836,484 – that is the estimate of newspaper readers who lost a newspaper when The Toronto Star and Postmedia ‘swapped’ 41 newspapers this week. It was like a NHL blockbuster and right after the trade, one of the teams involved would fold and no longer field a team on the ice.
Like a hockey fan that would mourn the loss of their team, these readers mourn the loss of their newspaper.
I came to the number of 836,484 by using numbers from News Media Canada (https://nmc-mic.ca/about-newspapers/circulation/daily-newspapers/) from Metroland Newspapers and searching websites of affected newspapers that would give distribution and circulation numbers. Of the 836,484 readers affected, approximately 500,000 belong to Ontario communities that will see a daily or weekly paper shutdown.
836,484 is an estimate, it may be more and it may be less, but still it is a large number. Put this into another context, the City of Ottawa has 900,000 residents. One day the residents of Ottawa have a printed source of news and then the next day they don’t. Where would residents go to get local news? Not only would there be no paper delivered to their door, but for the most part there would be no news available online.
This is what will happen, and has happened as a result of the trade made between Postmedia and Torstar November 27th, almost 300 people will lose their jobs because of this trade.
Lost are free daily newspapers in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Toronto and Vancouver. Weekly Community newspapers across Ontario will also close. Smaller cities will lose daily newspapers. The largest of the small papers to close is The Barrie Examiner, founded in 1864, it pre-dates confederation. Almost 45,000 residents will no longer have the Examiner at their doorstep. It ceased publication the day of the announcement. In a year when we are celebrating Canada150, a 153 year old newspaper closes.
For the City of Ottawa, the concern faced by the City itself is the distribution of information to residents. Scott Moffat, Councillor for the ward of Rideau-Goulbourn in the south end of the city put into words how the closure of the local paper The Stittsville News will affect his ability to communicate import City and Ward (http://www.rideaugoulbourn.ca/news/sadnewsforthestittsvillenews). Moffat talks about changes he needs to make on how he’ll tell his residents about City and Ward services.
Overnight the City of Ottawa lost a way to inform about 100,000 residents through the distribution of local weekly papers about meetings, development and planning notices and budgets. The City of Ottawa will have to address this. How can this information be widely available without relying exclusively on emails, web notices and the use of social media? For many, there is nothing easier than flipping through a paper to the page that has city notifications. I regularly use the City of Ottawa website for information, but that in itself is more often than not a frustrating experience if the right keywords are not used.
A larger effect will be seen in communities where Councillors, MPs and MPPs used the local papers to write about important issues on a weekly or monthly basis. I doubt that larger newspapers like Hamilton Spectator, Toronto Star or the Ottawa Citizen will give space to local elected representatives.
The news of the closures does not mean local community newspapers are dead. There are still several in my community I will receive; The Centretown Buzz and the Centretown News are two I read. Others in the Ottawa area are still operating, successfully. While the larger owners close local papers, will locally owned papers be the future, as it has been in the past? Who will be the next entrepreneur that will see a need as Alex Munter did at the age14 who created the Kanata Kourier from his basement? The Kanata Kourier-Standard will close in January; with it about 25,000 people will not have that paper delivered to their front door anymore.
836,484 readers, that’s the number this week, sadly millions before this week saw their papers close and more will close in 2018 and beyond.
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