NOW founders Michael Hol­lett and Alice Klein look back – and ahead

NOW Magazine - Anniversary special - - News - ALICE KLEIN

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.

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