Special anniversary edition of L’Itinéraire is 100% vendors – literally

A street paper in Montréal has released a special edition produced entirely by its vendors.

The 100% Camelots [‘100% Vendors’] edition builds on the success of L’Itinéraire’s 21st anniversary edition released last year, which was the first to be created exclusively by vendors.

It also highlights the incredible work L’Itinéraire has done to involve its vendors in the editorial direction of the paper.

L’Itinéraire's editorial vendor committee - (L to R) Alain Lepage, Norman Rickert, Guy Boyer and Jo Redwitch. Photo: Milton Fernandes

“Some people think our vendors are homeless and just sell the magazine but they do so much more than that,” said Editor Josée Panet-Raymond.

“They are used to being invisible and outside of society but writing for L’Itinéraire helps to integrate them. It gives them a sense of worth.”

For L’Itinéraire’s May anniversary issue, Josée invited some of its 120 vendors to take charge of the whole paper.

An editorial committee of four vendors headed up a team of 12 to collectively come up with a theme and content, as well as a concept for the edition’s design and cover.

They settled on the theme of resourcefulness, which they dubbed System D (representing the French débrouillardise), and explored the different ways vendors and others in society make the most of what they have.

The street paper invited eight journalists from the Professional Federation of Journalists of Quebec to mentor vendors during writing workshops from March to May this year.

Artwork by L’Itinéraire vendor Norman Rickert for the 100% Vendors edition. Photo: Milton Fernandes

Vendor Guy Boyer sat on the editorial committee with Alain Lepage, Norman Rickert and Jo Redwitch.

He also wrote an article about ‘Decomony’, in which he examines the different ways vendors have to be savvy when it comes to money.

“Doing the 100% Vendors issue was a lot of work and involved having to make compromises, but when we saw the end result, it was really satisfying,” said Guy.

“The main challenge was having to write an editorial with three other vendors… that was something! But all in all, I’m very happy with what we did.”

The cover mirrors the theme of collaboration and vendor participation. It shows vendors’ hands in a circle reaching towards the title, System D. Each holds an item they used to either create the magazine or be resourceful.

The special edition hit the streets on 15 May, L’Itinéraire’s official anniversary, and is already as popular with readers as its predecessor.

Top-selling L’Itinéraire vendors Maxime Valcourt (L) and Hamed Bamba (R). Photo: Alexandra Guellil

“Last year was great. It really sold well; readers really like it. We also refer to this edition a lot when we approach potential funders because it speaks volumes about what we do at L’Itinéraire. It’s like our calling card,” added Josée.

Having an article in the magazine has also proved to be a useful selling point for vendors. Josée says many will stand on their pitches holding the magazine open at the page with their picture on it.

“The vendors are really proud of what they do and it’s really gratifying for us to witness,” she added.

Like many INSP street papers, L’Itinéraire routinely encourages its vendors to contribute articles. The paper employs one full-time journalist and another staff member to help vendors develop their writing. Now, half of the publication’s regular content is written by vendors.

L’Itinéraire also invites vendors to sit in on editorial meetings so they can share their opinions on how particular topics are covered, and give their advice on the next edition’s cover.

Journalist Simon Posnic (L) and Vendor Project Manager Charles-Éric Lavery (R) support L’Itinéraire vendors with their writing.

INSP’s global network has a strong track record of collaborating with vendors in this way, from Street Sense in Washington, Speak Up in Michigan and Hus Forbi in Denmark, to Boca de Rua in Brazil.

The Best Vendor Contribution category of the annual INSP Awards is always one of the most hotly contested awards – and this year is no exception.

Josée plans to continue the writing workshops, inspired by the overwhelming response she received from journalists involved in its mentoring programme.

“We want to extend the project to other organisations, like a L’Itinéraire journalism school, because there was such an enthusiastic response from journalists and vendors. They all want to pitch in and it gets great results. Our vendors have real talent,” she said.