Posted in Media

Quebecor shuts down Mirror

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.”

Coverage

Also:

A few protesters express their anger about the paper’s shutdown outside Quebecor’s offices on St. Jacques St. on Tuesday.

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.

27 thoughts on “Quebecor shuts down Mirror

  1. Apple IIGS

    I have to wonder, was the ceasing this English publication politically motivated?

    Unless you have been living under a rock, we have seen a sharp climb in the witch hunt for “offensive” English presence in the city and province, including in English neighborhoods like NDG. Even the OQLF has suddenly decided, after 35 years, big stores with ENGLISH names can no longer be tolerated in this province (e.g. Futureshop, Bestbuy, The Gap, McDonald’s). Perhaps I’m way off base and this is all about declining paper versus electronic readership. Then again, Quebecor is behind the decision.

    Nevertheless, the loss of Mirror IS a shock. When I saw it on CTV News this evening, I thought, hey…aren’t they a bit late reporting this story (thinking it was about the Hour that folded a few weeks ago). And this is further elimination of English presence in the province.

    What are we left with now….? The Gazette and The Suburban. That’s it folks.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I have to wonder, was the ceasing this English publication politically motivated?

      I don’t see why. If there’s a battle between politics and profit, profit will win. Quebecor ran the Mirror for 15 years. If they had political reasons for shutting it down they probably would have done it a long time ago.

      Reply
      1. mdblog

        I’m not sure if profit is as dominant in the face of politics as you think, Fagstein. When I tell my Quebecois friends that the “promotion” of French through laws like Bill 101 and agencies such as the OQLF has hurt Montreal economically, they roll their eyes and tell me that it isn’t always about money and that money as a supreme factor is an Anglo thing.

        Perhaps you’re forgetting my story from a couple of months ago about being at an entrepreneurship conference here in Montreal where PKP spoke? He got up on stage and said that he was there to help FRANCOPHONE entrepreneurs and no one else. So yeah, while I think that profit was the likely the primary motivator behind shutting down the Mirror, it isn’t much of a stretch to consider some political factors as well.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          If you think PKP is abusing his power as head of Quebecor to impose his pro-French ideals on his media, how do you explain Sun News Network?

          I’m not sure if profit is as dominant in the face of politics as you think, Fagstein. When I tell my Quebecois friends that the “promotion” of French through laws like Bill 101 and agencies such as the OQLF has hurt Montreal economically…

          Bill 101 was imposed by the provincial government, not a private company. That’s the difference. Quebecor complains about French in Montreal to sell papers, but it also employs several high-profile columnists who argue the French Language Charter is an assault on fundamental freedoms.

          Reply
    2. Marc

      I have to wonder, was the ceasing this English publication politically motivated?

      Of course it was. How could it not be? Although he’s a mega über Québécois nationalist, Peladeau supports the PLQ and now that we’re in a de facto election campaign, he doesn’t want his party to do poorly or appear weak in “defending” the French language.

      You think that the OLF’s clamping down on English trademarks is announced on Wednesday and The Mirror having its plug suddenly pulled on Thursday is a coincidence? I think not… The dots to be connected are far too numerous for any coincidences.

      Reply
      1. Fagstein Post author

        Although he’s a mega über Québécois nationalist, Peladeau supports the PLQ and now that we’re in a de facto election campaign, he doesn’t want his party to do poorly or appear weak in “defending” the French language.

        How does shutting down The Mirror get the Liberals re-elected?

        You think that the OLF’s clamping down on English trademarks is announced on Wednesday and The Mirror having its plug suddenly pulled on Thursday is a coincidence?

        Yes. I highly doubt Quebecor reacted on Wednesday to an OQLF announcement by shutting down The Mirror the next day.

        Reply
  2. Elsa

    This is really too bad, it was a great newspaper, I don’t understand why they couldn’t of kept it running as just an online newspaper instead of shutting the whole operation down :( Quite sad

    Reply
  3. bobby

    The Montreal Gazette has been handed a wonderful opportunity with the unfortunate but predictable demise of both The Hour & The Mirror…. Take the best/most talked about aspects/writers/themes from both magazines and add them to The Gazette roster…

    If Montreal is only going to have ONE English newspaper/magazine, there’s no reason why it can’t be one of the best around…

    Reply
  4. Vahan

    I’m going to jump on this paranoid bandwagon too. What the hell it’s fun. Canada is made, of course, by two languages and PKP plays on both sides for his profit. In Quebec he starts up language firestorms and promotes distrust of anything Anglo. The Québécois don’t see another view. In the ROC he now has The Sun Media network, pushing a radical rightwing agenda, it has been compared to Faux News in the US and we all know how that is helping win for the right nut bars in the US. Is it coincidental the Harpers (he has a king complex) are trying to gut the CBC after Sun News was having a crazy battle with them concerning the legitimacy of the CBC and taxpayer money? Look what happened to Acorn in the US after Fox broadcast a hyped up report, even though it was heavily edited. Money will now be equated to democracy in Canada. The more you have the more you will influence the outcome.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Is it coincidental the Harpers (he has a king complex) are trying to gut the CBC after Sun News was having a crazy battle with them concerning the legitimacy of the CBC and taxpayer money?

      CBC’s parliamentary appropriation was cut by 10% as part of a wide-ranging list of cutbacks to various federal departments. Perhaps you think the CBC should have received some special exemption from the Conservative government’s deficit-cutting plan, but I don’t see it as “trying to gut the CBC” – surely they’d take off much more if their goal was to shut the broadcaster down.

      Reply
      1. Vahan

        Once again let me put on my tinfoil hat and tell you that this is only the first step of gutting the CBC. Baby steps with PKP media as the soapboxers yelling for more. And what deficit, the one created by Harper from cuts to the GST? They are using the same playbook used by our southern neighbours, cut taxes, cry empty coffers, cut services which will mostly hurt middle and lower class citizens. Environmental protection is being cut, Medicare will be next and so on and so on. I rather pay the 2 extra percent and know the food I eat is safe and the water I drink is not poisoned by fracking. But that is only the voices in my head.

        Reply
    2. Marc

      CBC has a grossly massive amount of overhead; there’s more bureaucracy than broadcasting going on. But of course they’re spinning their budget cut as a nail in the coffin.

      Reply
  5. Kevin

    The Mirror was a shadow of its former self and deserved to die.

    When i moved back to Montreal 6 years ago I tried to resume my habit of voraciously reading the Mirror and Hour — only to find them as degraded as that once-great weekly, the News and Chronicle.

    Simply put: the content was not there. And readers/viewers/listeners will only sit through ads if the content is good.

    That is why old media is struggling in the face of the internet: Content!
    I don’t care if you work for the Gazette, CBC, or Virgin — people will only tune in if they value the content. And if the content sucks, the audience will go anywhere else in the world to get what they want. Everything else is secondary.

    Reply
  6. wkh

    Oh please. OQLF announces every few months it is clamping down and it’s the equivalent of a “strongly worded letter” from the UN. Nothing happens.
    I’ll remind everyone ICI got shut down long before Mirror, so keep the paranoid anglo hats on the coatrack m’kay? I think it’s far more likely it was bleeding money and not worth the time and trouble to manage (especially since it’s highly unlikely anyone managing it was interested in reading the actual product). Now go try to shop around a bleeding anglo print weekly with a shit web presence in Quebec. Who exactly is going to buy that?

    What it makes me wonder is something I’ve been pondering more lately… is the concept of paid professional print non-news writers/commentators/journalists… dying? Perhaps even dead? Is the HuffPo model the way of the future? Getting people to write for the exposure for their “real” jobs?

    Reply
    1. crg

      Excellent comment. It’s nice to see some level-headed anglo montrealers. PKP is like the Montreal Canadiens: he’llpromote French only when it’s cost-effective, or when it makes his over-botoxed girlfriend horny. I also agree with your theory concerning the huffpost model

      Reply
  7. Kc+Goomtown Band

    Just because the closure may not have been politically motivated (not saying yes one way or the other) doesn’t mean politics didn’t play a part. They may have shut the paper, without warning (and likely with some of their so-valued advertisers committed beyond this issue), simply due to money. But they sure as hell knew they could get away with it.

    You and several of the people quoted are right. It is the cultural coverage that will be sorely missed. Especially as more and more of The Gazette’s stuff is from syndicated, out of town (or even country) sources. Artists, especially anglophones, will suffer, more than they already do. The question is, will anyone care?

    Reply
  8. Kc+Goomtown Band

    @wkh I think you’re onto something. But there’s a major flaw in the system that will be exposed in the next few years, based on the rate things are going. Without original, paid content, unpaid bloggers will have nothing to reblog and comment on (or quote from, heavily, as they do). And the aspiring writers who want exposure? That’s all they’ll be. Exposed. And the jobs they’re trying to get won’t exist anymore. And the reader will suffer, above all (assuming they still exist), because the only people left writing will be socialites and deluded wannabes who’ve never worked under an editor or had their stuff critiqued before (because, after all, they’re writing for free).

    Reply
  9. walkerp

    It’s a real loss. I’ve only been in Montreal for 8 years, so perhaps I missed The Mirror’s better days, but it was always a must-get every Thursday in our household. We loved the Rant Line, my wife liked the sex columnist and I just enjoyed the voice of a lively, young, creative english community in Montreal. Bummer.

    My thanks to all the people who worked on the paper and good luck to you all.

    Fuck you, Quebecor. When I first moved here, a french dude at the comic shop told me “everything here is about Quebecor, just watch” and I thought he was exaggerating.

    Reply
  10. Hercules 130

    Hi all,

    The thing that really miss from the Mirror is the “Best of Montreal” list. Does anybody here still have a copy of that article, particularly for the food section? The site is non-functional already. They do not even let it on as archive.

    Reply
  11. Philip

    Hey, Has Voir been cancelled as well? I went to my local Jean Coutu this morning and they did not seem to have the new issue out yet. I just checked the website and they do not seem to have added the new issue yet like they do every Thursday morning. (The last time, at this time is last week’s Mark Hamill cover) The blogs are being updated though. Does anyone know what’s going on?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Hey, Has Voir been cancelled as well?

      No. For some reason they’re just taking this week off. The last issue says it’s until Aug. 1. It’s the first time in at least a decade that Voir has taken a week off aside from the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

      Reply
  12. Pingback: Cult MTL brings back Best of Montreal readers’ poll – Fagstein

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