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Letter from the Founders

by and

Postered up at The Coast office circa ’94.
  • Postered up at The Coast office circa ’94.

In the beginning, we were part of a team of six friends at university, most of us working together on the school paper, all facing a post-graduation world—like today's—of dim job prospects. So when esteemed journalist and professor Stephen Kimber planted (or didn't, see page 5) the idea of a new publication for Halifax, we were immediately sold. The rest of the school year was punctuated with planning sessions for a launch in the summer of 1993. Ours was a group full of journalistic nerds from all over the place, who gravitated to the sensibility of alternative weeklies and collected examples we came across in other cities, papers like New York's Village Voice and its scores of spirited progeny. Before we knew its name, we knew The Coast would be that sort of publication. Our entire business case was a gut feeling: Halifax is so awesome, it deserves an alternative paper of its own.

Before 1993, Halifax's awesomeness was not a matter of public record. At least not in Halifax. The ruling establishment managed to actively ignore wave after wave of interesting energy, dispersing rather than riding it. NSCAD had a period in the 1970s when it was internationally admired as an innovation centre, although locally, denizens of the art college were invisible next to Dalhousie U's doctors and lawyers and chemists. In the '80s, after an intense search for the best place in North America, Shambhala Buddhists found it in Nova Scotia and loads of great people immigrated to Halifax. "But," the establishment scoffed, "there is no 'Buddhist' in WASP."

And while the world tuned in to Halifax music in the '90s (see page 27), much of the city turned a deaf ear. This was a formative time for us, because we saw first-hand the glaring distance between what Halifax's media reported, and what was happening in the city. That gap would be The Coast's market niche.

The progressive elements of Halifax had indeed been marginalized—ignored and scattered to the outskirts of the city's official story. But we believed in the potential to unite the periphery. The Coast could be a catalyst helping Halifax's progressive community to coalesce, like a hub giving shape to its wheel. This is an important, albeit neglected, newspaper role. As Robin Metcalfe, one of our city's original "Innovators & Instigators," says on page 14: "It helps you believe that you're real if you can see your own image reflected in media."

The Coast's highest ambition is to be a community newspaper. It is a bulletin board for our community, and also a watchdog, a cheerleader, an archive, a critic. From that first issue in 1993, The Coast's community has grown to include one out of every five Haligonians. This community lives at the heart of the new Halifax. And the establishment is aware that its position is changing.

The Coast's 20th anniversary is a community accomplishment. As such we're not just considering The Coast in this issue, but paying tribute to The New Halifax and its long-serving leaders, too. (And we'll be profiling more Innovators & Instigators throughout the anniversary year.) To thank you for being part of it all, you're invited to the birthday party, Friday, May 31, 7pm at Waterfront Warehouse. Our community has earned a chance to celebrate.

—Christine Oreskovich & Kyle Shaw


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