Toro rides again
Wednesday saw the launch—or, more precisely, the relaunch—of Toromagazine.com. Toro, you might remember, was a National Magazine Award–winning men’s magazine distributed through subscriber copies of The Globe and Mail between 2003 and 2007. Toro was beautifully designed and well written, covering a lot of journalistic ground in unexpected ways (Gare Joyce’s profile of Michael Ignatieff was, and probably is, the most original take on Macbeth along the Rideau to date). And it did all this without ceding any ground as a stylin’ men’s mag. It was a community of writers, editors, designers, illustrators and photographers (of which I’m proud to say—full disclosure—I was one). The contributors were likely names that, if you’re Canadian, you’ve heard before: Derek Finkle, Graham Roumieu, Charles Foran, Mark Kingwell, Mark Schatzker, Russell Smith, and the wonderfully monikered sex columnist Bebe O’Shea (actually playwright Claudia Dey).
The relaunch reminds me of Graydon Carter’s line about Frank Stronach’s now-defunct Vista magazine being like an airline magazine with no airplane attached. Toro was first and foremost a print publication, and no matter what becomes of the new version, it’s never going to have the street cred and existential import of the print model. The influence effected by its features, photo essays and especially its elegant design, simply cannot be replicated on the Web. It makes me wonder: Why not try something else under a different head, with an original design? Something that announces itself as entirely new and not a retread? Former Toro contributor Chris Shulgan has an excellent blog post expressing his ambivalence about the new Toromagazine.com and it’s well worth the read (link below).
For what it’s worth, here’s my take: Toro and Toromagazine.com proprietor Chris Bratty never got what really matters about launching and operating a magazine. It’s not about money or vanity or even community. At the end of the day, successful magazines give their owners power and influence. In that sense, if it’s worth it to you to publish a magazine, it must also be worth it to accept the responsibility and accountability that goes with it. Sure, it’s a business—but it’s not a car dealership. The naïve (or the just plain dim-witted) shouldn’t apply.
That said, I wish the new incarnation of Toro well. Who knows, someday it may even grow up to be a magazine.