Xtra, the loud, proud and boundary-pushing gay newspaper that has hit Toronto streets for three decades, will cease printing as it goes all-digital.
Scrapping the print versions of the Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver editions of Xtra next month will trigger the layoffs of a dozen full-time workers in Pink Triangle Press’s publishing and administration divisions, PTP president Ken Popert said in a statement Wednesday.
The DailyXtra.com website, gay “hookup” site Squirt.org and other PTP ventures will continue to employ 57 people in the three cities, Popert said.
“For most of the past year, our management team worked with external advisers to arrive at an answer to this question: how can we best use our resources to continue to promote sexual freedom in a financially sustainable manner?” Ken Popert said in the statement.
“We have concluded that a complete transition to digital media offers the best opportunity to continue to engage our audiences over the long term.”
Most of the company’s revenues already come from subscription-based Squirt, PTP said, adding it hopes to “open up the Daily Xtra digital space” with innovations including more gay and lesbian video journalism.
The final issue of Toronto Xtra will hit the street Feb. 19, the 31st anniversary of its debut. Publication ceases in Ottawa and Vancouver a week earlier.
With trademark in-your-face covers, Xtra combined cheeky fun with hard-hitting journalism that both championed and chronicled the struggle for marriage equality, transgender rights, sexual liberation and more.
Rob Salerno, an Xtra freelance reporter and former staff writer who, as a teen, would smuggle copies home and secretly read them, does not know how the move to digital will affect his work there.
“There is going to be something lost by not having something physical on the street and it’s sad that it can no longer be sustained,” Salerno said.
“But there might be a benefit divorcing Xtra from the purely print product, to give more prominence to issues that are national or international as opposed to what’s happening at Church and Wellesley (Sts.),” he said.
Andrea Houston, a former Xtra reporter whose stories exposing Catholic school suppression of student gay-straight alliances led to provincial legislation protecting such alliances, said the business has long struggled.
“This is a terrible day for free speech. I think that those pink and purple newspaper boxes that will soon be gone are more than a delivery system: they are visual markers for sexual liberation and equality and justice,” she said.
“Those markers across the city were a signal to queer youth coming out, older people who battled injustice and others that we are winning the battle against bigotry.”