OPINION: State of community news

Image of Nick Seebruch
By Nick Seebruch
OPINION: State of community news

Earlier this month, it was announced that The Winchester Press was facing possible closure unless a new buyer could be found for the 134-year-old weekly.

I’m wishing the publication the best, because without it, local businesses, the community of Winchester, and the region as a whole would be poorer.

For several years now, there has been talk that print is dying, and while it is undeniable that we have seen a string of closures in recent years, community news is not going anywhere.

Social media has transformed the industry. Every news outlet is now daily online, even weekly newspapers like Seaway News. These changes have meant that local papers have had to transform as well.

Wired Reread for example has grown from a weekly shopper, to the media company with the largest reach in our region, whether that be online, or in print.

Seaway News has become much more than a weekly paper, we now have a strong presence online and on all major social media platforms.

I’ve been told that people never read the paper anymore, and then I get letters or comments online from someone who I can tell read right until the last word.

We go to tens of thousands of homes in Cornwall and the surrounding counties. Online, our website was clicked on 300,000 times in the month of December, a relatively slow month for news.

While the bulk of our readers live in the region, we know that people from across Canada, North America and even Europe check wiredreread.com to keep track of what is going on here.

Every day of every week, we are covering and delivering news to our readers that matters to them and makes a difference in their lives, but Seaway News is more than a community newspaper. We are a platform that creates a wide range of products for our readers and our advertisers to choose from.

For the past three years, we have produced TASTE, a magazine that highlights food and culture trends in the region. We produce maps and guides and other tourism products for the City of Cornwall and the Townships of South Stormont and South Glengarry, and of course, we produce Cornwall Living, our crown jewel magazine. Year round, I will get requests from individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations asking for space to be profiled in the next edition of Cornwall Living.

Seaway News is a free paper. There is no subscription fee for the printed copy and there is no paywall on our website. Our business relies entirely on our advertisers and we are able to do that thanks to the value we are able to provide them.

Our online and print circulation numbers show that we are the best option for a business to get eyeballs on their product.

We support local business, not just through providing and advertising platform, but also through supporting initiatives like the annual Shop Local campaign.

This support of local businesses is just one example of why small newspapers are essential to the prosperity of their communities. Without a community newspaper, where will these businesses advertise? They can’t go to national outlets like the National Post or the CBC and reach their customers in the same way as they do through Seaway News.

Finally, the most important service we provide is accountability and asking questions of local government officials. An American study from the University of Notre Dame in 2018 found that communities in the United States that had lost their local newspaper saw a rise in government spending. This happens because there is no one there to ask these important questions about process and spending and keep local governments to account.

I wrote this column because I feel like it is important for readers to know the state of their local media. It is as important as knowing the state of affairs at City Hall. Hopefully this column gives readers a window into their community newspaper, Seaway News, and that they are assured that we are strong and providing an important service to them, their employers, and their neighbours.

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