Many community newspapers forced Into online-only model
On Friday Sept. 15, the Canadian media publisher and distributor, Metroland, announced they were seeking bankruptcy protection.
The media group reported they would be laying off 600 employees, or about 60 per cent of their total workforce.
Another shocking preventative measure taken by Metroland was that all physical newspapers once produced and distributed by the company would cease printing.
70 community publications, mostly based in southern Ontario, are being forced into an online-only mode.
The news has brought a great shock to many communities who rely on these publications in their mailboxes each week.
Additional conversation has emerged surrounding Metroland’s flawed ownership.
Allan Shackleton, editor of the Beach Metro community news, a publication not owned by Metroland, comments on the media group’s announcements.
“… If you’re lucky enough to work at a place that’s not corporately owned, that has local ownership that really wants to be in the newspaper and journalism business … that’s good. If you’re owned by a company that isn’t in the journalism business, but is more in the capital business or the hedge fund business that has no connection to the community and really no interest in journalism or no understanding of it, … it’s going to be a tough time for them and it’s going to be a tough time for the readership because really they don’t have that connection to the community.”
Metroland is owned by Nordstar, a mass media conglomerate that produces the Toronto Star among other major daily newspapers.
“[Metroland] did a lot of things wrong,” said Shakleton. “They were struggling a bit on how to deal with the internet,websites and the loss of some advertising dollars, but really, Metroland before it got sold by the original owners of the Toronto Star, … I don’t know, maybe they might’ve been okay, but once they sold to Nordstar, you kind of knew the end was gonna come because those guys had no journalism background, they may have said the right thing but I’m not sure their main goal was to run community newspapers.”
Six of Metroland’s daily publications will remain in print. They include, the Hamilton Spectator, the St. Catharines Standard, the Welland Tribune, the Peterborough Examiner, the Waterloo Region Record and the Niagara Falls Review.
However, publications like the Hamilton Spectator are losing their physical newsrooms as part of the bankruptcy preventative measures.
Concerns have also been raised following the recent news, around the fleeting role of local journalism.
“[Local journalism is] critical. It’s more critical. I sit here in Toronto, and there are daily newspapers, and lots of TV stations, so people think, well, Toronto has got lots of coverage. But it doesn’t have the same neighbourhood coverage that it used to,” Shackleton explained.
“When you get out into smaller towns and smaller communities, if they lose their newspaper or news website, most of them don’t have television stations, obviously, then things can go on at council, things can go on with developers, school boards, police, all kinds of things which nobody is going to know about. So it’s a real danger to democracy and even public safety,” continued Shackleton.
For a full list of Metroland’s publications, visit the company’s website.