Use it or lose it


I’m wearing a figurative black arm band this week.

Metroland Media’s Sept. 15 announcement that it is restructuring its operations and filing for bankruptcy is just another blow to community journalism in Ontario.

For those that don’t know what I’m talking about – and many will not, which is why purveyors of local news are in dire straits – most of Metroland’s 71 community newspapers will move to a digital-only model effective immediately.

The final delivery of the print edition of local papers was last week. Metroland’s six daily publications are the only ones that will continue to publish both online and in print.

In a letter to readers, the company’s vice president said they’re confident the restructuring will make the company a sustainable business moving forward.

We’ve heard that before. In fact, the decision to use newsprint as glorified wrapping paper for advertising flyers must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Editorial staff were slashed and local news became an afterthought in the quest to flog the weekly shopping glossies.

So, I’m not wearing the armband for Metroland, but for the hundreds of journalists who will be laid off, as well as the communities who may now get an even more watered-down online version of news, business, arts, sports and event coverage.

Coming on the heels of another major company – Facebook – throwing local news off of its platform in a hissy fit over the Canadian government wanting them to pay for what they have flogged as free content for years – it is another painful sting for the industry.

Luckily, The Highlander as well as the Haliburton Echo, Minden Times and County Life are not Metroland rags. We will continue to have print editions. As I have said before in this space, the County of Haliburton is blessed to have such robust media.

As larger towns around us see papers close, the Highlands has had the gift of a continuous media presence of no less than four award-winning newspapers.

At The Highlander, we are able to not only publish a weekly paper – and have an online presence – but provide it for free. For this, we can thank our advertisers, who still believe people want to hold a physical newspaper in their hands.

If the Metroland story tells us anything, it’s that we need to appreciate local media. We need to use it – advertise – and as I like to say, “read before burning” in your woodstove or campfire.

Metroland says people are getting their news online. Great. People need to go to their websites. When papers call for paid online subscriptions, readers need to support them.

We encourage readers to pick up our print edition, sign up for our weekly newsletter, and bookmark our website for breaking news since we don’t use Facebook anymore.

I still believe in community journalism. I still believe we are here to inform and challenge. I still take great pride in bylines above the fold. I believe people like to physically read our product – and yes – before using it to wrap fish or start fires.

As the old adage goes, use it or lose it.