Drink the Kool-Aid

Cult MTL Springs Up to Fill the Mirror’s Void

  • Photo Alex Manley

Montreal, forget what your mama told you. It’s time to join a cult—Cult MTL.

Within about 24 hours of the Mirror folding, a number of its former editorial staff and contributors were already planning its phoenix-like return from the ashes of print. Well, good news, everyone: it has fluttered onto the Internet with a swanky new website at cultmontreal.com. Get excited.

The site’s music editor, Lorraine Carpenter, who was a copy editor at the Mirror, admitted it wasn’t as smooth as all that.

“Our phones were ringing off the hook,” she said of the final day.

“The atmosphere in the office was really weird because it’s not just us, it’s the whole sales team, it’s administration; […] and there’s an awkwardness and a really grim atmosphere in general. We just wanted to get out of there.”

It did, in its own way, lead to the booze-fuelled journo conversations that helped birth Cult MTL, though.

“Honestly, a bunch of us just went out and started drinking. At 1:00 p.m. Suffice to say, we were all shocked. None of us had any kind of advance warning about it.”

As for the _Mirror_’s waning days, she painted a picture of a paper on the decline, struggling to keep Quebecor’s budget cuts from showing too much.

“We had been tightening our budget in the past six months, definitely. […] There were fewer articles in each section, but it wasn’t a really drastic reduction of content. It was somewhat subtle.

“There would be certain weeks when the Arts Week page wouldn’t be there. And then we cut the book reviews, which was a shame as well.”

Carpenter did express some gratitude for the suddenness of the process, unlike the public and painfully drawn-out demise of the Hour, which published a severely slimmed-down version under the name Hour Community for a year before shutting down for good in May. They’ve been afforded an opportunity for a fresh start.

Not all of the old Mirror crew will be making the transition to Cult MTL, however.

“It’s very difficult to be willing to take on this kind of gig when there’s no compensation in the short term,” Carpenter admitted.

“We still have much of the team together, but for those who are not involved, we at least have their blessing, and some of them have also contributed to our first week of content.”

As for what to expect from Cult MTL, Carpenter noted that they’ll be pursuing ad revenue, and that “the mandate is similar.”

They’ve added sports coverage, plan to tweak the music section to feature recommendations rather than panning releases the editors aren’t interested by, and feature the occasional concert review for those who miss out on sought-after shows.

“We do want to serve the city in a similar way, but just in a different format and with a slightly different voice—and also, we’re not just going to be posting weekly content; we’re going to be doing updates every day,” she said.

And as for the celebrated Rant Line? Turns out it’s trademarked by former Mirror Editor-in-Chief Alastair Sutherland, and already back online. Though Sutherland’s on vacation right now, Carpenter promised a friendly relationship between the two websites, which feature prominent links to each other.

It’s too early to say what Cult MTL will ultimately come to represent. It’s great to have some of the talent behind it injected back into something that will benefit Montrealers, and serve as a link between the city’s population and those putting on shows, events, establishments and cultural happenings of all sorts.
One thing’s for sure: don’t mistake Cult for the Mirror.

Although it’ll be free of the business-minded oversight from Quebecor that the Mirror was subject to, and it’ll doubtless benefit from the 24-hour cycle over the 7-day cycle, as an online-only project, it won’t be of much use to those without an Internet connection, and it’s hard to see it achieving the same ubiquity of the Mirror.

Still, this is exciting news for anglo Montrealers. Tell your friends about this website. The bigger it gets, the longer it survives. A website, like a free weekly, is fully dependent on a large readership for its survival, and the more readers Cult MTL gets, the longer it sticks around, the better.

If we can’t have an English-language alt-weekly in this town, by God, at least we can have the next best thing.

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