Five Questions With… Dave Bidini
The indie rock hero and prolific author is also the publisher of Canada’s newest print newspaper, West End Phoenix. He hosts a telethon for the non-profit publication in Toronto on Saturday, and he discusses the project in this interview.
By Jason Schneider
On Saturday, June 9, Canada’s newest print newspaper, West End Phoenix, will stage a telethon (remember those?) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Toronto's redoubtable Gladstone Hotel in efforts to drive subscriptions and re-subscribe existing supporters.
The telethon will be live-streamed on the West End Phoenix YouTube channel. Host and publisher Dave Bidini (also of Rheostatics) will be joined by house band Mercenaries, who will play selections from the Wheel of Song, which subscribers will get to spin. The WEP Telethon will also feature banks of operators taking calls from re-subscribers and accepting subscriptions and donations on site. Scheduled telethon guests include Atom Egoyan and TSN’s Jay Onrait, along with performances by Michie Mee, Sam and Andrew Cash, and Sloan's Chris Murphy.
Bucking media trends, West End Phoenix, launched as a print newspaper in 2017, has published over 300 writers and artists in its first year. WEP is a non-profit, patron and subscriber-supported home delivered broadsheet and remains ad-free with 2000 subscribers.
The WEP Telethon number is already live—1-866-416-NEWS—to call in and hear testimonials by subscribers such as actor Denis Leary as well as poetry by Claudia Dey and music by Rheostatics with Alex Lifeson (a regular contributor) and Kevin Hearn. There will also be a draw for one lucky subscriber to win two nights at the Windermere House Resort Hotel in Muskoka, courtesy of Windermere and West End Phoenix. For more info, go to westendphoenix.com.
How did you come up with the idea to do a telethon?
Christina Zeidler, who runs Gladstone, and Janet Morassutti, who is our managing editor, looked at each other and joked: “Our operators are standing by to take your call!” And then we just started dreaming.
West End Phoenix has been publishing since October. How would you describe the response?
We’ve had a very positive response. It’s a challenge every day to keep spreading the word because of a small staff, but we are overwhelmed by how much people love it.
The paper bills itself as serving its community, but you have many high-profile contributors filing from across the country. Do you foresee the paper expanding its reach?
We have about 300 subscribers across the country to whom we mail, so definitely.
It's perhaps ironic that the paper is based in "Ford Nation." Is this something you're conscious of?
No, not exactly. We serve most of the West End of the city, although we do cover some stuff west of Humber [Etobicoke]. But our catchment is Humber to Spadina, and from St. Clair to the Lake. Still, we have all kinds of subscribers of every stripe.
Do you think West End Phoenix could be a model for other potential community papers in Canada?
It’s hard to say if we’re successful yet. We’ll see!