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By Chad Ingram
Published Nov. 30, 3017
As I begin this column, I’m having a difficult time concentrating.
I’m having a difficult time concentrating because, as I write this, I’ve recently learned that hundreds of Ontarians will be losing their jobs.
Hundreds of Ontarians just like me.
On Monday, Postmedia and TorStar, the country’s two largest newspaper chains, announced a deal that essentially amounts to a newspaper trade. No money was exchanged in a transaction that saw Postmedia acquire 23 publications, a combination of both daily and weekly papers, from TorStar, while handing TorStar 17 publications. It was then announced that Postmedia would close all but one of the publications it had acquired, TorStar all but four.
So, from a group of 40 newspapers, five will remain.
Some 300 people are losing their jobs. Just in time for Christmas. My heart goes out to all of them.
Many of the shuttered publications have been around for more than a century and were cornerstones of their communities, at least at one time.
The newspaper industry in Canada, and around the world, has been in decline for a full decade now, for a combination of reasons that essentially amount to massive revenue drops courtesy of the existence of the internet.
The internet has destabilized many industries, as it’s shifted the entire way we do, well, almost anything.
The difference with newspapers, with journalism, is that unlike most other industries, it is key to our very democracy.
While Monday’s news is horrible for the journalists affected, it is also horrible for the communities they serve.
Just because newspapers close, it doesn’t mean that things stop happening. It just means that stories will go unwritten. People will be left in the dark about what’s going on in their own communities. There will be no oversight of process.
The work of community journalists is neither glamorous nor sexy, writing about roads projects and landfills and budgets. But it’s important. It lets people know how their tax dollars are being spent. It lets them know what their elected officials are up to. It gives them an idea of whom they may or may not wish to support in the next election.
Community journalists are both watchdogs and cheerleaders. Along with the scrutiny of public processes, there are the art exhibitions, the athletic triumphs, the stories of local people doing extraordinary things, that in some places will now go unrecognized. Stories that deserve to be told, but that will have no narrator.
In Haliburton County, we are lucky that the newspapers are not owned by either of the major chains, although this one once was. We are also lucky that the county is a place where the actual, tangible newspaper is still so highly valued.
If you are lucky enough to live in a community that still has a local newspaper, please do your best to support it. Buy a subscription. Purchase an ad.
Local newspapers are mirrors to the communities they serve. Don’t let your reflection disappear.