NOW founders Michael Hollett and Alice Klein look back – and ahead
People who lived in the city before 1981, remember this: Toronto was a city in need of its NOW. We needed a local paper that would go beyond the status quo both in art and in politics, that would talk to people beyond the usual suspects and ask them very different questions. But it was more than that. We needed media to engage a larger community in the city’s rich local scenes. We needed a way to stimulate connection between like-minded people trying to foster human values like respect for diversity and sharing. And we needed something bigger than a telephone pole to access comprehensive information that would make all the fun and inspiration of living in T.O.’s creative vortex accessible to everyone.
No corporate, market-research-driven boardroom was going to be able to do this kind of project. It wasn’t a proven money-maker or a well-beaten path. But luckily for Michael Hollett and me, a few people actually did bet some money (not very much, but that’s a different story) that two overconfident former student activists just a few years out of university would be the lucky ones who could do it.
Frankly, we were a bit embarrassed to tell some of our friends that we were starting a business. Marrying a loud, opinionated social consciousness with entrepreneurialism was like going to the dark side in those days. It was funny, but it was uncomfortable back then, too. Right from the start, we got a dose of how it felt to be ahead of our time. And it really hasn’t changed that much.
While we’ve always tried to make our success look simple and assured, it never really feels that way to us. There aren’t many well-established, independent, writer-led media organizations in this country. The small fry usually get eaten up before they get too far. But Michael and I never planned to be feeders for some big media corp. In our minds, that would run counter to our challenging mandate of giving Toronto the weekly that it deserves. We are both thankful that some lucky star brought together two very different partners completely aligned on this major issue.
That’s why Torstar, publishers of the Toronto Star, launched their own faux “alternative” Eye Weekly 15 years ago, and why they’ve kept coughing up the dollars to keep it afloat all this time. In all these years, we at NOW have never had the luxury to stop earning our business and our readers. Nor would we want it.
For 25 years, doing the job and staying ahead of ourselves has meant pretty much just staying uncomfortable and laughing about it.
And we hope you’ll find reason to join us – at least in a few laughs – as you check out this special anniversary edition.
But true to form, an anniversary like this one calls for looking ahead as well
as looking back. What we see is a time when each and every one of us is challenged to change the ways we disrespect nature’s gifts.
So this anniversary, we’re excited to take our place not only as a newspaper but also as a business committed to being a good planetary citizen. We are the first newspaper in the country with an Ancient Forest Friendly paper policy and we may well be the first one to have a green roof, too. Check out our Nature Says NOW (page 67) for all the details on the ways we’ve thought of to pay our respects to Mother Nature.
On this one, I’m hoping that when we look back at this issue 25 years from NOW, we’ll be able to say that instead of being really ahead of our time, we were really of our time. And thank you, Toronto, for all the fun.