Nickie Shobeiry is Apt613’s correspondent at Synapcity, Ottawa non-profit for civic engagement, connecting people across diverse communities to share perspectives and create positive change.
Last month, Ontario saw the shutting down of several community papers. According to NM Canada, community newspapers publish almost 19 million copies each week, and the majority of that circulation is free.
In this blog, we’re asking: what is the role of community newspapers, what happens when they’re gone — and how do we move forward?
Why community papers are important
Local journalism connects individuals with the community. The printed community newspaper is “by far the favourite source of local news and information in communities large and small.”
Community newspapers ensure local news reaches diverse populations, regardless of age and income (not everyone has internet access, let alone being a digital native). These papers are trusted by locals from all backgrounds, who in turn become stakeholders in the publication.
This principle of shared ownership is also held by Synapcity. We believe in collaboration and co-creation, and we believe in the power small actions to bridge larger, diverse communities. The mission of both Synapcity, and community newspapers, is to offer citizens a neutral space to use their CityMaking voice.
What’s more, local newspapers cover stories that larger media outlets may not cover — everything from municipal politics to community associations to school bake-sales. The community-mindedness of these articles, paired with journalists’ passion for people and their stories, make them valuable sources of information for so many — another principle shared with Synapcity.
It is for all these reasons that the shutting down of community papers is a great loss to Ottawa.
What you had to say about it
We put the question out to our followers: what happens when newspapers shut down? Here’s what they said:
— Greg Macdougall (@GregEqEd) December 13, 2017
In the face of global crisis, community newspapers often provide the hope of small scale, grassroots and meaningful victories. The local, low-hanging fruit show that change is possible!
— Stephane Pressault (@slpressault) December 13, 2017
Personally, I love Metro Ottawa. I will read that over other forms of print media. It really, truly provides a local feel and I love that they showcase the “little” guys in Ottawa. It makes me angry that people don’t see the Metro’s importance in Ottawa -J
— Jenna & Kayla (@feministtwins) December 13, 2017
Community papers are, in many ways, our only source of good news or local issues in Ottawa. TheCitizen has become less relevant. Same news and pickups from AP
— Juliann Castell (@JFCConsulting) December 13, 2017
Community media could be publicly owned
— typʒk (@typzk) December 12, 2017
What actually happened
On Monday, November 27, 2017, Postmedia and Torstar announced that they were swapping the ownership of dozens of community papers. Postmedia acquired 26 publications, 24 of which are being shut down — or, in the case of Metro Ottawa, the doors have already been closed.
Other community newspapers that are to be shuttered include Stittsville News, Ottawa East, South and West News, the Kanata Kourier-Standard, Nepean/Barrhaven.
Paul Godfrey (Postmedia CEO) told CBC’s Ottawa Morning that this closure was due to the market shift towards digital content. Godfrey also acknowledged tech giants such as Google and Facebook make up the majority of digital ad spending. As a result, digital media outlets are still struggling. The strategy behind the Postmedia acquisition was to reduce competition in print, drawing ad revenues towards the Postmedia-owned Ottawa Citizen or the Ottawa Sun.
What we can do together
Ottawa, we ask you: how can we work together to ensure there are still shared, open spaces for grassroots voices?
Closing community newspapers has an undeniable impact on voices. At Synapcity, we want to create a space for those voices – which is something that Apt613 does every single day. That’s why we came together to form this partnership, and create our new ‘CityMakers’ column. Watch this space.
Let’s work together to keep informed, keep collaborating, and keep CityMaking.
Find Synapcity online, or follow @Synapcity.