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And Toronto’s New Weekly Is… Named After Yonge Street

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 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.)

CORRECTION: JANUARY 14, 2010 This article originally misstated the name of Yonge Street’s photo editor. Her name is Tanja-Tiziana Burdi.


  • http://undefined alieliz

    “If there’s anything at all about the new weekly that might be worrisome, it’s the publisher, Issue Media Group.”
    I can think of a couple others:
    Although the publisher and editor claim that the sponsorship deals that underwrite the publication (including support from the city of Toronto, Waterfront Toronto, Ryerson, RBC, to name only a few) will not wield editorial influence, with a mandate to write solely positive articles accusations of advertorial would not be unfounded.
    For a group of individuals who one would expect would be savvy with online media, it’s surprising that the minds behind Yonge Street are comfortable with offering content/features on only a weekly basis. Weekly distribution may work for print publications (and even then who knows for how long), but isn’t a viable model for online publishing. What will motivate readers to return to a site that’s so rarely renewed (particularly when there are so many other trusted and active options on the Toronto scene)?
    I find it almost unforgivable from a journalistic standpoint that the above article makes no mention of what is surely the defining feature of this publication, the aforementioned sponsorship structure.
    I don’t doubt that Shawn Micallef is a writer/editor of integrity, but the economic model and the editorial mandate of this magazine are cause for critical reading, if nothing else. And that, quite obviously, is not demonstrated here.

  • Steve Kupferman

    The Post’s article describing that sponsorship model is here.

  • http://undefined Darren

    I think Shawn should stick to writing about Pastizzi and the Malta Bake Shop. That was by far his best article ever on Eye Weekly.

  • http://undefined theLewin

    What a wonderful url.

  • Miles Storey

    I would really like to see comments for the articles, any online publication needs to have a two-way relationship with its readers in some form or another. I would hope that comments are coming and that the reason for not having them is not a condition of the above mentioned sponsorship.

  • http://undefined Michael Chrisman

    Comments don’t seem likely. Looking at Issue Media’s other sites, none have comments.

  • http://undefined Yonge And Bloor

    A weekly online “magazine” (ie: a website updated once a week??) about “overlooked” stories on positive developments in Toronto?
    It sounds like it will be more fun to make, than read. Which might be the point.
    If it serves to boost all involved creatively, I’m all for it. But one look at those hipster jeans, shoes, and fixie bike on the front page, and I am outta here.

  • http://undefined Marc Lostracco

    No RSS either, for some inexplicable reason.

  • http://undefined Miles Storey

    The lack of comments would be a shame, they add a new dimension to online content, but since it’s obviously working for Issue Media’s other sites I suppose it won’t be a concern. Perhaps there will at least be some kind of ‘letters to the editor’ :)
    The lack of RSS is puzzling, some of the other Issue Media sites have it but not all of them.
    Both these things are flying in the face of modern online media conventions, like sharing and interaction, but if the content is good enough I suppose it won’t matter as much as it might.

  • http://undefined rek

    I get frustrated by sites that don’t host comments… or don’t let you edit the content yourself.

  • http://undefined rek

    Does Toronto have a “troubled narrative or dated narrative”?

  • http://undefined dowlingm

    No RSS deliberately I suspect. That’s what the box for you to enter your email address is for – to ping you with new releases. I would be interested to know if @shawnmicallef thinks RSS is a “last decade” thing and linking to Twitter posts is the new RSS?
    I can handle the distinction between a magazine format with no comments and a blog with them. They are pitching this as a webzine, so fine. However, I find the layout – one long page – unhelpful. Obviously they didn’t want to bring down the Wrath Of Joe by using PDF or Flash but is there anything accessible (HTML5?) which could create better “pages”?

  • http://undefined mark.

    I try (honestly I do!) to like Shawn Micallef’s articles, but I inevitably come away with either nothing or annoyance. I find his article’s to be more like “what I did on my summer vacation” assignments. Perhaps I’ve been reading too much ‘academic’ stuff as I’m always left wondering the ‘so what?’ of his articles. Perhaps, too, my own research and work is somewhat similar to his and I never feel he’s told me anything. Maybe it has to do with the ‘banalization’ of psychogeography: Guy Debord didn’t intend for this concept to let people wonder around a city and simply ‘notice’ things – there’s an explicit politics to it (namely, to wrest the ‘power’ out of the hands of developers, planners, civic bureaucrats, the bourgeois, etc. and give this power to the city’s users – Debord never meant for there to be professional or expert psychogeographers, rather he hoped that we would all be).
    However, I find his articles interesting insofar as they’re written and read. I mean, I think it takes a particular time and place where one may write about urban landscape and not say anything substantial about it. There’s something very historically and culturally specific about this ‘style’ of writing…. ‘willful apathy’? Thus, I credit Micallef for having a unique voice and a receptive audience.

  • David Topping

    If the people involved in this project were not involved in this project, I don’t think anyone would care very much about it—the reason everyone’s ears perked up about this is because Micallef was doing it, and the reason I’m excited about it even more now is because of Bert Archer and (especially) Ed Keenan’s involvement.
    I’m not sure what that says about how great the backbone idea is that they’re all contributing to, but I know it does mean I’m genuinely looking forward to reading something I may not have otherwise. (Well, once they get RSS.) I get the sense that a bunch of other people feel the same way: enthusiasm for the people, which leads to enthusiasm for the project.

  • http://undefined Adam Sobolak

    “Maybe it has to do with the ‘banalization’ of psychogeography: Guy Debord didn’t intend for this concept to let people wonder around a city and simply ‘notice’ things – there’s an explicit politics to it (namely, to wrest the ‘power’ out of the hands of developers, planners, civic bureaucrats, the bourgeois, etc. and give this power to the city’s users – Debord never meant for there to be professional or expert psychogeographers, rather he hoped that we would all be)”
    Strangely enough, that might (or might not) come closer to my Facebook-based (and coincidentally Yonge-based) running “Chicken Fat Perambulation” concept–though in a gentler way that may mark a midpoint btw/Debord + Micallef (+ an unspoken, yet very Toronto-apropos third-wheel which claims Jane Jacobs as a figurehead)…

  • dcooper

    And Toronto’s New Weekly Is… A Trumpet.