Los­ing a Voice

The Coast - - THIS WEEK - Kyle Shaw Con­nect with me at ed­i­tor@the­coast.ca

Back to School sea­son makes me think of the start of The Coast. The last year of my for­mal ed­u­ca­tion—what the fickle mem­ory of nos­tal­gia knows as “the end of the best years of your life”—I avoided home­work by plot­ting with five friends to launch a news­pa­per. Three of us six were from Toronto, so wanted to do some­thing like TO’s “al­ter­na­tive weekly” NOW Mag­a­zine. One was from the re­motest part of re­mote Cape Bre­ton, but through fam­ily con­nec­tions he’d vis­ited Bos­ton a lot, so the alt-weekly he as­pired to was the Phoenix.

My fam­ily ties bound me to New York, thus I thought of The Vil­lage Voice. It turned out The Voice was the most fa­mous of the alts, mak­ing it the best one to com­pare the po­ten­tial Coast to. Peo­ple got ex­cited when we told them, “We want to do a Vil­lage Voice for Hal­i­fax.”

The deeper we got, the more en­am­oured we be­came of The Voice’s role as in­ven­tor of al­ter­na­tive jour­nal­ism. A cou­ple years into The Coast’s ex­is­tence, pub­lisher Chris­tine Oreskovich left Hal­i­fax to take an in­tern­ship at The Voice; she wasn’t fully com­mit­ted to re­turn­ing, be­cause once you’ve reached the pin­na­cle, why would you leave it? But af­ter some time on the in­side, see­ing the gaps be­tween The Voice’s rep­u­ta­tion and its re­al­ity, she came back and dou­bled-down on Hal­i­fax and The Coast. That was 20-some­thing years ago.

Last week’s news, that af­ter 62 years The Voice will stop print­ing pa­pers, in­spired nos­tal­gic sto­ries from across the me­di­a­s­phere, with sub­text ev­ery alt weekly will go this way. The thing is, for peo­ple in al­ter­na­tive me­dia, The Vil­lage Voice has long been an ex­am­ple of what not to do. Buy­ing other news­pa­pers and merg­ing with com­peti­tors across the US, it as­pired to be a giant me­dia com­pany, while its flag­ship pa­per and web­site with­ered into ir­rel­e­vance for New York­ers and any­one else.

Busi­ness re­al­i­ties are no sun­nier in the al­ter­na­tive niche than the rest of me­dia—Bos­ton’s Phoenix closed years ago. But in a world where Google and Face­book com­mand at­ten­tion and advertising dol­lars at lit­er­ally a global scale, fo­cus­ing on lo­cal is the only vi­able play. It’s fine peo­ple don’t talk about The Coast in Win­nipeg. You’re still pick­ing it up in Hal­i­fax, and that’s what mat­ters.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.