This post was written in collaboration with Abirami Muthukumar, Digitization Assistant, and Sarah Severson, Digital Projects Librarian.
This is a 3-part series on the Digitization of SEE Magazine and VUE Weekly. In the first part, we gave you an overview of the project, and answer the “how.” In this part, we outline a short history of the publications (the “what”). The third part closes out the series with the “why”!
SEE Magazine and VUE Weekly were two rival alternative weekly newspapers that ran in Edmonton between 1992 and 2018. New issues were released every Thursday and covered a range of topics, artists and events that were often ignored and marginalized in mainstream media.
They were go-to places to find previews and reviews of dance performances, visual arts, theatre, festivals, fashion and books. Perhaps most famously, they offered coverage of the Edmonton International Fringe Festival that included reviews of every single show (not just the popular ones!)
Aside of the content itself, what makes these papers so interesting are their histories, including their turbulent 16-year-long rivalry!
The Publication History
In the 1980s, Ron Garth started publishing Something’s Entertaining Edmonton. Garth eventually merged his publication with a ten-year-old biweekly, Edmonton Bullet. Together they became SEE Magazine, whose first issue came out on July 1, 1992.
[Note: We’re not linking that first issue, because we couldn’t find print copies of the first few issues, before June 1993 – if you or anyone you know would be willing to lend us hard copies, we’d love to complete the digital collection!]
Early into its run, SEE accumulated a significant amount of printing debt. The printer made arrangements in which SEE would be acquired by Great West Newspapers, and its staff would become Great West employees. Despite signing off on the agreement, Garth and a number of the original staff chose to form a new paper, VUE Weekly, rather than be acquired. An alternative weeklies rivalry was born!
VUE published its first issue on September 21, 1995, only a few days after its core team left SEE, and distributed papers using many of SEE’s bins and racks across the city. Four days later, SEE filed a claim against Garth and VUE, alleging that VUE was identical in both content and layout to that of SEE. The claim resulted in VUE printing a full-page apology advertisement in the subsequent issue, which would then be printed as a 3-inch square for the next six months.
In 2005, Garth filed a lawsuit against the Canadian Revenue Agency, arguing that SEE, owned by US-based Hollinger Publishing, should not be receiving tax breaks designated for Canadian-owned newspapers. The claim and subsequent appeal were dismissed.
By the early-2010s, it was becoming increasingly difficult to sustain 2 weeklies. In 2011, both VUE and SEE were acquired by Bob Doull and merged under Postvue Publishing Inc., which continued under the VUE Weekly banner. SEE’s last issue, issue 913, was published on May 26, 2011.
In the next few years, as content moved increasingly online, there was a decrease in demand for alternative weeklies in print. VUE Weekly stopped publication following its final issue, Issue 1205, on November 28, 2018. For many, this marked the end of an era in music and arts news.
The Digital Collection
Although the papers are no longer in active publication, you can still read them and relive the late-90s and early-00s. The Edmonton Independent News: SEE Magazine and VUE Weekly collection is a digital collection containing 900+ issues of SEE Magazine and the entire early run of VUE Weekly (the later years were already available on Issuu).
The collection came about in 2021, when Erika Thorkelson and Mario Sarano, two former freelance writers from Edmonton, were unable to find digital copies of the publication they had once written for. Though some institutions had hard copies, none were available to read online. For what happened next , you can read about in an earlier blog!