Courier editorials – An ode to community newspapers; long may they last

Every year for the last three, I have acted as a judge in the Ontario Community Newspapers Competition. For those not in the know, each province (or in our case, the Maritimes as a whole) annually holds competitions specifically for community newspapers. There is also an annual competition for community papers across the country; the Courier has won there more than once. There are categories from best sports story or photo to a general excellence category that looks at the entire paper as a whole.

I enjoy the process, and am going through it largely as we speak. I love seeing the stories and community newspapers from across the country, and admit to having a fondness for Ontario papers as I spent so much time living in the province.

And every year I have the same takeaway; these undervalued, dying breeds are the last bastion of chronicle for communities, and I’m not sure those communities realize it. In less than three weeks, I will reach my 10 year anniversary of working in community news, and the changes I have seen in that time are extraordinary. Hundreds of community papers have closed since I started, and many others have had to leave their print editions behind and offer only digital versions, as the cost of printing and delivering these products became prohibitive to continuing.

Many have had to pivot their product and how they deliver it multiple times, and each time a hard look is had at what can be offered while still making payroll.

Papers which were 30 pages per edition even five-years-ago are now often 20 or less. And yet, in those 20 pages these reporters and editors are still managing to tell the stories of the communities they serve; despite having skeleton staffs and no less area to cover. We tell you about school programs, and community events. We go to your hockey games and speak out on behalf of beleaguered entrepreneurs. We tell your stories as no one else has or will.

Here at the Courier, we find ourselves in the rare company of being one of the last two remaining independently owned English language newspapers in the province. Despite what some believe, the Courier is not part of the Irving publishing family, nor have we ever been. It makes us unique, and then add to that our ripe old age of 157, which makes us one of the oldest independently owned community newspapers in the country.

My point is this; don’t overlook the value in these little outlets in your communities. The big media giants don’t care that your dog needs vet care or who won the high school basketball game. Community newspapers are the last remaining public chronicle of our communities, and when they are gone, they’ll be gone for good.

Krisi Marples