On Nov. 27, the two largest newspaper publishers, Postmedia and Torstar, swapped 41 papers. No money was exchanged. 34 papers in southern Ontario, one in Winnipeg and one in Vancouver will be shutdown. Nearly 300 full-time and part-time employees will be affected.
However, it is estimated that each company will save between $5 million to $7 million annually as a result. The companies also state that they will remain committed to local news and are shutting down papers in regions served by multiple publications.
I anticipate more will be shutdown in the future given the precedence set, e.g., how the Peterborough Examiner survived these shutdowns, but competes with Peterborough This Week. While they tend to cover different stories with different angles, the bottom line will take priority. Both are owned by Metroland Media, which is a subsidiary of Torstar.
With the ability to create local monopolies for journalism in cities and towns across the province, the need to be beholden to advertisers to stay afloat and the increase in digital revenue not sufficiently supplementing the decrease in print revenue, these shutdowns are simply more indications of the industry downsizing.
So what do these closures mean for you? Honestly, the majority of publications and sources you may enjoy in Hamilton will be completely fine.
CBC Hamilton will be fine. The Hamilton Spectator, though owned by Metroland Media, should be fine. The Silhouette is in an incredibly fortunate situation compared to the general media landscape thanks to being relatively isolated as one of the only sources for McMaster news, and does not need to run at a budget surplus.
The main problem or conversation that comes as a result, besides how the competition bureau will be reviewing the deal, is what the value of local media should be and how it should be funded.
Hamilton is an interesting example with the variety of publications and funding systems used for each. We just try to make as much money back as possible through advertisements while maintaining editorial autonomy. The Hamilton Spectator continues to experiment with a mix of free and paid content on their website. Some independent media sources like the Inlet are online only with advertising possibilities. The Public Record uses crowdsourcing in a way very few media sources across Canada have put any attention or focus on.
A lot of this, however, relies on you as the reader to put money up to put less emphasis on more corporate funding. It is a lot to ask from anyone, let alone potentially struggling students in university trying to make ends meet.
Whether you support (or have the means to support) local news or not, you should at least know if you want to before the decision is made for you. Local media publications across the province and country will close soon, and you have the power to help support those remaining.