'Hard to fathom saying goodbye': Loss of community papers leaves journalism gap
WINDSOR, ONT. -- The loss of community newspapers across Essex County has readers mourning the hit to local news and worrying about the implications.
On Tuesday, Postmedia Network Inc. announced it would close 15 community newspapers in Manitoba and Ontario, including five across Windsor-Essex.
The five papers that will cease publication in the area are The Kingsville Reporter, The Lakeshore News, The Tecumseh Shoreline Week, The LaSalle Post and The Tibury Times.
“It’s really hard to fathom saying goodbye to it,” said Nelson Santos, the last editor of The Kingsville Reporter and mayor of the town.
Santos has worked at the 144-year-old paper for nearly 29 years. In an interview with CTV News, Santos says the landscape for local papers has changed dramatically since his first days working in the dark room developing photos.
“Hearing the loss of the paper really hits home because I made it [a] home for me. It was something very precious and I wore my heart on my sleeve for that paper,” said Santos.
The decline of newspaper revenues, particularly advertising revenues, have been pointed to by the company as a reason to shutter the papers.
“Shutting down a publication is never our first choice,” said Phyllise Gelfand, the vice-president of communications for Postmedia in The Windsor Star, also owned by the publisher.
Loss of communication
The community papers were a key resource for local municipalities to communicate with its residents, according to LaSalle Councillor Jeff Renaud.
“It’s something that’s going to set us back in our ability to communicate with the people of LaSalle,” said Renaud.
Upcoming public meetings and events would be published in the LaSalle Post and Renaud says without it in circulation, it will be more difficult to find a means of communication dedicated to the community.
“It really shows that there aren’t very many avenues or outlets out there that can be guaranteed to touch every single house other than Canada Post,” said Renaud.
The closure of the community papers will see 30 people out of a job.
For former employees like Robert Stewart, who left his job as editor of The LaSalle Post in 2014, that cut to the number of people working in the news industry is hard to hear.
“It’s hard to be someone in their 40s or 50s who works in the media and lose your job,” said Stewart. “Where are you going to go?”
Stewart worries the sense of community in each of the towns losing their local papers will be diluted and adds what may be worse is a loss of trust in media.
“It’s only going to get worse now that the small communities feel less serviced,” said Stewart.
Despite the loss of long-standing newspapers, Santos feels there is still a market and business case to be made for hyper-local, community publications in the future.
Santos hopes to see the papers return in some form or another.
“There is an appetite absolutely in our community for a newspaper that provides the local news, that provides connection to what’s happening,” said Santos.
The last print editions of the five papers being closed are set to run the week of May 4.