When considering the best websites in Toronto, the mind often wanders from the question of what is (see the Best Of section) to what could be. One recurring example: could Toronto ever have a media and gossip site like NYC's Gawker?
It's an irreverent, fearless and not-so-serious site that breaks news (aka gossip) no other media outlet will. More than all the other sites in the world, Toronto seems always to be lusting after its own Gawker. That has something to do with our creepy crush on New York and with the fact that both cities are media centres with a modicum of celebrities, and both have insatiable online audiences.
Alas, despite our ongoing Gawker fetish, Toronto will never have anything remotely close to it.
And this I can say with certainty.
In 2004, a fellow experimental blogger and I set out to woo a branch of Gawker to Toronto. It was a brief and fruitless affair; Gawker founder and brain trust Nick Denton gave a cold shoulder to the idea.
Denton did, however, direct us to Gothamist, a more franchise-ready New York website marked at its best by the same sass as our beloved Gawker.
Even if we couldn't get into bed with Denton, we decided we wanted the same set of spices that made his site so delicious. So when we started our Gothamist site, Torontoist, later that year, we went for the gusto. And it just didn't work.
First and most obvious, Toronto, or at least its core, is too small, and it often feels like the city fixates on only a handful of celebs at a time. You can only blog about Leah McLaren, Kevin Drew and the former cast of Degrassi so many times.
But the larger impediment to a Toronto-centric gossip site, we found out, is the bizarre hypersensitivity of some of our best about-towns.
Blogs about notable boldfaces were often greeted by touchy replies.
On one occasion, we took a frivolous guess at the age of a Globe & Mail movie critic and within hours received a sad little e-mail about how wrong we were. After sniping at someone we considered an underwhelming Raptors player, his mother messaged us about how upset she was.
Then, of course, there was the nastiness when our bark was answered by a disproportionate bite. Numerous lawsuits were threatened (most times by a local author), and warnings from certain members of the mainstream media verged on "You'll never work in this town again!" Other psychopaths actually wrote, "I'm going to kill you!"
Whenever anything critical is written online in Toronto, it's personal. It's a very stifling, un-NYC atmosphere - and sadly not one a Gawker-type site could ever thrive in.
Still, as I've said before and will say again, I strongly encourage others to try.