Last Thursday’s publication of the first, free print edition of Rue Frontenac is an historic accomplishment. Twenty-one months ago, Quebecor, the media-conglomerate that publishes the Journal de Montréal, decided that it didn’t need journalists, photographers, or designers to make a newspaper, and locked the Journal’s staff out. The locked-out workers have been maintaining a website – ruefrontenac.com – where they continue to do the type of work that Quebecor deemed unnecessary: to wit, real journalism.
Since Rue Frontenac went online, Quebecor has continued to publish the Journal with scab labour from its other media outlets – violating the spirit, if not the letter, of Quebec’s Labour Code. The outdated code doesn’t have provisions dealing with electronic scab labour. Furthermore, Quebecor has used wire journalists to syndicate content, allowing it to go without physically present workers. In February, Quebecor also had all of its subsidiaries – a huge number of communications and publishing companies in Quebec – pull advertising from Le Devoir after that paper ran an opinion piece critical of the media conglomerate. With profits soaring since the lock out, due in part to drastically reduced labour costs, the paper proposed a laughable deal to the striking workers last month: 48 out of 253 workers were offered their jobs back. Almost ninety per cent rejected it.
Journalism in the 21st century is on shaky ground, as media conglomerates like Quebecor scale back newsrooms and fire staff to maintain profit margins. But the workers at Rue Frontenac are keeping the flame alive for independent, worker-run news.
Now armed with a print edition to compete directly with the Journal, they have been steadily gaining support for their boycott of the Journal de Scabs. The congratulatory ads in Thursday’s Rue Frontenac offer a broad cross-section of the politics and values we need for a just society. Provincial political party Québec Solidaire, Le Devoir, and a plethora of labour unions have all expressed solidarity in the paper’s first print issue.
Quebecor and the Journal de Montréal have made it clear that they do not value journalism, and will attack those who stand up for it. So if you read the Journal de Montréal, stop. And if you don’t read Rue Frontenac, start. They’ll need the highest circulation they can get to attract advertisers and stay afloat. So even if you don’t read French, pick up a copy of the paper whenever it hits stands. Use it to learn French, or give it to a friend. We should pick up Rue Frontenac and boycott the Journal de Montréal as an act of resistance and celebration.
The print edition of Rue Frontenac is available for free throughout the city and at these locations near campus:
• Basha at University and Sherbrooke
• The dep on Milton between Aylmer and Lorne
• Presse Café at Milton and Parc
• The Metro supermarket on Parc