The Georgia Straight
|Categories||Alternative weekly newspaper|
|Based in||Vancouver, British Columbia|
The Georgia Straight is a free Canadian weekly news and entertainment newspaper published in Vancouver, British Columbia, by the Vancouver Free Press Publishing Corp. As surveyed by VAC its per-issue circulation average as of January 25, 2011[update], is 119,971 copies, and its average weekly readership is 804,000 as of 2009[update]. Its website traffic ranked 47,339 globally and 1,458 within Canada, according to February 27, 2012 figures[update] from Alexa.
In April 1967: "The proposed paper was christened the Georgia Straight over beer at the Cecil Hotel. The name aims to play on the fact that the weather forecasts will offer free publicity: they're always issuing gale warnings for the Georgia Strait."
On May 5, 1967 the first issue was presented and cost ten cents. It was originally a biweekly newspaper. On May 12, Dan McLeod was taken away in a paddy wagon and jailed for three hours for "investigation of vagrancy." College Printers refused to print the second issue, but an alternative was found.
The paper was raided and fined by the Vancouver Police for publishing obscenities, and was often banned from distribution for its criticism of the local police and politicians. Vancouver mayor Tom Campbell described the paper as "filth" and, objecting of its sale to "school children," urged the city's licensing inspector to suspend the paper for "gross misconduct" contrary to city bylaws. The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) attempted to assist the paper by challenging the suspension in court by arguing that only federal laws could restrict freedom-of-the-press. The initial challenge was unsuccessful, with Justice Thomas Dohm praising the mayor for his actions. On appeal, the appellate court agreed to lift the suspension on the grounds that a hearing should have been provided to explain why the paper was suspended, but did not rule on the BCCLA's freedom-of-the-press argument. The BCCLA provided further legal assistance to Dan McLeod and the paper when both were criminally charged with three counts of obscenity for publishing a photograph, an advertisement described as being titled "Young man wants to meet women to 30 years old for Muffdiving, etc," and an article titled "Penis de Milo Created by Cynthia Plaster-Caster." McLeod and the paper were acquitted on all three charges due to the Crown having failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, with the judge noting that no evidence was provided as to the meaning of the word "muffdiving" and that he could not take judicial notice of a word that he had not previously heard. Those controversies ended in the 1970s, as the paper moved to become a more conventional news and entertainment weekly, albeit with a progressive editorial slant.
Often known simply as The Straight, this large "tabloid" format unconventional publication is delivered to newsboxes, post-secondary schools, public libraries and a large variety of other locations around Metro Vancouver every Thursday.
In October 2003, the provincial government sent The Straight a bill totalling more than $1 million for outstanding provincial sales tax. In British Columbia, print publications must have at least 25 per cent editorial content to be considered a newspaper, and to qualify for exemption from PST on printing bills. The extensive "Time Out" listing of the paper, detailing the what and where of virtually every public event in the city, was judged to be advertising - pushing the paper below the required thresholds for a newspaper.
As reported by the CBC, publisher Dan McLeod said this re-interpretation of the rules was a politically motivated attempt to silence a persistent critic.
"We're the only paper that is consistently critical of the government in our editorials week after week, and we're the only paper that's being fined a million dollars," he said. "So I put two and two together."
However, not everyone agreed with McLeod's interpretation of events and pointed out that The Straight had a significantly lower editorial-to-advertising ratio than many other alternative and university papers. This highly public battle garnered considerable attention, and the BC government later issued a statement reversing their decision, stating "clearly the Georgia Straight is a newspaper..."
2006 The Straight moves into its own completely renovated four-storey building at 1701 West Broadway. Architect J. Kerrigan Sproule upgrades a commercial building constructed in 1948 by adding one more level of underground parking and a fourth-floor amenity space with spectacular views of the city. The fourth-floor addition includes a kitchen, lunch room, exercise room, large patio area, and a shower for employees. (We hope the cyclists make use of it.) Extensive landscaping, including 11 trees and various shrubs, transforms the Pine Street side of the site and the back alley. The emblematic Mr. Wuxtry appears on a flag hanging on the Broadway side of the building. The Straight's move comes as this section of the Broadway corridor experiences significant growth with the addition of several new restaurants and retail outlets.
A readership survey conducted on behalf of The Georgia Straight in 2007 found that:
In its core market of the City of Vancouver, 61 percent of all adults 18+ reported reading a copy of the Georgia Straight within the past six issues. By comparison, 48% of respondents indicated reading the Vancouver Sun within the past six issues (past week). The Province followed with 41% reading a copy within the past six issues (past week). The free daily, 24 Hours, had a weekly (past six issue) readership of 38%, followed by Metro at 25%.
The Straight carries feature articles, ranging from social topics, such as drug use and gentrification to in-depth looks at cultural newsmakers like the writer Salman Rushdie. Writer Charlie Smith has a record of covering women's movement issues as well. There are also many advertiser-related articles and listings on lifestyle and entertainment,commenting on restaurants, new wines, new gadgets, designer clothes, and the latest in music, theatre and movies. Rounding out the regular features are the well-known American advice columnist Dan Savage with his Savage Love, commentator Gwynne Dyer, cartoons, and a local astrology column. The newspaper's editorial slant is strongly left wing as conceived in the Canadian political spectrum.
Special editions of The Straight include:
- The Golden Plate Awards - March
- The Best of Vancouver – September
The Best of Vancouver is a well known feature with whimsical notions of the best place for outdoor sex mixed in with more conventional awards such as Best Dining, Best Bar & Club and Best Radio Station.
The Straight has been criticised for publishing cigarette and other tobacco advertising when most publications in Canada have declined to do so for moral and ethical reasons. And of promoting local events that had tobacco industry sponsorship, such as the formerly Benson and Hedges-sponsored Symphony of Fire. The Straight has long been condemned for this practice by the major health groups and, more recently, by Vancouver businessman and political candidate Dale Jackaman in a series of Google attack ads.
The paper has received many awards. For example, in 1995, it received five "Western Magazine Awards", and, in the two years up to June 1996, it was nominated more than forty times and won twenty prizes, including three National Magazine Awards. In 1999, The Straight won eight Western Magazine Awards, including "Magazine of the Year", and its seventh consecutive, "Best Business Article".
The paper also gives many awards based on readers' polls:
- ". . . the Golden Plate Awards for local restaurants, the Straight Music Awards for local musicians, and the Best of Vancouver Awards for every type of business, service, activity, and weird stuff in the city, from the best bowling alley to the best Vancouver excuse for being late for work."
- Association of Alternative Newsweeklies Archived 2004-12-12 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Straight.com". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 27 February 2012.
- RickMcGrath.com Archived 2012-02-22 at the Wayback Machine.
- The Georgia Straight: What the Hell Happened? Naomi Pauls and Charles Campbell (1997). Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver/Toronto, p. 67. ISBN 1-55054-534-5.
- Hlookoff et al. v. City of Vancouver et al.,  B.C.J. No. 146 (Justice Verchere; British Columbia Supreme Court)
- Clement, Dominque (2008). Canada's Rights Revolution: Social Movements and Social Change, 1937-1982. Vancouver: UBC Press. pp. 71–73. ISBN 9780774814799.
- Regina v. Georgia Straight Publishing Ltd. and McLeod,  B.C.J. No. 332 (Judge Isman; British Columbia Provincial Court)
- Vancouver Scrum
- PROVINCE TO REVIEW NEWSPAPER TAX EXEMPTION POLICY Ministry of Provincial Revenue, Oct. 10, 2003
- 2,000 issues and counting
- "Six issue readership of the Georgia Straight soars to 675,100." Six issue readership of the Georgia Straight soars to 675,100
- RRJ Archived 2009-06-08 at the Wayback Machine.
- "The Georgia Straight has won a national award from the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ)". Georgia Straight Honored with National Journalism Award May 26, 2009
- Association of Alternative Newsweeklies.