A thriving community usually goes hand in hand with a healthy local media, and no one is more aware of that than musician, writer, filmmaker and publisher Dave Bidini. Over the past seven years, the Rheostatics guitarist has assembled a talented editorial staff and countless first-rate contributors to, against all odds, put out the non-profit West End Phoenix, whose readership stretches across Toronto and across the country. The newspaper nobly serves its community, and also aims to encourage local journalism the world over.
To that end, they’re hosting an event in order to raise funds and keep the West End Phoenix growing into an uncertain future. With their friends at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, they are presenting an evening of food, beverages, a live auction of one-of-a-kind experiences, an intimate conversation between Sarah Polley (Women Talking) and hockey legend Ken Dryden, with music by Julian Taylor and hosted by West End Phoenix publisher Dave Bidini.
When he visited at its headquarters in 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recognized the West End Phoenix as a model for independent newspapers everywhere, particularly at a time when local journalism is under threat. Bidini and his staff understand that neighbourhood and community newspapers are crucial for informing, uniting, and empowering local residents. They play a critical role in maintaining the connectedness and vibrancy of communities by promoting democracy and contributing to the overall well-being of society. During the last mayoral election, they were the only journalism outlet to host individual town halls with candidates at their storefront space at 3 Bartlett. They are a donor and subscriber supported paper delivered by hundreds of volunteers, and on the weekend of Sept. 30, it will begin its seventh year of publishing.
The newspaper also provides a cost-effective advertising platform for small businesses in engaging local customers, enriching the local economy and encourages entrepreneurship by giving small businesses a chance to thrive. It has also always established industry-standard rates for its contributors despite having no local arts or government-funding outside of federal COVID relief programs.
All funds raised through subscriptions and donations go towards paying the staff and contributors who range from young writers to established voices like Chief Ladybird, Margaret Atwood, Michael Winter, Michie Mee, Claudia Dey, Eternity Martis and many more.WEP has published hundreds of contributors in its first six years.
On WEP’s staff, Bidini is joined by executive editor Melanie Morassutti (formerly of the Globe and Mail), managing editor Janet Morassutti, associate editor Kunal Chaudhary, art director Alicia Kowalewski, photo editor Jalani Morgan, events and communications manager Niko Stratis, Instagram manager Mike Gabel, distribution manager Tim Vesely, and sales manager Mike Mayberry. Other WEP allies include former Gladstone Hotel president Christina Zeidler, media strategist Ali Rahnema, city planner Jennifer Keesmaat, guitarist Alex Lifeson of Rush, and filmmakers Nicholas de Pencier and Jennifer Baichwal.