Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Dukes up

Wim Romeijn, publisher of Alberta's Vermilion Voice, says locally owned newspapers "are doing just fine" but could use some competition from papers owned by detached conglomerates.

He writes:

"Many of Sun Media's papers in smaller towns are failing for the simple reason that these papers (weeklies) have lost contact with the communities they operate in. Editors are moved about from one paper to the next, as are reporters.

"A local paper owned by some faraway big corporation is a contradiction in terms. Local papers still have a great future, being much less affected by the onslaught of the Internet than their counterparts in the big cities.

"Here in Alberta, Sun Media's small town papers are hurting badly. However, most locally owned and operated newspapers are doing just fine.

"The paper I publish competes against a Sun Media-owned outlet and though these folks seem to consider us simplistic hicks, we beat them on both editorial content and ad volume every single week.

"I do wish they'd put up more of a fight."

Thank you for your e-mail, Wim.

We long for the days of privately owned community newspapers.


  1. True. Of course.


    You still pay your reporters next to nothing.

    Everyone knows local weeklies rake in cash...a good amount of it.

  2. Independently-owned newspapers will make a comeback because:

    a) There's a lot of highly-trained, pissed off people out of work

    b) People are known in their communities and (mostly) respected, so readers/advertisers will go with them instead of staying with a faceless conglomerate that has gutted their 'community' paper

    c) You'll never find out what happened at council of a small town no Yahoo or MSN, so newspapers are still the most vital source of information in non-city environments.

    I look forward to the end of conglomerates, because well-done independents will win.

  3. And privately-owned dailies whose first priority is news, not profits.

  4. While what Mr. Romeljn says is mostly true, there should be a clarification made by someone who has and is still working at a Sun Media community weekly.
    And that clarification is - the vast majority of weeklies are now staffed by relatively cheap editorial staff who are either fresh out of journalism school or someone that has decided to take life a bit slower toward the end of their career. There are still a few of us veterans out there that love their job, focus on the community and are likely 'lifers' at the weekly news gig.
    The problem comes when upper management mandates to paper what their ad rates should be - regardless of what the market will really bear - and sit back as revenue goes down the tubes, thereby limiting editorial space (like my paper is presently experiencing). That means local stories get chopped to small pieces so you can get a few photos in with the little bit of sports coverage and the other tidbits people like to see.
    Imagine what's occurring at the Sun's daily operations with layoffs and how devastating that has been to local coverage. Now imagine what it's like when what should be a three person operation is slashed to a single person - that's problem number two at the weeklies.
    Combine those things and of course you'll see revenue plummet like the stock market has. In the effort to save money, Sun Media is killing the local newspaper because - where there is competition for the ad dollar - the local paper doesn't have a hope since they aren't able to respond to a competitor's challenge on ad rates.
    Mr. Romeljn - you are not the only one who wishes Sun Media would put up a fight. You can bet at least some of the employees at your competition would love to do it, but with out the head office stamp, you'll soon be the only game in town - re: Jasper and Morinville.

  5. I take it that the places where Sun Media has shut down community papers have strong, locally owned competitors -- Morinville, Jasper, etc.

  6. Four dailies.... 24 Hours, Metro, the Star, the Globe and who else?

  7. Think the time is coming for independent local newpapers to rule again!! Thanks to PKP, and the local advertising $$$.

  8. I think both papers speak for themselves as to the quality and quantity of editorial and advertising content.

  9. I think that local papers should be owned and operated by people who are local, not by some big distant corporation that isn't even familiar with the region where they make profits.

    And it's just natural that a local paper that is clearly not owned by local people will eventually lose contacts with members of "their" community. I live in a small, traditional Southern town and I know for a fact that folks wouldn't even bother buying a paper if they knew that the company is from out of state or out of town, which believe me, is easily detectable.

    I, for example, favor small town based papers rather than a generic paper that carries a big brand name instead of news that I'm interested in. I think that if you are going to report local news, you should be in touch with the local community. Thanks.

  10. There is a line Mr. Romeljn is suggesting crossing when he speaking of driving a local newspaper out of business. It is risky to try to compete with a newspaper that has been operational in a town for over 50 years. Despite who now owns these established papers they stand firm just by retaining the original name like the Standard or Royal.
    Possibly Mr. Romeljn is also quick in assuming that the editorial staff is not knowledgable of the going on within the community. I understand that most of these recently graduated journalists are from these very towns. Where are you from Mr. Mr. Romeljn?

  11. I'm not a newspaper expert, in fact, I know very little about it, especially about the ones up in there in your country. However, I do read newspaper, therefore I'm somewhat a customer. And as we live in the era of the Internet, we now have access to news from all over the globe, only a click away. That's what's basically allowing me to comment on an Alberta local newspaper right now. Before the Internet becoming so widely popular, one might say that such thing was nearly impossible. In fact, I strongly believe, together with other folks down here in the US, that Internet news have been responsible for the mainstream newspaper downfall. The good thing is that we now have more options, and the bad thing is that we now have a handful of unreliable sources, as very little can be verified on the Internet. Newspapers have counterattacked that by coming up with their own websites, that have proven to be very popular.

    Now, I would not be hypocritical enough to say that I do indeed read your local newspaper, in fact, I do not. We have our own down here. But I stumbled across this article while browsing around and since it seems to be an open and public one, I decided to leave a comment. I assume that there's no restrictions on nationality to do so. Well, anyways, I did not imply in any ways that the particular editorial staff is not familiar with what's going on in their own community. I just made a statement about how the community down here reacts to the newspapers that are sold in town, being oblivious and maybe ignorant of how the same works in Alberta. I'm not criticizing anyone here, just to make it clear. However, I have lived in places where the newspaper was completely out of touch with the community, and it does happen. Allow me to be annoying and again remind all y'all that I am not criticizing any particular newspaper, as I haven't mentioned any name, especially this one here. I have absolutely no credentials to criticize a high school weekly paper, if I had to. I know my place.

    "It is risky to try to compete with a newspaper that has been operational in a town for over 50 years." - yes, lots of things in life, as life itself, are risky. However, that doesn't mean that they are impossible to achieve. Every big newspaper, as most businesses, was at some point, a small newspaper that had to be started from scratch with a lot of hard work and probably some competition. To answer your personal question, I'm from Louisville, Mississippi. Sorry for being picky and pointing that out, but my last name is spelled "Romeijn" with an "i" before the "jn", not "Romeljn." Anyways, those were my opinions, hopefully, that won't upset anybody.