Shawn Micallef started hinting about his new project on Sunday with the first in a series of cryptic tweets. Micallef, who is a senior editor of Spacing Magazine and a public-space columnist for Eye Weekly, acknowledged that his social media tease campaign was pretty shameless. Even so, he refused to reveal anything about the mysterious new venture other than that it would be an online-only weekly magazine, written by and for Torontonians and 905-ers, that it would have nice pictures, and that it would launch on Wednesday. Well, today’s Wednesday, and it just launched. Let’s all welcome Yonge Street to the local online mediasphere.
“I think it will fit nicely into the media landscape,” said Micallef during a phone call. “I think the niche is focusing on areas in Toronto that are growing―on stuff that we do really well here in Toronto, that we’re not always that good at talking about.”
As Micallef describes the site in his welcome message, it seems as though it will consist of a mix of news and features dealing mainly with positive developments in business and construction throughout the GTA.
“It’s not gonna be a Pollyanna positivity,” he said, “but I think it’ll focus on stories that have been overlooked so far…If there’s a problem in the city it’ll look for the story about a solution to that problem.”
Yonge Street‘s biggest asset―and the reason we’re writing about it so prominently―is the calibre of the people involved. Aside from managing editor Micallef, whose track record with Eye and Spacing (and murmur) speaks for itself, there’s Bert Archer, one of Yonge Street‘s development editors, who writes about real estate for Toronto Life and travel for the Globe. Tanja-Tiziana Burdi, the site’s photo editor, maintains the photoblog doublecrossed.ca. Also, Edward Keenan, senior editor of Eye, is on board as an editor for the new site.
Everyone, including Micallef, will still be holding onto their existing gigs with established publications, so this won’t cause an epic shakeup in Toronto’s local magazine world, at least for the foreseeable future. But the site still could be very good.
If there’s anything at all about the new weekly that might be worrisome, it’s the publisher, Issue Media Group. A rapidly expanding company founded in 2005 and based in Detroit, Issue Media currently operates web-based weeklies similar to Yonge Street in about a dozen different American cities. Like the sites that comprise the Gothamist network that Torontoist is part of (though somewhat peripherally), Issue Media sites are visually similar to one another and centrally owned.
In the words of Issue Media Group founder Paul Schutt, during an interview with Michigan Innovators, Issue Media’s editorial strategy consists of creating “an alternative narrative for places” with “troubled narratives or dated narratives.” The purpose of this is to highlight positive developments in cities with struggling images, and also to attract backlinks from local businesses flattered by Issue Media’s attentions. The company appears to be essentially a metro blog network as designed by Richard Florida.
But, if this will generate enough income to bring more quality content from talented Toronto writers and editors to the web, it’s absolutely worthwhile. Micallef said the writing will be done mainly by local freelancers, and that Yonge Street will pay “toward market rate.” (And, for the curious, the market he was talking about was the print one.)
This article originally misstated the name of Yonge Street’s photo editor. Her name is Tanja-Tiziana Burdi.