Tag Archives: Voir

Alexandre Taillefer, two managers buy Voir from its founder


Pierre Paquet, who founded the alternative weekly Voir in 1986, has sold it to a group composed of two of its managers, Michel Fortin (executive vice-president and general manager) and Hugues Mailhot (vice-president digital solutions), and investment company XPND Capital, owned by Alexandre Taillefer, better known as one of the dragons on Radio-Canada’s Dans l’oeil du dragon.

The purchase price wasn’t disclosed. It includes Voir editions in Montreal and Quebec (now biweekly and the only alternative weeklies left in those cities), plus Voir.ca, Boutique Voir, Guide Restos Voir and other related brands, plus distributor Diffumag and interior advertising network Panoramik.

Without knowing the price, it’s hard to say if this is good news or bad. But the continued involvement of current management will no doubt reassure its 50 or so employees. And Taillefer isn’t the kind of guy to invest in a doomed company.

Communications Voir had previously owned editions in Saguenay and Mauricie, as well as the English Montreal alt-weekly Hour. Those were all shut down in 2012. Sherbrooke and Gatineau editions followed in 2013.

UPDATE: Taillefer in interview with Radio-Canada. Suggests the purchase price was in the low seven-figures. And in an interview with La Presse, he says the big reason for buying the company was the Boutique Voir concept.

And also in La Presse, Nathalie Petrowski on Voir’s declining influence and Taillefer’s vague plans for rebuilding it.

Voir to publish twice a month


Voir, the last remaining of Montreal’s alternative weeklies, will soon no longer be a weekly.

Editor in Chief Simon Jodoin announced on Wednesday that, beginning this summer, the paper will publish twice a month instead of weekly. In a fine example of burying the lead on bad news, the announcement is at the very end of a long story talking about the paper’s future in upbeat tones.

The news comes a year after the company shut down Voir’s Saguenay and Mauricie editions, as well as English alt-weekly Hour. Last month, it killed its Gatineau edition.

But Jodoin isn’t presenting this as bad news. Instead, he says Voir will concentrate on writing longer, more in-depth articles and focusing more on related businesses (including one that apparently involves creating websites). I’m a bit skeptical about whether this will make a difference, or even whether people who pick up a free newspaper and read it on the metro want longer in-depth pieces. But clearly Voir isn’t throwing in the towel yet.

More coverage (well, mainly rewriting of Jodoin’s column) from Le Devoir and HuffPost Quebec. Pieuvre.ca asked for some thoughts from yours truly.

UPDATE (June 11): The Estrie edition is now also dead.

The end of Hour (for realz)

I wrote a brief story about Hour’s demise for The Gazette. You can read it here.

The final issue of Hour Community - Vol. 20, No. 18, dated May 3-9, 2012

Hour died a year ago. But now they’ve made it official.

Word leaked out Wednesday night that Communications Voir was pulling the plug on Montreal’s second English-language alternative weekly newspaper, 13 months after a purge that saw everyone associated with the paper lose their jobs or regular freelance cheques. The paper was renamed Hour Community, got a new editor in Kevin LaForest, and crawled along with even less content and advertising than before. Near the end, the paper was embarrassingly thin, with few ads that weren’t from the government or from Voir itself. Its content consisted of little more than a column from Anne Lagacé Dowson and a handful of music and restaurant reviews.

On Thursday, Hour Community publishes its final issue.

The war was long over. In the end the question wasn’t about whether the paper would recover and compete with Mirror again, but whether it could pick up enough advertising by default that it could continue operating while spending peanuts on content. It’s perhaps fortunate for the journalistic industry that the answer to that second question was “no”.

The final columns from LaForest and Dowson are online. Neither makes mention of the finality of the issue. LaForest said he heard of the decision only late Wednesday afternoon. Dowson called the news “sad” on Twitter.

“We gave it our all,” LaForest wrote to me, “but, as you wrote a year ago, I guess there’s just no room for two anglo weeklies in Montreal.”

It was an anomaly that in a place like Montreal there would be two English-language alternative weeklies but only one French-language weekly, ever since Ici closed in 2009. Though LaForest and Dowson tried to breathe new life into the crippled publication, it was just a matter of time until it too was shown the door. When one paper has eight articles and the other has 42, it’s not even a contest any more.

Hour will be remembered as a place that acted as a breeding ground for many journalists and writers, from Josey Vogels to Linda Gyulai.

Now the question will be: Will Mirror profit from this and get a boost in advertising and readership that ensures its continued success, or is this another step in the death march of this form of media?

Also being terminated are the Saguenay and Mauricie editions of Voir. In the cases of the Saguenay Voir and Hour, the news came out via Twitter messages from staff. For the Mauricie paper, it came out only after the fact.

There has been no comment from Communications Voir aside from this statement, which gives no source. It blames the advertising market for not doing enough to support the papers. Former Hour editor Jamie O’Meara disputes that, putting the blame on management that just didn’t care about Hour once it was clear it had lost the war against Mirror.

A petition has been started to convince Voir to change it mind on the Saguenay edition. It has 300 signatures online.


You’d think this would be a pretty big story, but … it’s not. Of the three local anglophone newscasts, only Global even mentioned Hour’s demise, and that was a brief apparently based on the Gazette story. (It also posted it on its website.) But aside from some blog posts and a very small number of stories, the shutting down of a newspaper in Montreal was given little attention.

That’s sad.

UPDATE: Saguenay Voir’s Joël Martel gives a proper goodbye column online, since the news came too late to make it into the paper. Now Martel is trying to use social media to help him find his next job, and has released a YouTube video and started up a Facebook campaign to help him.

UPDATE (May 22): Voir has also shut down sister paper Ottawa XPress in similarly noncommunicative fashion. Coverage from CBC and the Ottawa Citizen.

Voir to do TV show on Télé-Québec

Télé-Québec announced this week that a new show is going to start this fall that has the Voir newsroom talking about culture. This is to replace Ça manque à ma culture which was recently cancelled.

If this idea of an alt-weekly doing a cultural TV show is familiar, I can’t imagine why. ICI does the same thing, but it’s on Vox where nobody watches it. (I watched that show for the first time yesterday, it’s not bad for a Vox production, but hardly compelling either.)

Of course, they deny that they’re copying ICI’s idea.

It’s interesting to see if this becomes a bigger trend, having print journalists do TV shows related to their beats. It certainly saves money (yay convergence!) paying one person to do two jobs (ICI and Vox are both owned by Quebecor), and these roundtable discussions are super-cheap to produce – just put some guys in front of a camera and have them chat for a while.

But it also means we have fewer voices. Eventually we’ll be down to one journalist each from CTVglobemedia, Canwest, CBC/RadCan, Gesca and Quebecor covering a given beat. And maybe not even that.

Proulx despecializes

Steve Proulx, who is the media columnist and blogger at Voir, is changing his focus to be more generalist, and asking people for suggestions on what he should call his new column.

Although I’m sure this is a good move for Proulx, it’s a bit sad for the world of media criticism. The move reminds me of when Antonia Zerbisias got taken off the media criticism beat at the Toronto Star.

Proulx says he’ll still talk about media (and there’s certainly lots to talk about these days), but when you’re not focused on one subject, you lose some detail.

Media criticism is hard in this environment, because to do it properly you need to be employed as a journalist, but most of the companies who employ journalists are part of giant conglomerates that control dozens of media outlets. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone working full-time as a journalist who isn’t employed by Canwest, Quebecor, CBC, CTVglobemedia, Gesca, Transcontinental, Astral, Corus or Rogers.

There are exceptions. The Toronto Star is one, though TorStar owns part of CTVglobemedia. The Suburban is another, and it has Mike Cohen who writes about anglo Quebec media. Voir, which also owns Hour and Ottawa Xpress, allowed Proulx the freedom to write what he wished without running the risk of pissing off his employer.

And then there’s Le Devoir, where Paul Cauchon will write more about Quebec media than you’ll get anywhere else. But one journalist at Canada’s only remaining independent daily newspaper is hardly enough to cover the giant media landscape.

Let’s hope Proulx doesn’t let the media stories pass him by as he’s focusing on his expanded portfolio. Especially those stories about my employer that I can’t write without getting into trouble.

UPDATE: Proulx says he’s still editing Trente magazine, so he definitely can’t ignore media issues there.

Bilingualism isn’t a threat to Quebec

Chris DeWolf emailed me about this blog post on the two solitudes from Voir’s François Parenteau. In it, he argues that anglos are zombies (then he argues that we’re not zombies) and that we’re coming to get francophones so we can enslave them, or other such nonsense:

Et c’est vrai aussi que, d’un point de vue strictement francophone, les anglophones sont des morts-vivants. Ils sont vivants, en ce sens qu’ils marchent, travaillent, mangent, dorment, votent et font des enfants. Mais comme ils font tout ça en anglais, ils sont morts au regard de la communauté francophone. Ils ne créeront jamais rien en français. Ils ne consommeront aucun produit culturel en français. Ils ne retireront rien et n’amèneront rien à la sphère culturelle francophone. Ils la “compétitionnent” même avec la leur propre, indépendante, nourrie à même la culture majoritaire de ce zombie-land qu’est l’Amérique du Nord. Et pire encore, on le sait, ils transforment automatiquement en zombie les francophones avec qui ils entrent en contact. Il n’y a qu’à voir les communautés francophones hors-Québec pour s’en rendre compte.

My problem isn’t that he’s paranoid, or that he spews vitriolic hatred and xenophobia, painting hundreds of millions of people with one gigantic brush. My problem is how familiar this kind of language is, leading people to believe that such opinions are valid.

I wonder if I should even point out that the entire premise for the post is wrong. He says census data shows that French is the mother tongue of less than 50% of Montrealers (which is true), and that this is because of an increase in the number of English speakers. A quick look at the census data shows that almost all the change in percentages comes because of an increase in immigration and the number of allophones (who speak neither language at home). What’s more, a majority of these immigrants to Quebec are choosing French over English for the first time.

Of course, facts are irrelevant. What matters is what’s in his gut. And the irrational fear is there. Just like Americans think they’re going to get swarmed by illegal Mexican immigrants and have to speak Spanish, people like Parenteau think there’s an organized anglo conspiracy to rid Quebec of the French language, and that the percentage of francophones, now around 80% province-wide, will drop to zero.

I’m not suggesting that being surrounded by a population 50 times your size doesn’t put a melting pot pressure. It does, though nowhere near as big as alarmists make it out to be. And the shrinking population of francophones outside Quebec should be of concern as well to anyone who wants this country to promote bilingualism.

But it’s not equivalent to South African apartheid, as one commenter (who wants everyone to know he has a bachelor’s degree) suggested.

Facebook and YouTube have to change

Parenteau points to the English-only Facebook as an example of the assimilation of francophones into anglophonia. I think it’s annoying that Facebook is only now considering creating versions of itself in other languages. YouTube, which launched an English-only Canadian site despite already having translated versions, is even moreso.

But the blame for this should rest on Facebook and YouTube, not anglophones in general. And the suggestion that francophones should boycott these sites (yeah, good luck with that) is exactly how it should be dealt with.

Blaming anglos doesn’t solve anything

Even if we ignore all of that, the fact remains that Parenteau and company don’t put forward any serious solutions for the problem of “zombies” eating their brains. Some suggest sovereignty, which wouldn’t stop Quebecers from using Facebook, nor would it make French more common elsewhere in Canada. Restrictive legislation like Bill 101 just makes companies look for loopholes, which is why Momma’s Pizza House is now Maison de Pizza Maman but Burger King is still Burger King. Boycotts and popular campaigns don’t work.

And most importantly, blaming all us anglos for the problem and calling us names won’t do a thing for the cause. It’s not going to make us all run away to Toronto or start speaking French. It’s just going to get us riled up and start writing blog posts.

But I’m not going to stoop to François Parenteau’s level. I’m not going to pretend like he represents the majority of francophones. I know better than to suggest that 80% of Quebec’s population are ignorant xenophobes who want to rid the world of everyone who isn’t like them.

Why aren’t we happy with bilingualism?

Montreal is the most bilingual city in North America. It’s a place where it’s not uncommon to find people switching languages in mid-sentence. But rather than embrace that, the two solitudes are at each other’s throats. Yes, that means we have some unilingual anglophones, but they represent less than 5% of the population. Is this really the end of the world? The alien invasion? The apocalypse?

We should be celebrating the fact that we can speak two languages here. We should be promoting it as an economic strength. Instead, we have people like François Parenteau who believe refusing to speak another language makes him a better person.