The top online stories of 2014

Rob Ford, Jian Ghomeshi, food and beer. Oh, Toronto, you're so predictable


We had to take a good, honest look at ourselves in 2014. From the farce of multiculturalism to violence against women to mental illness, it was difficult, but maybe we learned a few lessons we can take into the new year. Well, we’ll at least know where to get really good empanadas.

Below, your favourite stories of the past year:

1. Rob Ford 

We’ve discussed the strange, unpredictable story pretty thoroughly here already, not to mention all year long. 

But how did the Ford story in 2014 differ from the previous three years? For one, we came closer to understanding the “real” Rob Ford and his followers than ever before: How does the mayor know what bumbaclot means? Why do black people support a racist politician? And what’s it like to really be at a Ford Nation rally?

Video by Zach Ruiter

In answering these questions we learned a lot about ourselves, most significantly that perhaps “Diversity Our Strength” isn’t an accurate motto for Toronto. As Rob continues treatment for cancer and repping Ward 2, let’s hope that his legacy is continued civic engagement.

That and also that time at Steak Queen.

2. Violence against women

Who knew that a series of shocking allegations against a well-liked CBC broadcaster would reveal so much about how totally fucked up everything is?

The number of issues that emerged from the Jian Ghomeshi story meant that just about everyone on earth was affected. From questions about workplace safety to the high numbers of unreported sexual assaults to stories of systemic and social complicity, there was an intense level of soul-searching all over Toronto and beyond. As a result, we published a package of stories digging into the issues, and we’ve continued to scrape at the power imbalance that seems to be at the root of the problem. Because if these incidents are happening to privileged, educated people at the CBC, then where does this leave sex workers? Indigenous women? Everyone else?

3. Toronto’s hidden eats

Last spring, the NOW offices were sent reeling when we learned that Steven Davey, NOW’s longtime food editor, died suddenly. 

After a few uncertain months, we met with ex-Grid writer Karon Liu, who pitched a story about “hidden gem restaurants” – those delicious spots throughout the city that you’ve actually never heard of. 

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Not only did the piece actually deliver – how many times have you walked or driven past Back of House and never noticed it? – but it nicely continued Davey’s legacy: high-quality food made for all walks of life.

Read more of Karon Liu’s contributions to NOW here.

4. Toronto’s best beer bars

Yup, Toronto is a city, and so Toronto’s population has joined other cities in loving craft beer very much.

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As it turns out, we can brew as bad a batch as the rest of ’em: from the Amsterdam Brewhouse on scenic Lake Ontario to the casual patio at Bellwoods Brewery, we brew, we serve and we crush. Proof? Sarah Parniak’s story about Toronto’s Best Beer Bars was one of our most popular food stories of the summer. 

5. In memoriam: Robin Williams, MuchMusic and the El Mocambo (but not for long)

What was it exactly that touched us so deeply when Robin Williams died? For one, when someone so gregarious, seemingly joyous and, well, funny kills themselves, it’s a shock. And for those of us who grew up in the 80s, Williams was an important fixture in our understanding of things like modern family life (Mrs. Doubtfire) and staying in school (Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society). 

But NOW film critic Norm Wilner nicely identified what the collective anger was directed at: mental illness. Once again, we were reminded of how destructive the dark challenges we have with ourselves can be. 

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Blondie performing at the El Mocambo

Readers were less sympathetic to MuchMusic, which is by no means gone but almost forgotten. After a round of severe layoffs, Benjamin Boles asked whether it’s too early to write an obituary for the music station so many of us grew up on. 

But if the El Mocambo can get a second (or third? Fourth?) life, then perhaps it’s not too late for Much either. The legendary venue that I bet no one reading this has gone to this year looked like it was about to close when its sign popped up on eBay. But then who else but a dragon from Dragon’s Den stepped in to save it. We wish the venue well in 2015. 

More of your favourites from 2014: 

– Daniel Radcliffe: Sure, we loved interviewing Harry Potter on the red carpet and for a cover story. But this online editor really liked seeing us on the Colbert Report.

– The documentary about secret genius photographer Vivian Maier wasn’t enough: Her gorgeous New York City street photos were so brilliant, Stephen Bulger Gallery hosted an exhibition of the artist’s work here in Toronto.

– Sexy, single and hot for Tinder: Christina Walkinshaw’s personal essay about being single, commitment and dating with apps. 

kater@nowtoronto.com | @katernow

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