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.
Patrick Uguccioni is the editor of a new bi-weekly newspaper that will soon start covering Kanata-Stittsville. Published by Michael Wollock, the Kanata-Stittsville Community Voice aims to “carry on the tradition of exceptional journalism that those communities have come to know.” Below, we talk to Patrick about his work as a CityMaker, giving a voice to communities.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Apt613: You have an extensive background is in communications. What led you to wanting to be a part of this project?
Patrick Uguccioni: Michael Wollock and I worked together in the 90s. He had three newspapers in the city that he eventually sold to Metroland, who traded to Postmedia, who eventually shut them down. Michael and I have a history together. When he got the news about the community papers shutting down, his first call was to me. He said he’s coming out of retirement to publish. It didn’t take long for me to say “Yes, I’m on board.”
What’s the importance of these papers?
We put the importance of community papers right in the name of our paper: we’re going to be called the Kanata-Stittsville Community Voice. We also have three papers in South Ottawa. It’s very important for the community to have this avenue to get news out about everything from the stop sign at the corner of the street, to a hockey team winning a championship. It becomes the voice of the community – a meeting place for them within those pages.
What are some of the biggest challenges of doing this, and how are you overcoming them?
It’s a little easier for us because Michael has done it before. He grew up in a newsroom. Michael’s parents owned a weekly newspaper in Montreal called The Suburban. He grew up in that realm, running his own newspapers in Ottawa and across the city. It’s a little easier to get it up and running because we already know what the hurdles may be.
What’s the process been like so far?
Michael has got a lot done in the last six weeks. He was actually on vacation in New Zealand with his wife, going to visit a new grandchild, when we heard about the Meroland-Postmedia deal. He got angry about it and said, “Someone needs to do something about this.” He has the wherewithal and the time. He’d basically retired since selling his newspapers in the early part of the 2000s, so now’s the impetus for him to get going.
Michael made the phone calls in a very short period of time, and now we’ve got staff, printers, and a deal with Canada Post. It’s been a lot of work for Michael in the last six weeks, and myself and the sales manager in getting the word out, hiring people. I believe people will be pleasantly surprised when they see that first issue at their door.
It’s been incredible seeing the city’s response to community papers shutting down. What prompted me to respond to your tweet was that community newspapers are alive and well in this city. They touch every community from the east end with the Orleans Star and Fred Sherwin, to Jeff Morris, who has a long history in community newspapers with his family, covering Manotick and Barrhaven and other parts of Nepean, now expanding into Richmond.
I can assure you community newspapers in this city are not dead. I am the editor of some new bi-weekly publications starting soon in some of the locales recently shuttered by Postmedia/Metroland, namely in Kanata, Stittsville and South Ottawa.
— Patrick Uguccioni (@elgin0725) January 11, 2018
Ottawa is very lucky to have lots of community newspapers. We’re coming in to where we are because Kanata-Stittsville and the south end were losing their community newspapers, and there were no other alternatives in print. We’re not interested in trying to take over any territory from existing newspapers – these communities have been around for decades, without that voice. We’re filling that space.
A CityMaker is someone who contributes to their city with the aim of making it better, whatever that means to them. How are you a CityMaker?
Our newspaper will mirror the community. You’ll see us getting involved through sponsorship like we’ve done before, in our previous incarnations. We’ll sponsor all-candidates debates during elections, we’ll sponsor little league baseball teams. We’ll be giving back to the community.
From one CityMaker to another, what advice do you have?
It’s what Michael is doing with these newspapers… In the end, it’s a business, but at the same time it’s about giving back by giving communities a voice.
The Community Voice is coming out in South Ottawa on February 15th and February 22nd in Kanata-Stittsville.
Correction: A previous version of this post gave the wrong date for when The Community Voice will begin distribution in South Ottawa. The correct date is February 15th.