St. Joseph Media keeps mum about Torontoist plans

By Ian Harvey

Three weeks after the announcement Torontoist had got hitched to St. Joseph Media, there’s a cone of silence on what the future holds for the newlyweds.

Attempts by Story Board to interview the principals involved, Torontoist publisher Ken Hunt and St. Joe’s president Doug Knight, received short email responses or were ignored entirely.

Specifically, Story Board wanted to know what changes were in store at Torontoist, whether it would be added to the Toronto Life stable to reach out and capture a younger demographic, how the deal with Torontoist’s former owner Gothamist was structured, what controls and vetos remain in place, and how freelancers might be compensated in the future.

“We don’t use freelancers,” responded Hunt, before referring questions to St. Joseph Media. “We have contributors.”

Indeed, while staff at Torontoist are paid, it’s been reported that contributors are paid a nominal $10 or $15.

It’s a similar situation to the Huffington Post, which was acquired by AOL last month, igniting a storm of controversy and prompting the Newspaper Guild and its affiliates to blast the deal, saying the US$315 million value of the Huffington Post had largely been created through the efforts of unpaid content creators. Guild president Bernie Lunzer is demanding a meeting to talk about how contributors should be compensated now the site is part of a large media organization.

Story Board also put these questions to Gothamist founders Jake Dobkin and Jen Chung. Gothamist has launched 12 titles, including Torontoist, nine of them based in the U.S.

Announcing the deal, Hunt said they were not contemplating any major changes: “The first thing that I told all of our contributors last night, and that I am telling our readers now, is that St. Joseph Media loves Torontoist. They are not investing in something so that they can change it; they are investing in it so that it can continue to grow stronger and become more ambitious. The publication we all know and love is not changing in any fundamental way. We remain a Gothamist franchise. We remain independent from the other titles within St. Joseph Media; our editorial team remains unchanged.”

Founded in 2004, Torontoist holds the distinction of being the first digital publication to win a National Magazine Award. St. Joe’s describes itself as Canada’s “largest privately owned consumer magazine publisher.” It boasts a reach of 6.5 million Canadians a year through titles like Toronto Life, FASHION, Weddingbells, MARIAGE Québec, Canadian Family, Quill & Quire, Ottawa Magazine, and Where.

The move comes at a time when the Toronto media landscape is about to shift. First, Eye Weekly is about to rebrand as a glossy magazine, aggressively fighting for market share against NOW Magazine by targeting a larger slice of the young, hip, urban, and condo-dwelling demographic Toronto Life anxiously covets as it sees its readership of Rosedale-Forest Hill-Lawrence Park boomers age and drift off.

At the same time, Toronto Standard launches April 7 — promising to cover the same ground, and more, than Torontoist. They also say they will be paying competitive rates.

Industry veteran Ian Harvey has earned a living as a journalist for 34 years, the last seven as a full-time freelancer. His website is

Posted on April 5, 2011 at 10:13 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , , ,

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