Barbara Kay on Beryl Wajsman and The MetropolitaIn

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The Métropolitain: A Healthy (Bilingual) Corrective to Self-Censoring Quebec Media on Sensitive Issues
(The National Post Full Comment) As we all are being told, newspapers – the kind that leave your fingers a bit inky, that is – are in decline. Readers and advertisers are shifting online at a rate traditionalists such as myself find alarming.
I’m no Luddite. The Internet is pure gold for work and social communication; but online news and blogs don’t cut it for me as my primary source of daily reading pleasure. Sharing my morning coffee with a tiny, rigid iPhone is a glum prospect. And while it’s nice to be archived in perpetuity on the Web, for me there’s no satisfaction to compare with seeing my column on a soft, rustling, clippable, eventually yellowing page.
Thankfully, it’s not all bad news for print newspapers. According to Beryl Wajsman – journalist, talk-show host, social activist, iconoclast, and now founding editor and publisher of The MétropolitaIn, a new bilingual Montreal print venture – it’s mostly subscription newspapers that are facing some hurdles. Free newspapers supported by advertising targeted to a specific demographic, he claims, are doing well.
To prove it, Wajsman and his talented team, including managing editor Anthony Philbin, senior editor Daniel Laprès and contributing editor Brigitte Garceau, are investing their energies (and his backers’ serious money) into the expectation that a tabloid of ideas and public affairs commentary aimed at Montreal’s most bicultural and politically sophisticated readers can swim upstream.
Since May 1, The Métropolitain – biweekly to start, weekly in prospect – has been available in print (30,000 copies targeted at high-income and-influence Montrealers) and online. It’s starting on a solid footing – according to Wajsman, at least. He claims he has eight months publication assured through advertising commitments from 25 clients.
As a contributor, I’m not disinterested. I’d like this feisty, outspoken newspaper to succeed as a healthy corrective to a Quebec media landscape that too often censors itself on sensitive issues. Contributor partisanship amongst The MétropolitaIn’s writers spans the political spectrum from socialist to libertarian. What all have in common is something in generally short supply in Quebec – a devotion to individual rights and the free exchange of ideas, however offensive to thin-skinned cultural-grievance collectors. It therefore stands to reason that Quebec political and cultural elites are a frequent target of The MétropolitaIn contributors’ writerly pique.
A rousing editorial by Wajsman set the tone of the first issue on May 1: “For too long, this island has been the champ-de-mars of the culture wars … based on … the lie that some unique injustice was done to a native people in its native land. And that one of those peoples has a superior moral claim on its sovereignty. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth.”
What’s especially wonderful about The MétropolitaIn is its bilingualism (each article, whether in French or English, is unique; none are translated). This represents a “union montréalaise,” in Wajsman’s words, which emphasizes the bilingualism of most Montrealers, and neutralizes the persisting image of whining “angryphones” one sees so often in the French media. It is richly symbolic to see, alongside the anglo writers and contributors like David Solway and Duff Conacher, civil libertarian and multilingual commentator Julius Grey, principled francophone writers – senior editor Daniel Laprès, historian Esther Delisle, academic Alain-Michel Ayache, economist Germain Belzile, dramatist Pierre Malouf and up and coming talents like David Simard and Vincent Geloso – whose brains and savvy are scandalously under-utilized in Quebec because they hold the “wrong” views about identity politics.
But Beryl Wajsman is the driving force of the venture. This happy warrior is a familiar name to politically engaged Montrealers. A 24/7 political animal with a taste for revolutionary tropes, Wajsman’s Sunday Corus radio talk show on 940 AM is called The Last Angry Man for good reason: He trades in unflagging indignation on issues of social justice. His tenacity on and off air often delivers results on otherwise orphaned issues.A fearless gadfly, Wajsman accepts personal threats and – he tells me – the vandalism of his car and hacking of his website as a small price to pay for the pleasure of rousing a too-often lethargic public.
Bonne chance, The MétropolitaIn. May you long be the source for many thousands of happily inky fingers.
7 May
New rag: The Métropolitain
It’s called The Métropolitain, and it’s a bilingual bi-weekly paper of long stories produced by Beryl Wajsman, editor of The Suburban, 940 News show host, president of the Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal and editor of its journal Barricades.
The inaugural issue, dated May 1, features a piece by Wajsman asking us to all get along. I think. It’s kind of long-winded, and distractingly changes language every second paragraph.
The contents are definitely political opinion in nature, though the overall stance is hard to pin down. Its articles look like they could come out of the Fraser Institute policy review or the Concordia Student Union handbook. But mainly the stance seems to be libertarian, pro-capitalist, pro-Israel and against just about everyone in politics.
Writers contributing to the first issue include blowhards like lawyer Julius Grey, National Post columnist Barbara Kay, poet David Solway, blogger Vincent Geloso, photojournalist Robert J. Galbraith, and radio host Sharman Yarnell, along with enough nerdy policy wonks to … I don’t know what you’d do with that many policy wonks, actually. Have a West Wing marathon party?
Most importantly, it’s a new publication bringing thoughtful insight (even if I vehemently disagree with half of it) and a Montreal perspective on international, national and even local issues. Even though it’s not about to put The Gazette out of business (and put me out of a job again), another editorial voice on the Montreal scene is always welcome.
Good luck.

One Comment on "Barbara Kay on Beryl Wajsman and The MetropolitaIn"

  1. Abigail Hirsch September 9, 2009 at 5:14 am ·

    Congratulations, Beryl Waysman,

    This is what we need here in Montreal, a lone voice, bilingual, that will speak out to all of us on the burning issues of the day: Dare we hope that unlike Julian Benda’s “le Trahison des Clercs” which was panned and disregarded by the iseologues that drove the Nazi revolution, this new rag will wake us all up to the true nature of the realities of our time!!!

    and the Metropilitan is written bilingually which is the the lingua franca of Montreal. Here we all speak not Franglais but English/francais very well. We speak both languages and use both in the same sentence and everybody understands. And we hope this paper, free, will be read by all, and accessible to all, whether on the street or on the internet.

    Bravo Beryl Waysman on your first bilingual, free, Montreal paper: The Metropolitan

    note from Wikipedia on Trahison des Clercs

    (Julien Benda (December 26, 1867 Paris – June 7, 1956) …now mostly remembered for his short 1927 book La Trahison des Clercs, The Betrayal of the Intellectuals, … This polemical essay argued that French and German intellectuals in the 19th and 20th century had often lost the ability to reason dispassionately about political and military matters, instead becoming apologists for crass nationalism, warmongering and racism.

    Abigail Hirsch


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