Like many new students to Montreal, I discovered MTL Blog fairly soon into my first year. For the uninitiated, it seemed like a great resource for figuring out where to eat, places to go, and human interest stories. It was accessible and easy to read, so long as you didn’t read too closely. As I settled in, I had new friends and classmates start to fill in where MTL Blog had been helpful—they were locals who had the inside scoop on where to find the best cappuccino. For a time I had no need for MTL Blog—until COVID-19. Rather than acting as the fun, informative website it had been, it became, as much as I hate to admit it, one of my primary Montreal-specific news sources. So I followed MTL Blog’s Instagram for 24/7 access to Legault’s deepest thoughts, the latest updates on which masks are effective, and announcements of new stats and closures.
The problem is that we do not think about MTL Blog in the right way. We should not expect it to be a true news source—it is not.
Nearly a year later, I continue to read every headline that pops up on my Instagram feed and I hate it. Instagram is the most convenient delivery form for MTL Blog and yet, everything that is wrong with this Buzzfeed-style, clickbaity, trendy, supposedly-quirky-but-actually-annoying news and culture site is on stark display. The same articles are reposted several times each week. A story about sightings of Butters the Turkey (apparently a local celebrity?) and the discovery of an oral drug that purportedly fights COVID-19 are given equal treatment on the website. (On my Instagram, at least, the Butters story was posted more than the potential COVID cure story.) Recently, a story with a quirky headline about Legault’s backyard snowboarding slope was bizarrely juxtaposed with a subtitle about the death of Raphael Andre, the homeless man who recently died in Milton-Parc as a result of the province’s policies regarding homeless shelters. What’s the real story—how Legault’s snowboarding slope is “so Quebec” or how the premier is making light of COVID restrictions while facing intense criticism over them? Both are individual stories, but combining them together is a confusing mess that fails to adequately dig into either story.
I am certainly not the only hater—most people I ask roll their eyes at MTL Blog. But why is it so popular? Why do I continue to read their articles even though I hate them?
MTL Blog isn’t better because we don’t demand it to be better.
The problem is that we do not think about MTL Blog in the right way. We should not expect it to be a true news source—it is not. It provides quick, clickbaity headlines because its writers aren’t expected to do true journalism. It is not an honest and incisive portrait of Montreal, intent on providing an accurate picture of a city in all its interesting successes and flaws. It is a portrait of a city that appeals to millennials and college students who don’t want to read a full news article, hidden behind a paywall, when they can get the headline off of Twitter. MTL Blog isn’t better because we don’t demand it to be better. As long as we have other news sources that deliver more accurate information, we don’t need MTL Blog to venture outside its Buzzfeed niche.
So, if you’re looking for intellectual rigor and true journalism, go somewhere else. If MTL Blog is annoying enough for you to cut it out of your life, I understand. However, I am addicted— and I won’t be giving up this love-hate relationship for quite a while.