Local journalism is under threat. We need your support.
Last night as I was leaving the office, news broke that Gothamist, a network of local journalism websites of which Torontoist was once a part, was to shut down immediately.
Nearly a decade of archives were wiped instantly from the web, representing the work of journalists from New York City to L.A., San Francisco to Chicago, as far away as Shanghai—all of it gone, at the whim of its billionaire owner, Joe Ricketts, who had recently acquired the sites and was apparently irked that his staff had the nerve to unionize. No advance warning was given. (A spokesperson has since indicated that the archives will be preserved and brought online again in the coming weeks, perhaps because the deletion was a labour lawsuit waiting to happen.) But nevertheless, 115 journalists are out of work, and a number of North America’s largest cities have lost one of their last surviving sources of local news.
A few days ago, Torontoist quietly celebrated its 13th anniversary. (Mazel tov to us.) We began as a part of the Gothamist network, but were spared the same fate as our late sister publications because, back in 2011, we were bought by St. Joseph Media. Since then, the site has gone through several editors, changes in tone and focus, though the core mandate has remained the same: to produce quality local journalism about Toronto.
Earlier this fall, I was hired as the new editor-in-chief. Since then, I’ve been meeting with my predecessors and contributors past and present, trying to chart a path forward for us. It’s no secret that the business model for local journalism is difficult bordering on impossible. And though our publisher is giving us the time to find our footing, it remains a precarious moment for local journalistic outlets everywhere, in Canada and abroad.
And if you can’t do any of that, or if you’ve already done all three, consider getting in touch with me to share your thoughts about how Torontoist should move forward, why you value our work, and what you’d like to see us become.
Reader support is more important than ever—we have gracious owners, yes, but the music could still stop tomorrow. It could stop today.
I will leave you all with the cheery thoughts of Tom Scocca, formerly of Gawker, another giant of journalism slain by a vengeful billionaire:
Gawker always said it was in the business of publishing true stories. Here is one last true story: You live in a country where a billionaire can put a publication out of business. A billionaire can pick off an individual writer and leave that person penniless and without legal protection.
If you want to write stories that might anger a billionaire, you need to work for another billionaire yourself, or for a billion-dollar corporation. The law will not protect you. There is no freedom in this world but power and money.