The recent personnel changes at the National Post suggest that the Aspers are beginning a process of shifting their newspaper assets. similarly, cuts in arts and entertainment coverage at a number of the Southam group of papers suggest retrenchment.
Matthew Mallon - occasional Mix contributor and now editor of Vancouver Magazine, pulls no punches:
The future of the paper's entertainment coverage. After a Toronto Star story claimed that national arts critics would be replacing local staff, the newsroom-a workplace so rife with paranoia that no employee approached for this story felt able to talk on the record-became a minefield. "The Mix [the Sun's Saturday arts section]is basically dead," says another source. "It'll be nothing but in-house writers and wire copy from now on. And Queue [the Thursday arts guide] has been eviscerated. It's a shell now."
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While I write for the much reduced Book section of the Sun, I have to say I am not terribly sorry to see the Mix die.
When the now departed David Beers more or less invented the Mix he was trying to liven up a Saturday section which had ceased to be attractive. But Beers, for all of his talk about juxtaposing heavy metal with fine art never really managed gain the Mix a reputation outside already committed Sun readers. Jim Sutherland, who took over from Beers, is actually far more suited to his current job editing Western Living. (Rumour has it he is responsible for the excretable Angela Yanor for which he should have to do two bathroom editions a year.) The Mix languished. And now, poor Denise Ryan has been handed the poison chalice. No budget and no real point. I do not envy her a bit.
At some point the Sun will realize that rather than being a burden to the paper and the place to chop when Winnipeg calls for cuts, a Saturday feature section can actually attract readers.
As Arts organizations tirelessly point out, the arts -- from rock concerts to poetry readings - actually out draw professional sports. A real feature section which had excellent arts coverage, real reporting and brilliant book and author material (plug) will draw people to the paper on Saturday and for the rest of the week.
More importantly, a really well done weekly could steal the Georgia Straight's lunch.
but a really well done weekly would have to be something other than the tired hipster routine which has come to characterize the Mix. To really work it needs hard core columns - not George Fetherling for another 2500 words....Real politics. Sean Rossitter where are you when we need you. A point of view. Short sharp articles. Actual critics and a really smart attitude.
It also, frankly, needs a gimmick. And I have one.
Over print 50,000 copies a week and distribute them free.
The Mix and Queue are beaten up every week by the Straight simply because it is on the stands where people can get it and use it for free every Thursday. And there the Straight stays through the week. The Mix is recycling on Monday morning, the Straight is being picked up by people on the way to work.
With Canwest short of cash, (see Colby Cosh
) there will be about a million reasons why really pumping up a Saturday feature magazine is a non-starter. None of them will be right. The Sun's competition for the younger demographic it is so eager to capture is the Georgia Straight. Going free on 50,000 would nail the Straight.