Monday, July 9, 2012
Above is the last editorial cartoon I drew for the Montreal Mirror. It appeared in the June 21 issue. The next day the paper's corporate owner, Quebecor, announced that the alt weekly, founded in 1985, was shutting down for good. The move came with absolutely no warning, sending a shockwave through Montreal's media and arts communities. Seven full-time jobs vanished, dozens of freelancers suddenly no longer had rent money. No more Sasha, no more Rant Line, no more Best of Montreal.
I found out about it on Facebook. Really. I'd been the Mirror's editorial cartoonist for 9 1/2 years, having moved there in 2003 after a decade with cross-town rival Hour (and I'll tell that whole story in a future post). So suddenly after nearly 20 years I no longer had a steady cartooning gig. Same for my buddy Rick Trembles, whose Motion Picture Purgatory ran in the paper for a generation, give or take a few years.
Also tossed in the street was uber-talented music editor and comics artist Rupert Bottenberg. And there will be no more brilliant Richard Suicide covers to look forward to anymore either.
There's been a lot of speculation as to why this happened. Scarcely a month prior, Hour had finally been put out of its misery once and for all by its parent company Voir (corporate owner Transcontinental). This was a long time coming. Last year Hour laid off its entire (albeit small) full-time editorial staff, replacing them with a single editor and a single freelance columnist. So, for all intents and purposes, the Mirror had the anglo alt weekly market to itself. And the paper, though it wasn't pulling in the advertising bucks it once did, looked healthy and viable. But not viable enough for Quebecor.
In a phony letter from "the editors" (it was actually written by somebody in the corporate head office) posted on the Mirror website, Quebecor blamed "the growing popularity of digital media" for its decision to close the paper. Of course, it that were true, you'd think they'd have developed the paper as an online platform and held onto the sweet demographic that made up its readership (primarily 20- and 30-somethings) for its advertisers.
So was it just business? If so, why does Sun Media/Quebecor keep its neanderthal clown circus Sun News Network going? The cable "news" channel bleeds millions and yet has nothing to show for it but an audience made up of mouth-breathing Morlocks and pets left alone at home with the TV on (their ratings are embarrassingly low).
Was it political? The editorially-independent and definitely leftish Mirror was the black sheep of the Sun Media/Quebecor family, which leans further right than Karl Rove at a Tea Party cross-burning. Maybe they just decided it was time to drown the ever-troublesome offspring (actually an adoptee, Quebecor purchased the Mirror in 1997) in the bathtub.
Was it personal? Did CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau (PKP) finally decide that, with Trancontinental's Hour out of the anglo alt weekly market, he no longer needed the Mirror on the stands to show what a big swinging dick he was? (The two companies compete for market share in many other areas).
Or maybe it's all of the above. We don't really know and probably never will. Now it's all history. And a whole bunch of people (me included) just have to get their shit together and move on...
...But before that, I might as well use the opportunity here to thank editor Alastair Sutherland for all the years he just let me do my thing, never spiking a single cartoon. I think he even liked a few, judging from the "ha!" I'd occasionally get in an email, effusive praise from him. And thanks to art director Chris Tucker who, on many an occasion, had to replace one version of a cartoon with another just because I decided to move an eyebrow or redo the shading under an armpit or some other such neurotic cartoonist bullshit.
Finally, thanks to the Mirror's readers. Without you it would have just been wanking.