Locked-out Journal de MontrÃ©al workers will soon be bringing their cause from the web to the streets.
At the end of October, the employees running RueFrontenac.com will also start distributing a weekly publication of 48 pages to complement the work they are doing online.
“Readers have been asking for a paper copy for a very long time,” said Richard Bousquet, the coordinator of Rue Frontenac since its creation. “There have been special editions before, but we wanted to ensure economic stability before getting started on this new weekly project.”
Bousquet, the former desk manager of the Arts et Spectacles section at Le Journal de MontrÃ©al offered another reason why the employees waited to produce a newspaper “We also wanted to get our name out there and ensure our credibility as a media of our own at first.”
Every Thursday morning, the new tabloid-format, color-printed newspaper will be available for free on 1,400 stands from Saint-JÃ©rÃ´me, on the North Shore of Montreal, to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, on the South Shore. The vast majority of papers, or 90 per cent, will be available in the Montreal metropolitan region, and will be distributed weekly in various commercial areas, like cafÃ©s, restaurants, and boutiques.
The lock-out employees will also do hand-to-hand distribution on Thursday afternoons at various points on the Island of Montreal. The 75,000 copies to be given out, and quantity of stands and pages, are only a starting point which may be increased in the future.
Whereas the website is mostly devoted to news, the new tabloid will include in-depth reports, exclusive investigation, analyses and chronicles which will be divided into four sections: news, business, culture and sports.
RueFrontenac.com was created on the day the lock-out at Le Journal de MontrÃ©al was declared, almost 20 months ago, on Jan. 24, 2009. The idea of a tangible copy of the journalists’ work has been around since then.
Bousquet explains that RueFrontenac.com has been self-financed for a little while now. Advertising on the site brings in revenue, along with the support of Rue Frontenac’s “friends”: readers, for the most part, who offer monetary contributions to the employees’ cause through the website. The new weekly will also count on these two sources of income to support itself.
Many followers have reportedly already asked for a way to subscribe to the weekly. Bousquet ensures that they are looking into it, trying to find a way to make the delivery available for cheap, especially since the weekly will be free. “To deliver it the next day is a problem. It would cost $6 per copy to do so. We are trying to find another way,” he said.
As for the ongoing conflict, a mediator was appointed on Aug. 9, 2010, after 18 months of dead ends and silent negotiations.
Pierre-Karl PÃ©ladeau, CEO of communications company Quebecor, whose subsidiary Sun Media owns Le Journal, announced during the recent launch of the new Videotron cellphone plans that his group has made an offer to the employees and they have 30 days to approve or reject it.
If the deal goes positively, some employees think that Rue Frontenac would have to change name and locations. “We expect Pierre-Karl [PÃ©ladeau] to include the closure or renaming and relocation of Rue Frontenac in his final offer,” said Diane Messier, who used to work at the classified advertisement section at Le Journal de MontrÃ©al.
Bousquet, however, is more optimistic: “It won’t change names,” he said. “We might have to move, but we won’t know until we get there.”
“One thing is for sure: if the offer includes as many layoffs as it did last December, there will be a lot of people to come back and work for Rue Frontenac. We will then have to figure out a way to pay everyone,” Bousquet added.
The locked-out employees have been living on their union’s conflict funds since it all began. On Oct. 15, they will be celebrating their 600th day “in the street.”