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September 18, 2023

It’s (another) sad time for local journalism

It’s another sad time for local journalism.


Last week, Metroland Media Group, the sister company of The Toronto Star, sought bankruptcy protection and immediately ceased the print publications of dozens of weekly community newspapers across Ontario, including our local Vaughan Citizen and all the local papers in York Region. These publications will continue to run in an online model, and daily newspapers like The Star and The Hamilton Spectator, for example, will continue to be published in print and online, unaffected by the bankruptcy.


You could say it is a “sign of the times”, or to use another cliché, “the writing was on the wall”; printed, legacy media has been scaled back for years – blamed on the decline of advertising dollars – and local, community journalism has been shredded apart, nearly obliterated.


Perhaps this decision doesn’t matter much to you; nobody actually cares about community news, right?! Wrong. Lots of people care.


The 605 people who were laid off last week care, some of whom worked for the company for more than 20 years. By the way, they were let go without any severance or termination pay. 


I was a victim of the abomination of local, community television in the GTA – 6 years ago this fall – and I still have people stopping me asking why they can’t find my shows anymore. Because they’re gone. Poof.


Community news is where many (if not most) top journalists cut their teeth, dreaming of seeing their byline or photo in the paper, or in TV credits. 


Believe it or not, thousands of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed teenagers and young adults enter into journalism school every year, ignited by this passion to tell stories, uncover truths, highlight people and businesses who are doing amazing things. And many (if not most) journalists are good people, severely underpaid for their work, and often abused online and in person because of their profession. 


Where will these reporters get their start? And for communities in Ontario who not only rely on local news, but ENJOY reading a paper, what happens to their stories? 

To all the kids who had their first job tossing the paper on the porch (and often on the driveway or lawn!) -- no more paper routes. 


Local papers were also an opportunity for small businesses and companies to be featured, in editorial and advertisements, often sharing good news stories and events – a welcome contrast to the hard news of murders, car thefts, and bank robberies. 


But, Julia, they weren’t making money. 

I hear you. I get it. I run a business. Money matters.

You can blame facebook, or the government, or whoever you want. 


Some of these printed papers date back to the 1800s, and once again, their owners are valuing local, legacy journalism based on the money it brings in, and that’s simply not fair. It will never compete with the big guys because of the lack of resources to make it viable. How do you sell advertising when you don’t have salespeople? 


Perhaps we should cut everything out of our lives that doesn’t make us money. Your kid’s bake sale? Scrap it. Volunteering? What’s the point? 


The point is – not everything makes money, but if it brings happiness, creates opportunities, develops the community – it still serves a purpose. And that’s why it’s a sad, sad time.


Thank you to my local news colleagues at The Vaughan Citizen and, and the paper itself: you will be missed.


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