Tackling the issue of newspaper closures in rural Canada

With the announcement by Sun Media regarding the closure of eight weekly newspapers, J-Source.ca asked if I would try to provide some initial analysis. Sadly, these kinds of stories focus on urban dailies and the business aspects, as well as job losses. For the mainstream media, this is all that matters. But for the people living in these hamlets, villages and towns, it is a great loss. In some cases, these are century-old publications suddenly gone.

Analysis usually focuses on the importance of community journalism to the social capital and the increasing democratic deficit created when these vital publications are shut down. However, the economics for these newspapers is obviously not working. It is far easier to swallow up these individual communities into a regional publication, where resources, time and money reach a more efficient and cost-effective manner. Public service is not anywhere on the radar. Then again, maybe it should not. This is a complex issue and an ancient debate in journalism. Still, it appears it is not one taking place in the head office at Sun Media. For those who live in these community, it is important, whether they know it or not.

The piece looks at the closures and their impact, along with a darker trend. But, I offer an opportunity to entrepreneurial journalists and innovators within the industry that might help rural communities in Canada, possibly breathing new life in community journalism and a reinvigorated news industry. You can find it here.

2 thoughts on “Tackling the issue of newspaper closures in rural Canada

  1. Thanks for the comments, Wilf.
    Some people use the Statistics Canada definitions. Hamlet is less than 1,000. Village is 1,000 to 5,000. Town is more than 5,000. Small cities are considered less than 100,000. In my research around hyperlocal news, those are often the sizes of geographic areas served by those kinds of websites. In the case of my article, I am writing about community newspapers (hyperlocal news is a branch of research under community journalism), so I was keeping those figures in mind. By urban, I am talking about “major urban centres”, as in big cities over 100,000. The rest I see as being part of a rural context. By this definition, Peterborough, Kingston and the like would be considered part of my rural argument.

    I am not sure this helps or hinders my points. The report was American and the definitions may be different. There are not any Canadian studies looking at this specific issue. However, from experience and observation, I think there is enough validity to give pause for thoughts.

  2. You say “It is difficult to track all the small community newspaper closures. Headlines focus on job cuts and the impact on major urban centres, as compared to the losses in villages of less than 5,000 people.” “Urban residents are far more likely to access local news and information from digital activities and platforms, like news websites, blogs and social media, than their rural counterparts. People living in towns, villages and hamlets rely more heavily on traditional news activities and platforms, such as television and newspapers.” I am always interested in the varying definitions of urban and rural. In the second quote above, does “urban” mean “in population centres larger than 5,000?” Or what definition?

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