Jack Brezina: A paperless society
|By Jack Brezina - Contributing Writer | February 8 2018|
It is the picture of a winning hockey team splayed out on the ice ... the grip and grin photo with the over-sized cheque ... the obituary notice of a relative or friend ... the opening of a new store ... graduates posing proudly with their diplomas. It is a mirror held up to a community reflecting the significant events in its day-to-day life.
For numerous villages in southern Ontario, that mirror was shattered recently. In a business agreement, two major newspaper publishers in this province, Torstar and Postmedia, traded newspaper titles and promptly closed them down. Many weekly newspapers and some significant daily papers in medium markets, were shuttered and close to 250 people lost their jobs.
While the sudden and heartless loss of employment for such a large group of workers is unconscionable, the closure of an important source of community information is equally sad and impactful. Many of the more than 40 newspapers closed have been around for years, stretching back a century or more. They were institutions in their communities, often quoted sources of historical information and perhaps, most importantly, a soap box through which citizens express their opinions for everyone to see.
There are many reasons for the demise of these publications. It could just be the result of the shrinking bottom line, a corporate conspiracy to eliminate competition, dwindling advertising revenue, shrinking circulation, the
intrusion of the internet into the news and advertising business ... probably a combination of all of the above and more.
In some instances, earlier cost saving efforts resulted in cuts to the editorial staff, which left the papers little more than advertising sheets awash in press releases.
Haliburton County was isolated from the newspaper consolidation that took place in the 1970’s. Back then, big companies were looking for economies of scale, consolidating printing in central locations, sharing editorial and production resources and so they scooped up weeklies and small dailies close to Toronto. The companies
came north, looked at papers like The Times and Echo and found they did not fit their business model.
I like to think we were just too far from their core and so these two newspapers and a string of other upstarts, were passed over until recently. Interestingly, rather than shedding media, Haliburton County increased the
options, including this newspaper, The Highlander, which emerged from the ashes of the County Voice. The community is also served by two radio stations, the latest additions to a vibrant media scene. There are also any number of online news-sharing sites which have emerged in the past few years.
The citizens of Haliburton County can take some comfort in the selection of media available to them. In
particular, the quality and depth of the news appearing in the printed pages of the three newspapers is heartening. The shots of the winning soccer team are as important as the service club gathered behind the over-sized cheque. But the more important value of a community newspaper is its coverage of local politics, articles that probe issues of importance to the community, the weekly opportunity for an exchange of opinions
that challenge the status quo and as a platform for its readers to speak out.
Here in Haliburton County, we enjoy a wealth of locally created community media. If we want it to continue, we must realize its value and support it because there are now more than 40 communities like ours whose mirror have just been shattered.
(Jack Brezina was the publisher of the The Times, Minden from 1979 to 2001).
Jack Brezina is a contributing writer for The Highlander.