As fate would have it, this reporter was in Whitby when news broke that Metroland Media Group would be ceasing print editions of many of its weekly community newspapers.
That meant an opportunity to hold the last print edition of the Whitby This Week, a community newspaper that has been delivered to the Prudhomme household for decades. It was that very publication that introduced this reporter to the world of community journalism, the inspiration for a future career in the media industry. It was in that newspaper that the name Adam Prudhomme first appeared in print as they were courteous enough to run a handful of letters to the editor.
As much as we’d like to turn a blind eye to the decline of print media, it’s impossible to ignore. The fact that a media giant like Metroland is moving to online only is just the latest blow to the weekly print edition. An unfortunate development, but also a sign of the times. Granted as someone who makes their living in print media, we have a vested interest in seeing it continue. Lamenting the loss of fellow newspapers goes far beyond that.
First and foremost there’s the loss of more than 600 jobs. Though those employees probably knew the end was near, it still had to come as a shock to wake up to the news that employment has suddenly ceased without so much as a severance. Such is life in the media business these days unfortunately, but that makes it no less tragic.
Beyond the loss of jobs is the deprivation of a key part of a community’s identity. Yes those stories will continue to be told online, but that’s hardly the same. A digital story is far from permanent, as we’ve seen regionally when the Kingston Heritage suddenly halted production. All evidence of its online existence has been scrubbed from the internet. That’s not so easy to do with a print edition, which can provide a huge resource for future generations looking for a first-hand account of what was going on in a particular era.
One of the quirks of community reporting is getting to tell the stories that the major daily news outlets have no interest in sharing. For instance when two students from Selby create their own little library, that’s not exactly news to the folks in Toronto. Around here, that’s front page news, perhaps clipped out by family members and stuck to a fridge where it’ll remain for years. Something like that just doesn’t translate to the online format. Given all the drama surrounding Canadian media and Meta’s ban on sharing news articles, moving to an online only format means even more restricted access to local news. Regardless of how news is received, limited access is never a good thing.
Fortunately, the Napanee Beaver remains independent and is unaffected by Metroland’s decision. We intend to continue with the print edition just as we have for the last 154 years. That wouldn’t be possible without support from the community and for that we are grateful.