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The BIA's bungle

The BIA's bungle

Sometimes you just have to shake your head.
 
This was my reaction Oct 9 after Avery Pitcher, co-chair of the Church Wellesley Village Business Improvement Area,posted a letter to that group’s website imploring Xtra to report more nice things about the BIA.
 
I can’t decide what’s more regrettable about this: Pitcher’s woefully inadequate understanding of how media works or the fact that she’s dead wrong when she says Xtra has reported only negative stories about the BIA.
 
She calls on Xtra to present a more “accurate reflection of the work” the BIA is engaged in. A quick Google search will surely turn up possible PR reps she might employ — Xtra is not one of them. Just as reporters and editors at Toronto dailies report only what’s most noteworthy at city hall, Queen’s Park or the courts, so we choose what we believe is relevant to our readers. There are only so many people interested in street power-cleaning — one of the issues Pitcher lamented we did not cover after the BIA’s Sept 24 meeting (full disclosure: we did indeed report on the BIA’s power cleaning of the street in a story on July 5, 2012).
 
Which leads me to the next forehead slap. While Xtra is under no obligation to report on anything the gay village’s BIA does — laudatory or critical — anyone who spends even five minutes on our website will see we do, frequently, report on the activities of this group. The BIA’s manager, David Wootton, has a more sophisticated view of how media works and — unlike the group’s co-chairs — is always available to, and forthcoming with, our reporters. Whether it’s Halloween, the AIDS Walk, benches, beautification, new businesses, postering, Alexander Wood, meet-and-greets, Pride or crime, in the 14 months I’ve been at Xtra there are few groups we’ve mentioned more than the Church Wellesley Village BIA.
 
Pitcher is right that sometimes this reporting is critical. Again, that’s how media functions, and that’s how some people feel about much of the BIA’s recent work. The BIA representatives have a pair of oft-repeated gripes that don’t sit well with many in the community. First, their quest to “beautify” the gay village seems to begin from the premise that what we now have is not beautiful or acceptable. While no one will disagree that Church Street can be improved, we have — and will continue to have — differing opinions about the best way to do this. Pitcher wants to “clean up” Church Street. To many this is code for tearing down sexy gay imagery and sanitizing (read: making child-friendly) the Village. Swirly rainbows: good; tits and ass: bad. Somehow corporate advertising, however, is just hunky dory.
 
Let’s face it, Church Street is not a daytime or weekend shopping destination, nor is it (sadly, for those of us who live in the Village) a foodie’s delight. It’s a destination for the city’s gays to come drink, dance, have sex, buy dildos and strut their stuff. As it should be. Sure, more condos means the ’hood has become more straight, but that does not mean it’s the new St Lawrence Market. In Greetings from the Gayborhood, Donald F Reuter’s book about American gay villages, he writes that the best gay communities “are where we come to celebrate, be thoughtful, and seek refuge from a society largely uninterested in satisfying our ‘special interests.’” The use of gay imagery — including sexual signage and postering — and the “adult nature” of gay villages is essential, he writes.
 
The second problem is the BIA’s constant worry that it can do nothing because it has few funds. This illustrates a lack of imagination. Montreal recently injected more life into its gay village by getting creative and building partnerships. Why doesn’t the BIA collaborate with OCAD and display some free public art on the strip? That would be beautiful.
 
The most fun I ever had on Church Street was Aug 14, 2003, after the citywide blackout. Gays flocked to the ’hood with a generator and created an amazing impromptu street party in the dark. It was free. Well, except maybe for the post-party power street-cleaning.
 
On that note, I encourage you all to get out to Church Street on Oct 31. The BIA throws a kick-ass Halloween party. I wish you all a sexy trick and a tasty treat. 
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Comments

a new editorial mandate is needed!
When Ken Popert was at the editorial helm, Xtra was a much much stronger newspaper. Back then, our community had a real fight on our hands and Xtra did an incredible job of informing us of every breaking development. The LGBT movement has evolved since then but Xtra is still fighting. Instead of fighting the homophobic business owner or the mayor who won’t recognize Pride, they've turned the fight inward and are constantly tearing down our very own community (if their values are not in sync with theirs). I've seen Xtra unfairly slam countless LGBT businesses and non-profits. Really folks? Is this the legacy you want Xtra to leave behind? And who the hell appointed you as community watch dog?
Stop forcing this image of affluence!
What upsets me the most about gay villages is everything is about image and appearances rather than showing who we really are. It's so unfair that the village, or other large cities represent their gay areas full of overeducated, affluent men wearing $600 sweaters. Non-gay society may be more accepting of gay people, but we have become less accepting and tolerant of each other - today you must have lots of money if you wish to live amongst other gay people. We are the only minority group where having money is a requirement if you wish to live amongst your own community. And we not only tolerate it, but we reject and ridicule the gay men who don't have the resources or income to live around other gay men. This is why the percentage of openly gay men is lower than it's ever been - nobody wants to come out when they see how badly they will be treated for not looking perfect, not having expensive things, not having 3 university degrees, etc. The Village looks great as it is- there is no need to 'rich-bitch' Church-Wellesley. Just like gay people, our spaces in the city need to be diverse. Not all of us shop at overpriced shops. Many of us are on assistance or need financial help. Too many of us can not find affordable housing. Yet nothing is ever mentioned in this newspaper about gay men and women who can't afford to survive these days. It's all about highlighting those with money, status and good looks. Everyone else, evidently, should just stay home and hide, as nobody cares if they come out. Some community!
Patrick, Carthage must be destroyed
Patrick, Cartharge must be destroyed. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carthago_delenda_est
If there's anyone who has a hard on for QuAIA...
...it's those who insist on bringing them up in comments on every article, regardless of the actual subject matter at hand. Did you ever think that your obsession gives QuAIA a lot more importance than it deserves? Get over yourselves.
How the BIA can get Xtra on its side
Perhaps if the BIA put QuAIA's Tim McKaskell on their board or gave him money, an award or a soapbox, they would get much better coverage from Xtra. Xtra has a bias in favour of QuAIA and Tim McKaskell's AIDS activist projects. In contrast, Xtra has shown a negative bias towards the BIA in its news stories and its editorials. Xtra has very low journalistic standards and ethics in this regard.
Do we hold volunteers to the same standard?
I'll admit that I have never say on any BIA committee, but is it fair that Xtra hold a team of volunteer small business owners to the same level of scrutiny as a politician or large corporation?

Having been run over by the "Xtra Bus of Blame and Condemnation" (tm) over a decade ago for real and/or perceived shortcomings in a volunteer gig, I will admit that I will never volunteer for a LGBT cause again. Call me thin skinned, but when you are spending all your free time to support a cause you believe in, having the "community press" report on your missteps is pretty depressing.

Unless the BIA is committing fraud, ignoring its members or spending its money ridiculously, I think the press should support them.

Or join the board and be the force of change you seem to want.
The duty of the press is to report, not shill
As a newspaper, Xtra has to satisfy many readers, not just the subject of the article. Therefore, the BIA should not expect exclusive coverage in your pages or on your website. Neither should they expect any or all coverage to be positive. If there is a problem, it would seem to be the responsibility of the press to report it not bury it. From the editorial, it would appear some members of the BIA have thin skins and can't take criticism as well.
Defense an admission of guilt?
Interesting to read this as I thought for sure we were talking about Vancouver's West End BIA here. Xtra West through Pink Triangle Press has a history of relentlessly attacking the BIA in Vancouver that covers our Gay Village and will seemingly never print anything remotely positive, so reading that it is happening in Toronto comes as no surprise. Xtra's defense simply suggests to me that they know full well what they are doing and prefer for whatever reason to shine a negative light against BIAs.

That said, Xtra and Pink Triangle Press also seem to have a very negative opinion of business in general, and although they rely on advertising revenue from businesses, they have no interest in supporting those businesses. I own a business here in Vancouver. I used to advertise with the Xtra West, but pulled my advertising because of the negative approach they take with their editorial content.

It's too bad that they have a monopoly on the gay media here in Canada as a competitor would surely give them a run for their money.
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