TC Media and the Fall of Community Papers

paper_puddle2An article from Cult#MTL was brought to my attention yesterday regarding the future direction of Montreal community newspapers around the island. If the article presents the situation accurately, then loyal readers of such publications as the West Island Chronicle and the Westmount Examiner can look forward to “a newspaper devoid of news” in the very near future.

As reported, TC Media, (the owners of the above two titles as well as 9 others around the island), have determined in their shareholder-beholden wisdom to halve the editorial staff and restrict the remaining staff to writing pieces that (dare I say it?) any blogger could cover.

Gone will be reporting that requires connections, insight, accountability and reference. On the block are :

  • City council meetings or public works projects or zoning issues
  • Political news or politicians’ news releases
  • News conferences
  • Local sports results

In that list, only the last might be handled acceptably by the legions of bloggers out there.

I have no illusions about what Montreal on the Cheap is or the role it serves, and just as there are a handful of aggregate sites for happenings in the city, so too are there for parenting tips, event reviews, food culture, and etc. These are not the stuff of newspapers, these are neighbours sharing. There is so much of this stuff out on the Internet that the only excuse for committing any of it to print anymore is simply to produce a vehicle for coupons and advertising, and yet, that appears to be the direction that TC Media has chosen.

I am not any sort of media wonk, but I predict that this decision will result in a noticeably declining readership of those properties, and a great opportunity for the remaining independent community publications like the Westend Times if they can marshal their resources appropriately.

From our newspapers we need coverage of the sorts of happenings that average Joe Citizen will not (or can not) go out of his way to investigate for his unpaid blog.

From our newspapers we need eyes on our politicians and bureaucrats.

From our newspapers, we need the fare that nourishes an informed citizenry.

To reiterate the author of the Cult#MTL piece, Peter Wheeland:

“To voice your opposition to what TC Media is doing to its — scratch that — to your newspapers, please sign the letter of support addressed to company president Ted Markle. Or by all means, please write your own.”