he thinks a push to online would not have saved the paper.
- Voir's Simon Jodoin wonders if there really is a pure "anglophone community" in Quebec.
- A petition has been started up to save the paper. It will, of course, fail.
- A Facebook event ... or group ... or page ... to save the Mirror.
- Letters to the editor in The Gazette
- Archives from 1997 to 2010 are still on the Mirror's website. At least for now.
UPDATE (June 26): A protest/"block party" was planned for Tuesday at 4pm outside Quebecor's offices on St. Jacques St. Despite more than 100 people confirming their attendance on Facebook, and some mentions of the protest in local media, the protest started late and never grew to more than 10.