Each and every community has its own set of issues that need to be covered and stories that deserve to be told. Every time I go up North or stop in a small town on a road trip, I love looking for the local paper. It’s often the glue of a community.
With the increasing mergers and closures of local newspapers in recent years – about 260 in the past 10 years – many smaller communities are losing that local coverage.
My feature for this year’s print edition of the Ryerson Review of Journalism, Green Shoots, highlights three communities across Canada where journalists are fighting to keep local reporting alive after their newspaper closed or was threatened with closure.
In Northumberland, 125 kilometres east of Toronto, after the local paper shuttered, a group of journalists and activists held a town hall meeting which resulted in the launch of a website meant to replace the local paper.
In the Prairie town of Prince Albert, Sask., the employees at the local newspaper bought the paper themselves to keep it from closing.
Moving south, I delve into what happened in Moose Jaw after an ex-writer at the daily paper began a one-woman independent news site after the daily shuttered.
I also write about some more unconventional endeavors like a librarian in New Hampshire who creates the local paper by hand, out of his own pocket, every week.
This year’s issue of the RRJ deals with the precariousness of the industry. It’s a topic we know well and one our masthead has made a point to engage with through our programming – one event in our RRJ Unpublished conferences series, Journalism – All Shook Up, focused on how new endeavors work in a fractured journalistic landscape.
Green Shoots aims to highlight the signs of hope sprouting amidst the doom and gloom. Local news is key to a healthy democracy – it affects everything from how garbage gets collected to how people are informed about the local elections, it holds people accountable and it makes for a connected community.