Frank Magazine has died.
The magazine announced its own death on its website, and then deleted its social media accounts. No explanation was provided for the closure.
Frank was started in 1987 by David Bentley, Lyndon Watkins, and Dulcie Conrad. Bentley was the primary operator of Frank, having used the proceeds of his sale of The Daily News to finance the new magazine. (There’s a publication with the same name in Ottawa; the two are not now related.)
Bentley infused Frank with the spirit of the English tabloids. Frank scoured assessment and court records to satirically take on the business and political elites, and otherwise reported on their private lives. This was in stark contrast to the existing news media, which were timid and overly deferential to the powerful.
There’s a complicated ownership history, but in 2004, Frank was purchased by John Williams. Williams was especially good at revealing the sex abuse scandals of the Catholic Church. His work was important, and I valued the publication.
I was friendly with Williams. It was clear the enterprise was exhausting him, and he complained that it wasn’t working financially. So I wasn’t surprised in 2010 when he sold it. I congratulated him on his work, and wished him the best. Williams then made a run at a gay publication called Gaze*, but subsequently left journalism completely. I haven’t kept up with him, but I’m told he’s doing well. I’m glad.
While I wasn’t surprised that Williams sold Frank, I was surprised about who bought it: Parker Rudderham, the Cape Breton businessman with a reputation for his many engagements in the court system.
Soon after Rudderham bought Frank there was a mass exodus and/or firing (depending on whom you talk to) at Frank. My understanding is that staff were upset at the increasingly misogynistic turn of Frank. Four reporters left: Mairin Prentiss, Jacob Boon, Neal Ozano, and Dan Walsh, leaving editorial control of the magazine in the hands of the sole remaining reporter, Andrew Douglas. Rudderham reportedly threatened to sue the Chronicle Herald over its reporting on the staff issues.
In the wake of that episode, the little publication that had been punching up for the previous 14 years began aggressively punching down, attacking unions, women, immigrants, and (especially) people of colour.
Much of that ugly “reporting” was directed at my friend and colleague, El Jones.
“They drew me as a monkey,” Jones tells me, referring to a cartoon published in the magazine, which was reminiscent of 19th century cartoons representing Black people as beasts. Publication of the cartoon resulted in Frank being yanked completely from the stands at Atlantic News and pulled off prominent display in other outlets.
“Frank spent years following me around in public, taking pictures of me walking on the street, reposting private posts from my social media and making fake identities to come on my page, turning up at award events to harass and post about me and nobody else, and on and on and on,” continues Jones. “What great political project was involved in Andrew Douglas walking by Venus Envy and tweeting about how he saw a book on interracial sex, adding, ‘don’t tell El Jones’?”
“I also note that the very thing they are now being credited with — fierce criticism of the RCMP — is the very thing they harassed me over,” she adds. “When Black and Indigenous women said and say the police are corrupt and not accountable, Frank put us on the cover and degraded us. And the very next week, they could write about the police, and get praised. This is a great example of how racism and misogynoir work — I am ‘crazy,’ a ‘cop hater’ and ‘disgusting’ when I make informed critique of the police, but when white men critique the police, they are fantastic journalists.”
It wasn’t just Jones that Frank attacked. I won’t get into all the details of its coverage of Rehtaeh Parsons, but will note that Douglas decided the real guilty party was not the boys who assaulted Rehtaeh, but rather her mother, Leah Parsons, for improper parental supervision. “My mother wouldn’t have given me the chance to kill myself,” wrote Douglas. “She would’ve done it for me.”
Then there was this February 25, 2016 tweet from @Frank_Mag (the entire account was deleted yesterday), after Halifax Transit named one of the ferries in honour of civil rights activist Viola Desmond:
Next year during Black History Month, we’ll all be able to ride Viola Desmond. Several times a day, if that’s what you’re in to.
I’m just scratching the surface. The magazine was filled with such vile shit issue after issue.
But it turns out that being overtly and proudly sexist and racist is a rotten business model — why pay for that shit when you can get it for free from your asshole uncle on Facebook?
I have no knowledge of the finances of Frank, but under Douglas’s reign, the publication increasingly felt like a vanity project for Rudderham. I don’t know how much money he lost on Frank, but evidently he has recently decided that it was too much of a money hole, so he pulled the plug.
About that RCMP reporting. I won’t air dirty laundry in public. My relationship with writers — why I publish them, why I sometimes decide to stop publishing them — is not the public’s business. Suffice it to say that as an editor I have many concerns — reputational value, reliable sourcing, accuracy, how issues are framed, the potential for litigation, and more — and I have not just the right but the responsibility as editor to exercise my judgment on these things.
I reported critically on the RCMP long before the mass murders of April 2020 — as I detailed in the Dead Wrong series, the RCMP knowingly left Glen Assoun, an innocent man, in prison rather than let an investigator cast doubt on Assoun’s conviction — and I’ve been reporting critically on the RCMP in relation to the mass murders. But I do so fairly, accurately, and with facts I find properly sourced.
Competition in the news business is good, as it sharpens all of us, keeps us on our toes. I criticize other publications, but when they close or downsize, I usually lament the loss, praise the past reporting, and worry for the reporters’ futures.
Not this time. Not after what was done to my friend. Not after the mean-spirited attacks on women and victims of sexual abuse. Not after the proudly racist commentary.
Frank and its vile writers can rot in hell.
2. Spring Garden Road closure redux
“After a quickly failed first attempt, Halifax plans to try its Spring Garden Road pilot again next year,” reports Zane Woodford:
In July, the municipality closed the busy street to vehicular traffic, except for buses, between 7am and 8pm and hoped to keep it that way for a year. But with signage and sporadic policing, it was unable to keep personal vehicles off the road, and it abandoned the pilot just five days later.
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3. 180 years at East Preston United Baptist
“Ruby Williams first attended East Preston United Baptist Church when her mother took her to a service when she was about five or six years old,” reports Matthew Byard:
“And I’ve been here ever since,” Williams said.
Williams is also a member of the planning committee for the church’s 180th anniversary celebrations, which took place last weekend.
“We had a fantastic weekend. It started with a spiritual concert on Friday night, we had a fantastic fun day all day Saturday, it was a great time for the whole church, the whole community,” Williams said in an interview with the Halifax Examiner Sunday afternoon following the second of two services.
The morning service was the first time the choir performed inside the church since before the start of COVID pandemic.
4. 100 women
Yesterday, I noted on Twitter that the charitable group One Hundred Women Who Care of Prince Edward Island had donated $19,100 to the Island Pregnancy Centre.
Island Pregnancy is part of an international misinformation campaign consisting of “pregnancy centres” that, yes, provide financial and other supports for single mothers, but also give “factual information” — lies — about abortion, with the aim of dissuading women from getting abortions. Here’s how such organizations are explained on Wikipedia:
A crisis pregnancy center (CPC), sometimes called a pregnancy resource center (PRC), is a type of nonprofit organization established to persuade pregnant women against having an abortion. CPCs generally provide peer counseling related to pregnancy and childbirth, and may also offer other non-medical services such as financial assistance, child-rearing resources, and adoption referrals. CPCs that qualify as medical clinics may also provide pregnancy testing, sonograms, and other services. CPCs have frequently been found to disseminate false medical information about the supposed physical and mental health risks of abortion, and sometimes about the effectiveness of condoms and the prevention of sexually transmitted infections.
CPCs are often run by Christians who adhere to a strictly socially conservative viewpoint, and they often operate in affiliation with one of three non-profit organizations: Care Net, Heartbeat International, and Birthright International. As of 2017, there were approximately 2,300 CPCs in the United States, as compared with 808 abortion clinics. Hundreds more CPCs operate outside of the U.S., including Canada, Latin America, Africa, and Europe. These CPCs often are operated or financially supported by the same American organizations, and use similar tactics as the CPCs in the United States. During the presidency of George W. Bush (2001–2009), CPCs received tens of millions of dollars in federal grants. As of 2015, more than half of the U.S. states helped to fund crisis pregnancy centers either directly and/or through the sale of Choose Life license plates.
My understanding is that Island Pregnancy Centre is associated with the Baptist Church on PEI.
One Hundred Women Who Care consists of women of the professional and political class on PEI. Included on the group’s website contact page are Aileen Matters (CPA); Valerie E Docherty (former Liberal MLA & cabinet minister); Kathleen Casey (former Liberal MLA and speaker of the assembly); Melissa Gallant (accountant with Grant Thornton); and Cheryl Paynter (former CEO of Innovation PEI).
There can be no doubt that these accomplished and capable women know what Island Pregnancy is. Every connected person on the island does.
For example, in his campaign to become leader of the PEI PC party, Kevin Arsenault explained that while the provincial government couldn’t outlaw abortion completely, he would:
- As the Premier of Prince Edward Island, I would follow the law which is currently in place and only pay for abortions that are deemed “medically necessary” by a licensed physician practicing in PEI.
- The money that is currently being used to fund abortions which are not medically-necessary [195 women accessed a hospital abortion in 2017] will be used to fund a new program within the Department of Family and Human Services designed to provide a wide range of personalized and targeted supports to women who feel they have no “choice” but to have an abortion due to the difficult circumstances they may be facing in their lives. These services would include both monetary and non-monetary supports.
- More resources will be provided to organizations such as Birthright and the Island Pregnancy Centre.
Birthright is openly anti-abortion, while Island Pregnancy is its covert cousin. Everyone in the political and business classes know what Island Pregnancy is about, but the average pregnant 16-year-old high school student probably doesn’t.
Anyway, after I tweeted out my concerns, there was something of a pile-on onto the One Hundred Women tweet (above), and the organization has since deleted it, but has offered no explanation why it was deleted or if the donation was reversed.
5. The Tideline, Episode 95: Sue Goyette
Halifax poet laureate Sue Goyette, an early-run Tideline guest, returns to the show one last time to discuss her new book Monoculture, out in October. Neither poetry nor fiction, its hybrid form imagines a near future where Nova Scotia’s last living forest has become a tourist attraction and explores our relationship to trees and the land through the website’s comments section. It’s ever evocative and poignant and at turns funny, enraged, and in awe of its surroundings. Sue speaks to its creation, her deep relationships to the elements, and the deplorable way they’ve been treated.
Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda
Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda
Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 5pm, Power House Youth Centre) — agenda
Public Information Meeting – Case 24017 (Thursday, 6pm, Sackville Heights Community Centre) — info here
Decoding the molecular mechanism of solid aggregate clearance (Thursday, 11am, online) — Liang Ge, from Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, will talk
Acting Masterclass (Friday, 1pm, Studio 2, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — with Shahin Sayadi
PhD Defence, Process engineering and Applied Science (Friday, 1:30pm, online) — Weixi Shu will defend “Fate and Transport of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) in Soils Receiving Land Applied Alkaline Treated Biosolids in Nova Scotia”
In the harbour
05:00: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
05:45: Maccao, bulker, arrives at Pier 42 from Qinhuangdao, China
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 36 to Pier 41
08:00: Carnival Magic, cruise ship with up to 4,428 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney, on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
08:30: Insignia, cruise ship with up to 800 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from St. George’s, Bermuda, on an 11-day cruise from New York to Montreal
11:45: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Autoport
13:00: Maccao sails for sea
15:00: NYK Deneb, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Antwerp, Belgium
16:00: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
16:30: Atlantic Star sails for Norfolk, Virginia
16:45: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Pier 41
17:45: Insignia sails for Sydney
18:00: Carnival Magic, cruise ship sails for New York
22:30: Seaborne Quest, cruise ship, sails from Pier 23 for Bar Harbor
03:30: Ocean Pearl, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Charleston, South Carolina
10:00: Silver Whisper, cruise ship with up to 466 passengers, arrives at Liberty Pier (Sydney) from Gaspé, Quebec, on a 26-day cruise from Reykjavik, Iceland to New York
16:30: Silver Whisper, cruise ship sails for Halifax
* As originally published, this article misidentified the name of the gay publication.
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