There were bittersweet moments for the family behind Edmonton’s weekly alternative newspaper as the final copies rolled off the printing presses and into newsstands.
Michael Garth, distribution manager for VUE Weekly and son of the paper’s founder Ron Garth, said there are mixed emotions.
“Definitely a feeling of sadness, I suppose, because it is the last VUE ever,” Michael Garth said.
“At the same time, as far as newspapers go, to make it this far into 2018 is quite remarkable for an alternative weekly. I’m really proud of what my dad started with this paper. I’m proud to be delivering it on its last day.”
VUE Weekly started in 1995; issues were printed every Wednesday with distribution that same night. The paper was well-known for having extensive listings on events and shows happening in Edmonton.
“It was meant to reflect what was going on in an edgy, perhaps irreverent way and create a red you might not get from the dailies,” said Ron Garth.
However, over the years, the paper struggled with declining ad revenue, decreasing readership and competition from the internet.
Ron, who has not been involved with publishing the paper since 2010, said he does not fault the evolution of how people get their information.
“I think there could and should be a place for it, but it’s hard to come up against something as formidable as the internet,” Ron said.
“What bothers me more is the lack of support for journalism in general. It takes a lot of resources to create news.”
Decision to shutter paper
The publisher decided two weeks ago to shutter the weekly, a decision that took Michael slightly by surprise.
“We thought we did have a little more time on this but so be it,” he said. “We were expecting this day for years now really. It’s been at the back of everyone’s minds though. Newspapers in general across the world really are in decline.”
Ron said he feels nostalgic for the paper.
“I’ve made my peace with my involvement a while ago,” he said.
Michael is worried about what impact this will have on Edmonton’s arts scene.
“What are the bands going to do? What are the musicians going to do in town to get coverage, to get any type of press?” he said.
“The restaurant scene too. All the local eateries in the city and, of course, the alternative voices too that we don’t hear. The queer community has had a voice through Vue for many years now.”
Arts community responds
Byron Martin, the artistic director for Grindstone Theatre, said VUE Weekly provided a service to artists.
He said news of the paper shutting down “just sucked” and “felt a bit bleak.”
“We don’t have a lack of things going on. Artists and musicians and comedians, those people are all here and they’re all doing stuff,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate people aren’t going to be able to pick up a VUE Weekly magazine to see what’s on. I’m not sure where else I would point them to.”
Craig Schram with the band The Provincial Archive said he remembers the first time the band made the cover of the paper 10 years ago.
“VUE was very supportive of our band. When we released our first album, we approached VUE Weekly and said, ‘Hey, we’ve all been in bands before. This is our new project. We’re really great.’ They were really supportive of that,” Schram said.
“The local weekly, when I was first starting to play music, was a real milestone to get a little write-up, a preview of your show. It was a real signal to the broader community in Alberta, Canada that your project was worth checking out.”
However, Schram said perhaps the paper was not able to evolve with the times.
“The rigid weekly publishing schedule is not necessarily aligned with how people create music,” he said.
As for Michael, he said it will take some time for a world without VUE Weekly to become his reality.
“When you’re used to doing something every single Wednesday and Thursday for that long… I think it’ll be a while before we find the rhythm again for our lives,” he said.
The family is now shifting gears and focusing on a courier venture; it continues to distribute Avenue, The Tomato and Where magazines.