BY RON BARNETT –
As the year comes to a close, we reflect on the past 12 months and plan for the year to come. Amid tumultuous times, we send nothing but positive energy to our community for the months ahead.
We’ll be publishing a retrospective look at the biggest local news stories of the last year but I wanted to address one on which we have remained silent until now.
Recently, two of Canada’s largest daily and community newspaper publishers announced a deal to trade papers and close over 30 of these publications effective January, 2018. It was the latest round in what seems a continuing downward spiral for print media and another sad time for many of our friends and former colleagues.
Sources say that 290 people will lose their jobs and while their talent will go a long way to find them employment elsewhere, many say that the real casualty in all of this is community news, which will suffer from a lack of journalists, previously staffed to cover local stories.
This spiral we’re experiencing is approximately 20 years old. So, while the industry has been changing for a while, the bigger media chains have adjusted to it by amalgamating their editorial rooms and adding more shared national and general interest stories to their overall content as a way to cut costs. But the cost-cutting measures actually accelerated the problem, causing fewer local stories, leading to more cost-cutting measures, leading to further declines in readership, and so on.
Many other reasons have also been cited for the demise of print newspapers in North America but one thing is clear: Internet usage continues to grow at an astounding rate while print media subscriptions continue to decline.
Change is often a hard pill to swallow.
But I don’t believe the data indicates a lack of appetite for local content. In fact, it may even confirm my view that community news is still very much alive. Instead, the Internet’s popularity signifies a major shift in how and from where we get our news. Our own experience with SouthGrey.ca illustrates this.
We launched this website in July, 2017 and have seen it grow from zero to where we are now, with approximately 20,000 visits in the last month. Contrast that with the shrinking circulation of area newspapers and the writing on the wall seems clear.
In addition, our social media engagement has seen steady growth. The South Grey News Facebook page has reached 550 likes in just a few months with our post reach and engagement landing in the tens of thousands in 2017.
Individually, some of our stories have garnered impressive stats as well with many attracting several thousand visits.
All of our stories are about local news and events. They are locally written and are only available online.
Three out of four of us at SouthGrey.ca are former employees of corporately owned newspapers who have shifted their time and expertise to this local online product.
To us, the future looks hopeful.
We want to thank all of our readers and advertisers for their continued support. We feel the embrace of our community and look forward to keeping this train on track in 2018.
Happy holidays, everyone! And thanks for reading!
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At South Grey News, we endeavour to bring you truthful up-to-date local community news in a quick and easy-to-digest format that’s free of political bias. We believe this service is more important today than ever before, as social media has given rise to misinformation, largely unchecked by big corporations who put profits ahead of their responsibilities.
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