Saturday, 14 March 2009

Saying goodbye

Employees of the weekly Morinville Redwater Town & Country Examiner said their goodbyes in the final print edition of the Alberta paper this week, but the farewells were not posted online.

The paper was one of two closed by Quebecor, with rumours of more to follow. The published goodbyes were sent to TSF to share with Sun Media colleagues and newspaper readers.

Simon Druker, editor, front page story:

"Stop the presses, literally.

"With the Canadian economy continuing to swoon, media chains across the country are continuing to cut back on operations. In somewhat of a surprise move, Sun Media announced last week that the Morinville Redwater Town and Country Examiner will cease to operate immediately.

"The current March 11 edition of the Examiner will be the final issue of the long-running publication.

"The parent company of numerous weekly publications throughout Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario, Sun Media blamed the cutback on "increasing economic challenges in the newspaper industry, shrinking advertising revenues and rising costs."

"After evaluating the Examiner's operations, it was determined that 'the continuation of the publication is no longer viable,' according to a press release.

"Morinville and Redwater represent very historic and dynamic communities, but the reality is, the economic model in today's challenging environment no longer made business sense," said Craig Martin, Executive Vice-President Operations Western Canada.

"It is our aim to continue to serve readers and advertisers in the area through our other area publications such as Fort Saskatchewan, and we are confident we can do this. We would like to thank our loyal advertisers, readers, and employees for their years of continuous support," said Martin.

"The move ends a whirlwind couple of months for the publication.

"The Examiner was born in November with the merging of the Morinville Mirror and Redwater Tribune. The goal was to offer improved continuity to readers while offering the same blanket coverage.

"Early December saw the launch of a new interactive website, while future tech-savvy initiatives were in the works, including a Facebook page and a Twitter account. However, the publication fell victim to the same economic pitfalls being encountered by the rest of North America.

"The economy has hit media publications as hard, if not harder than any during these times. The Tribune Company, which owns the storied Chicago Tribune among other publications, filed for bankruptcy this past December, while Warner Bros. has already cut 800 jobs.

"The Mirror was founded in the late 1970's as an independent publication, predominantly serving the Town of Morinville. It continued to grow over it's 20 plus years, eventually being acquired by Sun Media in 2005 along with its sister publication, the Tribune. Today, the Examiner serves the communities of Redwater, Gibbons, Bon Accord, Legal, Morinville as well as smaller hamlets throughout Sturgeon County, reaching a circulation of approximately 14,000 with an estimated readership of approximately 30,000."

Simon Druker, editor, editorial notice:

"It saddens me to write this, as I'm sure it saddens our readers to know that we will no longer be bringing the news to their doorsteps. While none of us here were expecting the closure, perhaps we should have taken a bigger hint from the economy surrounding us.

"My biggest regret is the unfinished business, knowing that we will no longer be able to tell the many stories of our community. I know for a fact that countless stories exist out there. Hockey playoffs continue, graduations inch ever closer and yes, crimes continue to get committed.

"It's all part of the way the world works. News will continue to happen regardless of anything else, and we will no longer be able to bring it to our valued readers. We took pride in being your newspaper. We told your stories, while at the same time keeping you abreast of the latest happenings in and around your community.

"I can say with all honesty that we would not have done a thing differently. Sometimes circumstances dictate that certain decisions are out of our hands and unfortunately this is one of those cases.

"In the end, I take comfort knowing that I can say we did our jobs fairly, to the best of our ability and always with our readers in mind.

"This would be where I would normally say 'thank you' and ask for your continued support and readership. Instead, I will close by simply saying thank you to everyone who came into contact with us over the years. It has been a privilege serving you."

Jan Buterman, freelance writer:

"For this week's column, I was in the midst of writing a snappy little piece about various people who died on the Ides of any given month, such as Julius Caesar's famous death at the hands of members of his senate.

"Caesar's assassination came after being proclaimed dictator in perpetuity and reforming ancient Rome's government through centralization. The fact that the deadline for the Capital Region Board to present its agreements to the Province falls on the same day is merely an interesting coincidence.

"Before I could insert a final use of the word 'egregious', I learned that the Morinville Redwater Town & Country Examiner, formerly the papers known as the Morinville Mirror and the Redwater Tribune, has ceased to be.

"It's expired and gone to meet its maker. It's a stiff, bereft of life; its metabolic processes are are now history. It's shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleeping choir invisible. This is an ex-paper! For the older crowd, substitute the above riff on Monty Python with the closing song from Wayne & Shuster. (Frank Shuster, for the record, passed away on the Ides of January).

"The powers that be (for the younger crowd, substitute that with TPTB) made the announcement, leaving the entire staff so shocked they asked the freelancer to take care of the obituary.

"Please don't take my tone as disrespectful; I too am deeply grieved by this decision. Community journalism is crucially important to sustainable communities. The irony that a paper serving a community among the oldest in the province being flatlined in the same week that the top-down imposed and groupthink-implemented regional planning board has for its deadline isn't lost on me, nor is it lost on those who served your community through this paper.

"Community journalists bring you more than the flashy picture or the juicy scandal. In cases where the community is located on the doorstop of a large centre with large daily papers - such as the counties of Sturgeon and Thorhild - the sexy news tends to be grabbed up by those large dailies, the story coming to a climax and then plateauing within hours or a couple of days.

"The news cycle of a weekly paper is different: even when we scoop the news itself, by the time we hit the press, we must contain significantly more substance than flash to have any meaning for our readers.

"Community journalists have a calling to participate in the public sphere in a way that those working on a daily deadline don't and can't. While county citizens likely recognize the reporters from the dailies and the television feeds, how many of those reporters recognize you, average-person-on-the-street citizen. In rural Canada, the community journalist doesn't just need to get to know you, he or she wants to get to know you.

"Unfortunately, into this Utopian sphere, the realities of a market-based economy intrude, and in the case of Thorhild County earlier this year and Sturgeon County this week, these realities intrude with a vengeance. TPTB take a dim view of newspapers that don't generate revenue for the simple reason that they have a payroll to meet.

"According to Wikipedia, Sturgeon County is 2,109 square kilometres with a population of 18,864. Thorhild County is 1,998 square kilometres with a population of 3,042. Together, the counties total just over 4,000 square kilometres and have a population just shy of 22,000 people, served by only two editorial staff.

"From my admittedly biased perspective as a person who works throughout both counties - sometimes as a teacher and sometimes as a journalist - I can assure you there are enough stories to keep double that number busy.

"Sure, sometimes they're stories about the local 4-H and the latest rescue of a missing dog; not a big deal in the chronicle of world events, but they're your chronicle, your events.

"People who don't live in your community decided there is insufficient revenue reasons to continue providing a newspaper in your community. No conspiracy, just simple economics. The truth is out there; however, we won't be able to cover it.

"Good night, and good luck."

1 comment:

  1. The time has come to roll our sleeves up and start our own newspaper, either printed on paper or on the web, or both.
    And show Main St. how it's done.