The Trump bump
On the Saturday night of the Women’s March on Washington, I hosted a gathering of about a dozen women at my house for some wine and sushi and commiseration. We were all reeling from the Trump inauguration and needed to vent. A few of them had attended the march in Toronto and arrived feeling uplifted. But I was despondent. I still can’t shake the sense that Donald Trump’s presidency is a catastrophe for which there is no solution short of impeachment. One of my guests, an extroverted American, asked each of us to talk about one thing that was giving us hope—and what we could do to prevent the dark cloud of xenophobia that is sweeping across the U.S. and Europe from arriving here. I’m usually allergic to these types of organized group confessionals. But extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, so I threw myself into the conversation.
One guest said she was going to send money to Planned Parenthood. Someone else said she was thinking of finding a way to work for the federal government to protect Canada from a Trump-like populist wave. Yet another, a rabbi, talked about joining an interfaith group of religious leaders to work on Trump resistance.
At the top of my list was supporting good journalism. After Trump was elected in November, I got out my credit card and subscribed to about a dozen newspapers and magazines I’d been reading for free online for years. I bought gift subscriptions to publications I already subscribed to. The New York Times reports that they received 132,000 new subscriptions in the three weeks following Trump’s election. Vanity Fair has clocked more than 80,000 subscription orders since Trump insulted the magazine on Twitter. The Trump bump has come just in the nick of time. Traditional advertising revenue can’t be relied upon to keep journalists employed. Now, more than ever, the world needs journalists to deliver smart, thorough reporting—an expensive undertaking.
Not that all journalism lives up to such lofty standards. The November election was a damning moment for my profession—we were all convinced Hillary Clinton would win. The polls were wrong, reporters failed to take the temperature of Middle America, and pundits didn’t even consider the possibility that some 42 per cent of voting American women would choose Trump. Yet the media, with all its flaws and biases, is our best hope of keeping Trump’s power in check.
On the cover of this issue is a classic example of how good journalism can give voice to the disenfranchised, call out a government that’s messing up and draw attention to an issue that matters. “The $1-Billion Hellhole” is an important story by the investigative reporter Raizel Robin about the utterly dysfunctional Toronto South Detention Centre. The TSDC may not be on your radar, but you’ve probably driven by it. The building is just south of the Gardiner, a few minutes west of High Park. It was built as the modern, sophisticated, humane replacement for the crumbling Don Jail. Three years later, it’s a disaster. Inmates are locked in their cells for days on end, without access to showers or clean clothes or fresh air. Robin convinced dozens of people—lawyers, judges, inmates, guards and government officials—to talk with her candidly about the troubles at the jail. The resulting article is as revealing as it is chilling.
Sarah Fulford is the editor of Toronto Life. She can be found on Twitter @sarah_fulford.