FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 30, 2019
QUEEN’S PARK – Community newspapers are still a vital source of information in small town and rural Ontario, said Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett.
He made these comments in the Ontario Legislature while speaking in favour of a Private Member’s Bill Supporting Ontario’s Community, Rural and Agricultural Newspapers Act, introduced by Carleton MPP Goldie Ghamari.
The bill aims to amend provincial legislation to lend a hand to smaller and agriculture newspapers. Several pieces of provincial legislation require municipalities to post public notice for relevant community works, events, consultations and other things in local media. The legislation has a definition of newspapers that states the publishing period must be weekly.
In the wake of recent changes in the publishing industry, many newspaper have cut the frequency of publication in order to survive. Ghamari’s legislation aims to amend the provincial legislation to allow these newspapers to be an acceptable method for municipalities to publish notices.
Barrett spoke in favour of the legislation during debate in the Ontario Legislature, saying it was a “no-brainer” to support the legislation.
“Our local papers, of all sizes, as has been indicated in our discussions this afternoon, are facing a momentous challenge with reduced advertising revenue,” he said. “As we all know, at one time, radio stations and papers were really the only options for far-flung communities across our province. Today, with the Internet and social media, there are so many other options, and as a result newspapers have had to cut their publishing frequency.”
For more information, contact MPP Toby Barrett at 519-428-0446 or [email protected]
ONTARIO LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY
Mr. Toby Barrett: To be blunt, this bill is a bit of a no-brainer. Our community papers are there for us, but they are businesses. They’ve always been businesses, and they provide such an important source of ideas and information, and I’m referring particularly to rural Ontario and small-town Ontario. I think just in my riding alone, I’ll name the Simcoe Reformer, the Grand River Sachem, Lakeshore Shopper and Tillsonburg News. They’re all owned by national conglomerates.
In addition, we have the independent papers. Some of them have been around—oh, gosh—100 years or more. The Port Dover Maple Leaf: How patriotic is that? How Canadian is that? The Port Dover Maple Leaf, the Haldimand Press, the Port Rowan Good News—the Port Rowan Good News doesn’t print much from me, for some reason. I’ve got to work on that, with a name like the Port Rowan Good News. They’re all locally owned.
Our local papers, of all sizes, as has been indicated in our discussions this afternoon, are facing a momentous challenge with reduced advertising revenue. As we all know, at one time, radio stations and papers were really the only options for far-flung communities across our province. Today, with the Internet and social media, there are so many other options, and as a result newspapers have had to cut their publishing frequency.
One of the results is that some papers, as we now know, no longer qualify as vehicles to advertise municipal changes as required through provincial legislation because their publishing frequency is not enough—another wound in the revenue chest of our small-town papers. However, there is also an easy fix, and this appears to me to be a no-brainer. We need to change the legislation so that every community newspaper qualifies to run municipal announcements. These publications are still a vital source of information, and, I might add, in my view, they have editors, they have professional journalists and they provide accurate news of what’s going on in the community, contrary to what one might see on Facebook or Twitter, for example.
I’ve also heard from owners who have had to shut down their papers, and I’ve lost a number of papers across my riding, in part because they lost that municipal government advertising or perhaps that provincial or federal government advertising—levels of government that underestimated the readership, the following, of these publications: in my perspective, another indication of where centralized government in this great city that was mentioned can sometimes be out of touch with what’s going on in small-town Ontario, rural Ontario, northern Ontario, a very important part of our fabric. They’re the conduit to what’s happening—news, for example, on local councils, how the town sports teams are faring, what kind of services are being advertised by local businesses, businesses that obviously support the paper and we support them, community members, families that are recognizing important milestones, all happenings, a bit of gossip here and there that we all glean usually on a weekly basis. I have only one daily in my particular riding.
Two of my staffers are former journalists. They were both editors of small-town papers, and I have certainly come to value their sense of community, the skills, the connections they have, that they’ve built up over two decades previous to joining my office. I’m very lucky; I’m able to keep them to myself.
Again, full support for the member from Carleton. It’s good work, Goldie.