Seriously, Do You Guys Want A Good Alt Paper In Regina?

The comments on my “New Dog!” post about my “The Dunlop Art Gallery Is Punishing Us By Pulling Ads” editorial are thoughtful, articulate and off-base. For example, this, from our good friend Amy:

The article you wrote feels a bit like a bully move and that makes me sad because I know you’re not a bully. Advertisers have the right to move their money for whatever reason they choose. You have the right to cover what you want in the PD. Everyone has the right to be a dick about it, but I wish you wouldn’t.

And this, from our favourite Barb:

You should can the “I’m so hurt, and besides you owe us” attitude, give the Dunlop the benefit of the doubt…and you should also listen carefully to what Mr. Collins has to say: both you and Greg might learn something.

Our dear friends are being unfair. Nonsense like playing political games with marketing budgets does a lot of harm to our company — a company which, by the way, does probably 20 times more than Verb to support and nurture the arts community, not to mention intelligence and creativity in general, in this city. If — no, make that WHEN — organizations, businesses and crowns don’t act like professionals and include prairie dog in the  marketing buys to the degree that our reader demographics warrant — which they too often don’t — and if they ALSO decline to even support us just on the worthy basis of nurturing a damn good alt paper, we will eventually have to leave. Because we have bills to pay, too. You do understand that, right?

Of course, should we whither and die, Barb, Amy and everyone else can always comment on Verb’s lively blog. Oh wait.

So let’s not let things get to that point, hey? Alt weeklies have recently folded in Montreal and Ottawa, and it sure sounds like the Village Voice is about to go down (although that’s partly self-inflicted). In San Francisco the independent alt (Bay Guardian?) sold out to the daily paper, which is a recipe for death, and if the SF Weekly still exists it won’t for long.

Regina has a dynamite little paper in prairie dog. You like us and we like being here. The marketing case for advertising with us is also clear — although too-often ignored. The practical, moral case is even stronger.

We want (and plan) to keep going. All we ask is that professionals entrusted with marketing budgets make competent spending decisions and that occasionally, the organizations that we’ve supported the most show some damn loyalty.

And that our readers get our backs when the Dunlop takes a huge crap on us. Which, I’m sorry to say, it did.

Author: Stephen Whitworth

Prairie Dog editor Stephen Whitworth will never, ever pass up a chance to make a Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo pun.

40 thoughts on “Seriously, Do You Guys Want A Good Alt Paper In Regina?”

  1. I don’t think that disagreeing with you is being unfair Stephen. I’m sorry your feelings are hurt though.

  2. This is gold. I read this blog for entries (and comments) like these. Don’t ever change. If you have to start charging, I’ll be the first in line to subscribe. Since that is not yet an option, each time that I read one of Duchane’s great articles about the BS at city hall I go out and support one of PDog’s advertisers.

  3. Amy: Unfortunately you’re wrong on this one and it’s depressing because I care about your opinion.

    Mike: It’s not whining but thanks for the understanding and support!

    Shawn: YOUR rag died off. ZING!

  4. “Support me when I’m wrong.” Nope.
    I hope you have that meeting with Mr. Collins, and that you do listen to what he has to say. It would be a shame if PD went under, because that too would be self inflicted.

  5. I just went back to the “New Dog!” post and noticed the additional comments you made, Stephen. Let me just say this: F. Scott Fitzgerald read all the reviews of his work, the scathing as well as the admiring, because he thought that he could LEARN SOMETHING.

  6. This has certainly spun horribly out of control.

    After the article was posted, the Dunlop should have contacted you to discuss. Then the validity of their claims could have been determined.

    But when that didn’t happen, the Prairie Dog should have had more sense then to start a flame war that does little to strengthen it’s argument.

    I have extremely negative feelings toward the curator at the Dunlop whose childish (and drunken) comments toward the Prairie Dog at a public art show were completely out of line.

    However, as the Prairie Dog’s articles are almost always written from the perspective of more author-based opinion articles (often with sarcastic or cynical in tone), there should be some preparation on their part for the inevitable negative response.

    Regina is too small an arts community for this to be embattled in such public forums. Both parties have too many split sympathies and all this is resulting in is embarrassment for the readers and art patrons caught in the middle.

  7. What, exactly, is the PD hoping to achieve by taking this public?

    Were you hoping that attempting to shame the ex-client would bring them back…or is your goal to damage their reputation and business out of spite?

    Surely somebody at PD must realize that this is a no-win scenario, Right?

    How many other loyal advertisers are watching this and wondering if this could happen to them?

  8. Just out of curiosity what is your marketing demographic? How is it measurable when you have no subscription base? Perhaps this has less to do with someone taking a shot at your magazine for its coverage and more to do with the fact that some businesses that have advertised with the dog in the past have simply not had ANY return on investment for their money. Like I said before, when you’re running a business loyalty doesn’t go a long way if your ad money doesn’t generate revenue.

    And as a long-time reader who loves the dog I’m not certain your arts coverage is all you think it is. It’s clearly heads and tails above every other publication in the city but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. Perhaps the Dunlop would be more appreciative if you did more preview work in advance of their showings instead of reactionary/review material that becomes dated by the time it gets published.

    Random thoughts, that’s all. Just keep in mind when you’re demanding loyalty that it is a two-way street. Sometimes institutional memory lasts much longer than some individuals do at a place like the Dunlop. Mr Collins won’t be around forever but if you torch the gallery and burn every bridge you’ve got his predecessor may be less likely to bring ad buys back to you. It’s Regina, after all; even with these new publications it’s entirely possible they could’ve come back to you eventually anyway.

    COULD have.

  9. And I agree, what’s the point of airing this dirty laundry in public? What advertiser is going to feel more confident in having an account with you once this is out there? It’s starting to feel like a pre-emptive strike: “Don’t any of our other clients leave us or you’ll get the same treatment!!!”

    And I’m concerned about the dog now! You guys must be on shaky ground if one cancelled buy is enough to prompt this kind of outburst.

  10. I have to agree with most of the other posters. I’m not sure how the PD benefits by taking this public. Seems like a Pyrrhic victory at best.

  11. Anonymous: The Dunlop is clearly not a loyal advertiser at the moment!

    Gary: Thank you for for your comments.

    Everyone: The Dunlop pulled two ads in response, we firmly believe, to critical prairie dog content. That is not the correct way to express dissatisfaction with a newspaper. So the Dunlop has a problem with our visual arts coverage? Interesting, because I sure didn’t know. They didn’t call us, send me a private e-mail, reach out through mutual friends, submit a letter for publication or ask for a meeting. Nope, they threw a fit and pulled ads and ran ’em in stupid, unreadable Verb to punish us. That’s a kind of censorship — censorship by marketing budget at a public institution — and, because I dislike censorship, especially in public institutions, I called them on it. Publicly.

    There comes a time when a media organization has to defend itself, in public, from petty, punitive economic attacks. Freedom of speech is not free — we need advertising to pay ourselves, our writers, print the paper and pay miscellaneous bills.

    You would be surprised at how common this kind of petty, ignorant unprofessional nonsense is in Regina. I probably should’ve been bitching about it sooner.

    A last point: anyone who reads our paper and/or this blog is well aware that we are redonkulously open to criticism and in fact often make fun of our own failings and stupidities.

    But we’re not going to sit down at a coffee table to be lectured on our perceived failings by people holding marketing budgets hostage to get the kind of coverage (presumably 100 per cent boosterish, with boring headlines) that they want.

    Finally, we love printing letters, positive or negative, but unless I’ve missed an e-mail we have received exactly zero on my editorial thus far. So send ’em to [email protected]. They need to be short (300 word absolute limit) and must include your full name, address and a phone numbers I can call to verify that you exist.

    Our publisher, my boss, Terry Morash is ordering me to get back to real work now so I’ll talk to you later. Thanks for the comments as always.

  12. Tim: don’t panic, we’re muddling along as always. But the Dunlop is very special to us and if arts organizations don’t support us, an arts-loving paper, it’s obviously a problem. That contributed to this public squawking.

  13. Sorry, but you’re not doing yourself any favours continuing with this argument and should definitely stop now before further damage can be done by either side.

    Seriously? Going from claiming they pulled advertising for an article they didn’t agree with to claiming censorship is a large jump, and definitely one not to make publicly without a large paper trail.

    I am completely willing to believe they may have pulled advertising due to a review they didn’t like, but all of this “coverage” after the fact definitely will not help in attracting a new advertiser to replace the revenue missing from because of the Dunlop. Any new advertiser will have to ask themselves that if they become an advertiser, and then stop, will they be accused of censorship or even worse?

    Yes, you guys are very open at discussing things, but this is one thing that should have been stated without assumptions and definitely have no more attempted equations of pulling of advertising dollars = censorship.

  14. Kiss and make up. I only know about businesses that advertise in the PD, because it’s got shelf-life and I don’t read the others anyway. Preferably the PD would go every 10 days, but advertisers should consider a 14-day great mileage. Maybe I;m out to lunch on that, but when I see an ad, normally I forget it, but at least I have 14 days to remember where I saw it, and I go back and voila *whoot d’ere it is*

  15. gary wrote:

    “I have extremely negative feelings toward the curator at the Dunlop whose childish (and drunken) comments toward the Prairie Dog at a public art show were completely out of line.”

    I was with Mr. Collins at that event and he was drinking mineral water all evening. Please do not fabricate slander to support your weak arguments.

  16. Amber: in print or online it’s not slander, it’s libel.

    Gary (and everyone): whether or not the director of the Dunlop was drinking (which, BTW, is normal at an art openings and I sure as heck wouldn’t criticize anyone for it) isn’t relevant. Let’s stick to criticizing things people actually say or do.

  17. Unbeknownst to you, Stephen Whitworth, complaining about Greg Beatty’s arts coverage is something of an ongoing pastime amongst the Regina art community. I can recall a review of an exhibition at the AGR (then the Rosemont) from a while ago in which Mr. Beatty effectively bypassed the artwork’s more prominent and meaningful merits to focus (as he is prone to do, in a disturbing puerile fashion) on the nudity in the paintings. The article elicited a lot of confused frowns and “wtf?”s from friends of mine, including the artist herself who said something along the lines of “all he wanted to talk about was the nudity. I kept trying to steer the interview back towards to the actual content of the work but he kept going back to the penises and vaginas. It was very weird.”

    Sadly, such off-topic rambles are the norm for Greg. His “reviews” often begin with several paragraphs of irrelevant lead-in content (usually some kind of pet preoccupation or current local hot topic) that eventually, and awkwardly, segues into the actual subject of the article. I realize it’s a kind of “dumbing down” method to rope-in readers from outside of the art scene, which is fine, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying. It’s entirely understandable that a gallery would get fed up with this eventually and say “hey, we don’t have to support this anymore.”

    Perhaps the most maddening thing about your editorial from last week, Stephen, was how you MISSED THE POINT ENTIRELY about why the Dunlop was pissed at the Prairie Dog. If you go back and re-read Greg’s review of the Terrance Houle show, you’ll notice that he says the de-humidifiers were in place to prevent further damage to the works. This implied that damage had already been done, which was NOT THE CASE. As you can imagine, such libelous conjecture caused a lot of trouble for the gallery, both from Terrance and the Plug In gallery in Winnipeg (luckily, the Plug In director is a former Regina resident who was familiar with Greg’s “journalism” and was able to brush the whole thing off with an eye-roll.) However, the damage done to the gallery’s reputation can’t be so easily brushed off, as it can affect the likelihood of other institutions lending works to the gallery in the future. For this alone, the gallery deserves an apology from the Prairie Dog, not this adolescent attempt to publicly shame it.

    Your editorial was deeply embarrassing and was about as professional as a boyfriend who won’t let you break up with him or else he’ll tell all your secrets to the entire highschool. If you are wondering why anyone would want to pull advertising from your paper, it should be glaringly obvious.

  18. Okay, I’m fairly late coming to this party, and I’m clearly not from Regina (for those of you who don’t know, I’m the editor of prairie dog’s sister mag in Saskatoon, Planet S), so I don’t know a helluva lot about the Dunlop. Still, it seems to me that a few commenters are missing the point here.

    Stephen is suggesting that the Dunlop may well have pulled advertising because of a somewhat negative review in prairie dog, and then at some point offered to “talk” to prairie dog about their arts coverage. If that’s true, it’s outrageous for a few reasons:

    1) The Dunlop, if I’m correct, is a publicly funded gallery. If they pulled advertising from what is clearly Regina’s best, most credible source of arts and culture coverage and put that advertising into Verb out of spite, taxpayers should be outraged. Why? Well, because as a publicly funded agency, an organization like the Dunlop has even more of a responsibility to make the most effective use of their dollars than a private business does–and when it comes to advertising art in Regina, it’s pretty freakin’ obvious that that means advertising in prairie dog, rather than Verb. So if that is indeed the case, sure, the Dunlop hurt prairie dog a bit–but they also hurt everyone who’s happy to have their taxes support the arts.

    2) Pulling advertising dollars from prairie dog and then suggesting that they should “talk” with you about arts coverage most certainly is a form of at least soft censorship. It’s not very hard to see the parallel with a government pulling funding from a public art gallery because they don’t like the the art which is being displayed, and then suggesting the curator should have a “talk” with the Minister in charge about what kind of art should be shown. I’m pretty sure most of the posters here would be outraged by such a thing.

  19. Tim: our demographic info is based on reader surveys. We’re due for a new one though. Should be interesting. I predict our readership has grown. How could it not have?

    As for our arts coverage, none of it is stale! 100 per cent of visual art articles in the paper are about active shows. They’re not always published in time for an opening but they are always published while a show is up.

    Thank you for your ” I’m not certain your arts coverage is all you think it is. It’s clearly heads and tails above every other publication in the city but…” compliment/criticism. I’m with you — there’s no reason not to work at getting better. (But don’t tell the Dunlop. Their criticism privileges are currently suspended due to malarkey).

  20. the difference being that i think everybody at the prairie dog LIKES the dunlop, and likes promoting arts and artistic endeavours in the city, etc. etc. etc.

  21. Thanks for the post-horse barn-door feedback Amber. It bugs me that you didn’t have the respect for us — not to mention the guts — to share it before now. If you’d written this before the Dunlop pulled two ads to punish us for Greg’s arts coverage — a case, by the way, that you just bolstered — I wouldn’t dismiss your opinions as entitled, arrogant, selectively critical, passive-aggressive bullshit.

    In his time here Greg’s written great articles, adequate articles and a few stinkers. That’s how it goes when you’re a professional writer. Criticize his work all you like — and you know we have multiple forums for that, right? — but don’t ask me to respect conveniently-timed snipes from someone with contempt for a writer who works hard for Saskatchewan’s arts scene.

    (That said, in a healthy art scene there would be more arguments like the one you and I are now having. More arguments and fewer pulled ads.)

  22. By the way, Amber, if that is your real name, the next time prairie dog or any newspaper makes an error — which happens, in every paper, in every city, and always will, and reasonable people recognize that — the correct thing to do is notify the paper immediately so they can run a correction. Which we would’ve, assuming Greg was in fact given inaccurate information or made a mistake, that is.

    I am not the least bit confident that Greg made any factual errors in that article at this point.

    One does not throw a newspaper-bashing tantrum with one’s marketing budget (and not just because one might get called on that BS). The Dunlop, and anyone at the RPL who’s involved in this fiasco (and under-funding the gallery, by the way, would be a massive contributing factor, because a constant feeling of being under seige by idiots who want to shut you down makes good people crazy) have really bungled this. It must be incredible to read this comment thread if you’re working in the arts in other Canadian cities. Just wow.

  23. Stephen: I don’t know Amber; perhaps she and other members of the arts community should have voiced concerns about PD’s arts coverage earlier — but would you have listened? Sadly, something tells me not.
    And notice that the only one throwing a tantrum and calling names is you.

  24. Amber, there are a number of ways to address your criticisms of Prairie Dog’s coverage of arts and culture (letters to the editor, direct correspondence or conversation with the writer…). You needn’t resort to taking nasty, personal swipes while hiding behind a pseudonym.

  25. For once I agree with Barb: it is not nohow the duty of folks like Amber to correct an editor and writer who are perhaps incorrigible.

    “Criticize his work all you like”, and get called “entitled, arrogant, selectively critical, passive-aggressive” by his editor when you do, huh? Starts to remind one of J. J. Hunsecker.

  26. As a local business owner, and long-time advertiser with PD, I have to say, Stephen, you are quickly become Verb’s best advocate.

  27. Thank you for being a long-term advertiser, anonymous! We’ll continue to put out a smart, fun paper that people actually read.

  28. Agent W: Well, yeah. when you argue with people they’ll argue back. That’s the way the Greeks did it when they invented civilization and that’s the way we do it now. You think Socrates didn’t sometimes call an opponent’s ideas a pail of farts? He totally did.

    (Also, note that I consciously used “entitled, arrogant, selectively critical, passive-aggressive bullshit” to describe Amber’s opinions, not Amber.)

    Prairie dog is waaay open to criticism. Dunnit mean we won’t argue. You want us to not argue? That would be boring.

    What prairie dog is not at all a fan of is criticism via withheld advertising. We get enough of that from the Conservative fan club. The Dunlop shouldn’t play that game.

    Socrates would’ve had some choice things to say about this situation, let me tell you.

  29. Socrates though argued from humility, continually proclaiming that he knew nothing. He certainly did not leap to attach motives and psychiatric labels to the opinions or character of his esteemed opponents.

  30. It seems to me that maybe….slowly…..business owners are starting to wise up to the fact that Regina’s “best” newspaper is ran by a bunch of opinionated babies with extremely negative attitudes.

  31. @Anonymous: And yet so many readers find us to be a refreshing breath of fresh air that calls it like we see it. How peculiar that your perspective on prairie dog is so vastly different!

  32. Boooo Prairie Dog! Such a poor display of professionalism, if you have a beef don’t have it out on your blog. You guys spend half of your print space ripping on things that you don’t like, so don’t be surprised if every now and then someone publically talks about how shitty your business is :)

  33. Thank you for the comment, Anonymous. I like it when people criticize our paper. I don’t respond well to people who pull ads because they don’t have the guts to criticize us. Nor should I.

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