Right in the centre - Corporation, corpulent or corpse?


By Ken Waddell 

Neepawa Banner & Press

I find it interesting how the newspaper industry has shifted over the 50 plus years I have been involved. My first experience was in 1968 and we laid out the pages with typed out, justified copy printed on strips that we ran through a waxer and laid the strips on blue-lined lay-out sheets. Labour intensive process for sure. We had to leave blanks or plugs in the places where pictures were to be placed. Then the sheets had to be driven to a printing press and you waited while the pages were finished, the negatives shots, the plates burned and placed on a press and the final product spewed out of the folder.

In the intervening years, the older generation, privately owned newspapers sold out to big companies like Glacier, Post Media and others. To finance those papers companies had to get a buy-in of financial hedge fund companies who had very deep pockets. Technology and buildings had to be financed, new methods of printing. When the ever- hungry hedge funds started to get diminishing quarterly returns, cuts had to be made

First it was a few reporters, then some admin staff, then some page counts until even some daily papers were left with fewer than five staff. Many local weeklies were also bought up and subjected to the same kinds of pressure.

Manitoba, as I have noted a few times, lost 22 papers in the last five years or so. Twenty of the now dead newspapers were corporately owned because there was just nothing left to cut and with almost no staff, there was not much news and fewer ads.

But last week, Ontario outpaced us all as Metroland shut down the print editions of 70 community papers in one fell swoop. Yes, you read that correctly, 70 papers in one week. Now they say they will continue with on-line editions but I have noted in other areas and have confirmed with Ontario sources, they are not likely to make any money with “on-line editions” either. Yes, there are many on-line products out there but very few are making money.

This paper is also available online, but most people want the printed product. Most newspapers left in Manitoba are not owned by large  corporate hedge fund firms that will do anything to squeeze out the last drop of blood or the last puff of breath to make one more quarterly dividend payment before they leave the paper to die. They have to do that or investors get quite upset and take their money elsewhere. Did you ever notice the similarities between the words corporation, corpulent  and corpse.

Most of the community papers in  Manitoba are family owned and have it figured out that that leaving newspapers to the corporations isn’t good for news, for communities or democracy. Many of us who have a family owned paper figured this out a long time ago. That is why this paper works every waking hour to make sure local news is either covered or gathered. We serve our community, our friends and neighbours. Advertisers are served as best we possibly can and local organizations featured on the pages. The printed page is still the most reliable and accountable news and advertising source.

I am thankful every day that we have stayed family-owned with loyal local employees. I am grateful we didn’t sell to a giant  corporation back in 2007 when they came calling with big promises. I am thankful every day that we are printed by a family owned printing press at Killarney. It’s the only one left in south-western Manitoba.

This paper is dedicated to the local community and their needs and plan to remain so. Thank you for your support.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.