Eye Weekly, October 10, 1991.
Eye Weekly published its last issue on May 5, 2011. It was a milestone in the life of Toronto media, and as the 20-year-old alt weekly was replaced with a markedly less alt Grid, many of us who grew up learning about the city from Eye were sad to see it go.
Eye is where many of Toronto’s best writers got their start, and where many chose to stay because they were perhaps able to speak more freely than at other publications. More importantly, it provided a chronicle of the city that reflected many communities and points of view far better than the mainstream media ever did. If, as the saying goes, journalism is the first draft of history, Eye was the first draft of indie rock and new urbanism and so much else in turn-of-the-21st-century Toronto. And though the paper is no longer in print, that history is still available for us to browse through, thanks to the now commonplace practice of storing newspapers online.
Yesterday, writers who had contributed to Eye over the years received an email. In it: notification that the digital archives of that publication would be going offline September 1.
The purpose of the email was to give these contributors sufficient notice to make copies of their work and file them away safely, but the effect was very different. Soon after: anger and fear started spilling out, with many (both Eye contributors and those in the city more generally) aghast that such a resource would be disappearing. “Writing needs history. Writing without history is untrustworthy,” tweeted Shawn Micallef, who wrote a longstanding psychogeography column for Eye. Offers of help, financial and technical, began coming in, with at least one software designer announcing that he’d started mirroring the full Eye archive.
Noble though that effort is, it misses the point. Torstar, the company that owns Eye and the Grid, is the guardian of this bit of Toronto history; keeping it readily available to the public is part of its duty as a responsible publisher and important to maintaining its role in the life of the city. As a matter of principle, it is incumbent on Torstar to take charge of preserving this archive.
And there is still reason to hope that they will. As explained to us by a senior staff member at the Grid, the problem is that the publication is paying a considerable amount each month in server and hosting fees for maintaining the Eye archives. Those fees, right now, are paid to Torstar Digital, an independently managed company within the Torstar corporate umbrella. The Grid will be exploring alternate hosting options in the coming weeks and hopes to find a more affordable solution soon.
The most important thing: even if the archives go offline September 1, they will not be lost. Eye‘s online editions will be preserved internally, and most of them will be easily transferable to another server. We hope this happens soon. And for the next two weeks, browse a bit of Toronto history at Eye‘s current site.