Preceded by nothing but sparse rumours, Edmonton’s alternative arts and culture-focused newspaper, VUE Weekly, abruptly announced its doors were shutting last November. A short two weeks later, its last issue was published.
“It was very sudden,” says Stephan Boissonneault, former music editor for VUE. “The owner came in one day and said, ‘we’re done.’ There was no talk of how we could save it — he had already made up his mind.”
Immediately, you could feel the sucking void in Edmonton’s media landscape. It was not only a loss for readers, who had counted on the paper for comprehensive coverage of upcoming events, under-reported stories, and comics about a sweary flower that would never have been allowed to be published in a mainstream newspaper — but also for local artists, who often counted on it for crucial publicity in the nascent stages of their careers.
However, the defunct editorial team is “definitely not giving up.” Boissonneault, along with two other VUE alumni, wasted no time launching their own, online-only publication. Daze Magazine, as it is called, will “keep the spirit of VUE alive,” he says, which involves covering everything arts-related — theatre, music, dance, food, stand-up comedy, even — and any other stories they happen to find interesting, with a focus on the city’s most marginalized communities.
“We try to do stories that aren’t covered in the mainstream … giving a voice to people who aren’t usually heard, that’s the main thing,” says Chelsea Novak, another of Daze’s founders, and the former arts and film editor for VUE.
Daze is already up and running, though in a rudimentary state. The current operation consists of the three founding editors each working remotely from their homes, a handful of freelancers, a website whose designer has yet to be paid, a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, and a pipet drip of revenue from a few, small advertisements. The situation is precarious.
Boissonneault is optimistic.
“We’re already here, we know how things work, we have all the contacts, we know all the ins and outs of covering local arts … and we’re already doing it, even if we’re not making any money yet,” he says.
The team is finding that with Daze’s excessively small scale and great degree of independence there is a lot of room for experimentation, and believe they are in a better position to start covering Edmonton’s art scene than ever before.
“A lot of the writers felt they were stuck in what they were able to write about,” Boissonneault says, referring to his experience at VUE. “Now, it’s all us and we’re figuring things out as we go. We can write the stories however we want, as long as we want. You can write it exactly until you can say ‘this is what the story needs to be.’”
“We are editorial-led, as opposed to taking a lot of the direction from management,” adds Novak.
The team is also experimenting with their finances — looking at alternative ways of funding the operation that do not rely on advertising, some of which are already showing signs of success. The Kickstarter campaign raised over $2,500, surpassing its $2,200 goal with a few days still left until the deadline. That money is to pay off a couple of startup-related debts, and to keep them afloat as they look to bring on more writers.
“We already have a lot of people reaching out to us with story ideas and pitches,” Boissonneault says.
“We hope to be able to pay all of them one day,” Novak says.
The founders are confident, and have big plans for the future of Daze even in their current touch-and-go situation. These plans are likely to be good news for aspiring writers in MacEwan University’s student body, considering the steady relationship VUE maintained with the school. Being alternative, relatively small, and reliant on freelancers, VUE was the perfect launchpad for students, and it made sure to routinely tap the barrel that is its journalism program.
Besides bringing on more writers, they are looking to expand the breadth of their coverage, get a print version going, and even hold their own arts exhibitions. All on top of “a couple of things in the works that (they) can’t actually talk about yet,” according to Boissonneault. With enough time, they are looking to make Daze even more prolific than VUE was.
“We want to publish things that people at any other newspaper will look at and say ‘damn, we wish we would have wrote that,’” Boissonneault says. “We’re looking to be competition for the big guys, even though we’re small.”
“Eventually the goal is to just become this crazy monster that covers anything, everything.”