The Western Standard  Returns 

December 1st, 2019 | JH

You may not be old enough to remember how important and bombastic the Western Standard magazine used to be. Ezra Levant and a coalition of backers launched one of the best right-wing publications this country had ever seen before. It was like an anti-MacLean’s magazine featuring intelligent and provocative articles and editorials that the rest of the mainstream media would never touch, with topics they would never think to address.

Twelve years ago, it ended. The hard-nosed economics of print journalism had really begun picking up speed back then and the destruction of print media was imminent. Since then, Canadians have moved on to digital forms for information, usually via social media platforms that have become ubiquitous throughout the world. The conservative websites that have functioned as an alternative have been great, but the ecosystem is still small and the resources for development even smaller.

It’s in this context that firebrand libertarian, Derek Fildebrandt, decided to try his hand at publishing and rebirth The Western Standard in the brave new world of blogs, websites and twitter feeds. We had the privilege of catching up with Derek to talk about his plans for The Western Standard and where it will all lead.

Read on…

Jeff: Perfect timing!

Derek: It turned out to be perfect timing and the results have exceeded my wildest expectations.

Jeff: How so?

Derek: Our business plan projected us to have 5000 readers in our first month and we’re on track to have about 500,000! At that rate we’ll be bigger than the National Post in a few months. (laughs)

I’m most impressed by our demographic data. We thought we’d mostly be read by old, white men. The data shows we’re more broad-based than that. We’ve got a 50/50 split in male to female readers. 51% of our readers are under the age of 35 and that’s not supposed to be the case for a stridently conservative or libertarian news and opinion platform that is strongly sympathetic to the Western cause.

Jeff: That’s a good indication of longevity.

Derek: I hope so. We launched earlier than expected. We had our technical side ready. We had our writers ready and soon after the election there was a hunger for what we have. Now that we’ve proven we have a product that people want to consume we’re trying to bring up the business side, because we can’t publish at a loss forever.

Jeff: The media landscape these days is pretty tough. You had mentioned at one point that you’d like to relaunch the print edition. Any concerns about competing in this environment?

Derek: Print will always go ahead if the economics are there. The risk is significantly higher than a digital edition. We’re going to be very cautious, because we don’t want to risk the digital side of things by focusing on the process of print. The way to make money digitally right now is to make listicles of cute cat videos. That’s not how Iwant to do it.

Jeff: How do you want to do it?

Derek: We’re doing things differently. Our writers aren’t paid flat fees, they’re paid as a portion of the revenues from their own articles. The big legacy corporate media have the advantage of having been around for a while and they’ve got institutional support and corporate connections, but our advantage is that we’re starting from scratch. We’re not bound by old ways of doing things.

There’s no guarantee we survive, but so far, we’ve had fantastic success and we think we have a very compelling case for advertisers to support us.

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" The way to make money digitally right now is to make listicles of cute cat videos. That’s not how I want to do it."

Jeff: I wanted to ask about the editorial bent of the new Standard. I know back in the day when Ezra was running it, he really swung for the fences. He had the whole Danish cartoon issue. He’s still doing stuff like that at The Rebel. How adventurous is the new Western Standard going to be today?

Derek: I would hope that if the Danish cartoon controversy happened today, we’d have the balls to do the exact same thing. We were poorly served by having a cowardly, corporate media that didn’t have the guts to live up to its own lofty talk of journalistic independence and free speech. I would hope that we would have the same courage of convictions to do the same thing today.

Today’s Western Standard is similar in many respects, but different as well. I’m not bashing cranky old men… I consider myself and honorary member,but we appeal to a younger demographic and men and women more equally. We’ve got writers that are conservatives and libertarians. I think the old Western Standard was more conservative, the new Western Standard is more libertarian.

Derek: We’re also more strident on the Western question. The conversation is different today. The last time around the West wasn’t in and Harper was just coming to power. We now know that it doesn’t matter much if the West is in national government, because the structure of the federation itself is such that federal governments have to pander to everybody but ourselves anyway. So, our outlook on federalism and the Western question is more strident. The opinions of our writers range from supporters of full independence to firewalls on the moderate side. This reflects modern Alberta. Unless you’re an NDP or Liberal politician you’re probably not a status quo federalist.

Jeff: That’s a big change from 20 years ago.

Derek: It’s frustrating for folks like myself who believe the problems for the West are structural in nature, not partisan in nature. The re-election of Trudeau in a minority government relying on even more radical parties, has shaken normal people out of their complacency. We must do something now. The Overton Window has shifted radically. Six months ago, firewallers were seen as extreme, fringe elements to the point now where firewallers are the very moderate centre. The Western Standard reflects that.

Jeff: In the rest of the world there seems to be a lot of dynamism regarding political issues. Social issues are being debated. Cultural issues are being debated. Economic issues. What’s the Western Standard going to bring to the table?

Derek: That’s one of the reasons we’re appealing to younger people. We’re not going to be a radical publication, but we have no restrictions on what is debatable. Everything is up for debate. I have been careful that the editorial standards of the Standard aren’t too lop-sided to a specific view. We need a broad combination of voices on the right.

Jeff: Are you concerned or prepared for the progressive Maoists to take issue with some subject you touch upon and they’ll do the cancel culture thing?

Derek: It’s just a matter of time until our friends on the left make a concerted effort to pull our advertisers and get us banned. It’s a fight we relish.

Jeff: What do you ultimately hope to accomplish with The Western Standard?

Derek: We want to get on solid financial footing as soon as possible. We want to do more work on investigative journalism. Issues that haven’t had enough work done on them. Especially from a Western viewpoint. Right now, the conversations are pedestrian, and people haven’t thought through the issues. We want to be more academic and look at things in-depth. An issue we’re looking at with independence is how do you reconcile the issue with First Nations? The only answer the mainstream media has offered so far is, “Well, it’d be tough”.

We owe it to ourselves to have a better understanding to investigate pitfalls, opportunities, etc.. As we grow our capacity, we want to do a better job informing the debate around these complicated issues and haven’t had enough attention paid to them.


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