Monday was a black day for local media, as well as across Ontario.
Both the Collingwood Enterprise-Bulletin and the Meaford Express, newspapers that have served the communities and region for more than a century, will be extinct by early in the New Year at the latest. Apparently, the E-B is shuttered effective immediately following its takeover by Metroland Media in a huge and complicated swap of operations between it and Post Media.
I spent five years working for the Enterprise-Bulletin a few years back, when it was owned both by the Osprey chain and by Sun Media under Quebecor. I remember that time with both fondness and frustration, as it was clear the decline of print media was well underway.
I also remember how, under Sun Media management, the Christmas season always brought trepidation, if not outright fear, that the axe would be lowered yet again. For whatever reason, media managers seem to think the festive season means it’s a great time to cut its labour force. Nothing says Merry Christmas more than a pink slip under that business model.
The loss of both papers is less than a tragedy, since the only thing unexpected was the surprising speed of the decision. It’s been clear the Express, which hasn’t had a local reporter in months, was on its last legs.
The Enterprise-Bulletin has been a shadow of itself for some years as well, lacking sufficient resources to perform its role in the fashion that most people would expect.
Residents in The Blue Mountains have gone through this pain before with the passing of The Courier-Herald, so they feel the pain of their neighbouring communities.
The real question in this situation is whether the public will care beyond paying lip service to the passing of the papers.
On Monday Stephen Vance, the editor of the Meaford Independent newspaper, summed the situation up well in a social media post.
“Meaford has now lost a community newspaper that dates back more than a century,” he wrote. “We at The Independent would like to stick around, but we can’t do it without you, our community. The alternative is to lose community newspapers altogether, and then we’ll only get the news that Toronto corporations want to give us – and you can be sure it won’t be local news.”
That sums up the current state of the local media market… it’s completely reliant on the community to decide whether it cares enough about local media coverage. It truly is up to you. Use it or lose it, and as the business community likes to put it, shop local.