NOW Magazine just took another big step toward the end of an era
A portion of NOW Magazine's legacy has sadly come to a close, ending an era of hyper-focused arts and culture coverage in Toronto.
The weekly alt publication's latest volume appears to be the last-ever print edition, unless a buyer comes around anytime soon, according to acting editor Radheyan Simonpillai.
It's come full circle: the magazine's first print edition was covering a preview to the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and so was its last, with an in-depth look at local films.
"I couldn't be happier to go out with the TIFF issue," Simonpillai tells blogTO. "There is something symbolic about this."
This is it.— Radheyan Simonpillai (@JustSayRad) August 17, 2022
This is the final masthead.
This is the small team (owed 21-weeks of salary) who put together a spectacular issue dropping tomorrow night.
I am so incredibly grateful to them all.
And also to the people who gifted us their contributions to this issue. pic.twitter.com/RW9UedEbdM
As Simonpillai explains, the NOW team has been on a long, emotional journey, specifically since last February when salaries began to hit employee's bank accounts less frequently.
This can be traced back to a spiralling tale of sales, new owners and bankruptcy.
"Everyone who was involved with the last issue is very proud, we weren't sticking around for the sake of the TIFF issue but for the sake of the magazine and the brand, to help foster a sale."
Unfortunately, without any interested buyers for the time being and the departure of a very essential copyeditor, Simonpillai said it's no longer possible to continue printing.
Just hours ago, Simonpillai announced his own departure from NOW — not necessarily a surprise if you've been paying attention.
🧵 As you just heard on @cbcradioq, I am leaving NOW after this weekend. If I can compel you to check out one last thing before we go, it's this podcast with @realsarahpolley & Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers. These are the kinds of conversations we live for. https://t.co/GKREnFNUII 1/3— Radheyan Simonpillai (@JustSayRad) September 16, 2022
"A lot of people held out for as long as they possibly could, I only stayed on because some of my staff stayed on, to lead them."
Of course you can still catch Simonpillai on CTV, CBC and with The Guardian, but this is surely another blow to NOW.
"Obviously there is a lot of feelings due to the fact we are owed 25 weeks of unpaid wages. I'm not certain that whoever comes and tries to purchase NOW and revive it will make it whole again," he said.
All of the NOW staff are owed salaries and payments, since they began to lapse last winter, and they're focused on getting it back.
"Basically the salaries began lapsing in February so it's not that we haven't been paid, the payments started lapsing and slowed down to a crawl. Right now we're owed huge from the end of March, beginning of April."
I am extremely grateful to the NOW team who tried their best to keep a vital part of the Toronto arts and culture ecosystem alive, despite being owed up to 25-weeks salary. If anyone does end up buying NOW, never let them forget what they owe to the people who kept it going. 2/3— Radheyan Simonpillai (@JustSayRad) September 16, 2022
Once upon a time NOW was publishing 100,00 print copies of their weekly, but that has since dramatically dwindled (thanks in part to the last two years) to around 10,000 to 25,000.
"We're gonna lose that in-depth, regular arts coverage of the film, television and theatre scene. The ecosystem is just getting bigger but yet this pulse is dwindling," Simonpillai laments.
No doubt the most devastating loss of the print edition is the critical coverage it provided on the city's culture. From theatre, art and film, you could always find impeccable coverage of the scene in upwards of 20,000 words.
And you'll be hard-pressed to find any other publication following suit.
I am especially grateful to @glennsumi who gifted me my very first paid byline almost 15 years ago, has nurtured and guided my voice since and was the only person at that time to give me hope that there was room in this industry for voices like ours. Love you Sumi!— Radheyan Simonpillai (@JustSayRad) September 16, 2022
Speaking with Simonpillai it's not hard to feel the passion and gratitude he has for his staff (however small), especially over the last nine months.
"It's been a struggle. People took personal loans from their family. They did it because of their commitment to the brand. Glen Sumi stuck around because he is committed to the theatre scene in Toronto. They did it because they believe in what NOW Magazine was."
As for his immediate plans, Simonpillai is looking forward to some downtime with his family and taking a breather from the mayhem of the last 12 months.
If this is our last issue, I couldn't be prouder. It's my favourite one yet with the the best collaborators and such powerful voices:@LamarJohnsonn + Kiana Madeira@realsarahpolley + Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers@kdeveryjacobs @samchizanga @nataliamanzocco @clevack & on & on ... pic.twitter.com/nQrfxqmiGp— Radheyan Simonpillai (@JustSayRad) August 17, 2022
Of course NOW continues to live online, but there is no doubt that the loss of their print edition will be felt in the hands of every person in the city, and in every empty green newspaper box still locked in place.
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