Right in the centre - A newspaper review


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

As of the date of this issue, I have been around for 76 years. For almost half of those years, I have been in the newspaper business full time. For 58 of those years, I have been involved in writing and publishing and that dates long before the desktop or laptop computer.

Many people have asked me questions about the newspaper industry, people from seniors to farmers to sports figures to politicians, including premiers and prime minsters. They ask questions, lots of questions, and here’s a few examples.

Q. Why are you able to keep on giving away your papers?

A. Because we have loyal advertisers who need the pages of the local paper to get their message out to the people who are their customers. Advertisers include businesses, both big and small, local organizations, towns and municipalities. Without ads, there is no local paper

Q. How is the best way to support our local paper?

A. Buy ads and submit news stories and pictures. 

Q. Is there any other way?

A. Yes there is! All newspapers used to have a subscription fee and some still do. However, it is somewhat simpler to set out our circulation area and service that area with papers in as many places as possible for free pick up. In return, grateful readers can make a donation to their local paper. Subscription fees are around $60 per year so if a person wants to make a donation they can send a check to this paper at the address shown at the bottom of page 4.

Q. Why do local papers matter?

A. Papers are usually filled with  with news, ads and photos you won’t see anywhere else. They shouldn’t be filled up with provincial, national or international news that you can find on TV or the internet hours or maybe even days before the weekly local paper hits the streets. Local papers are usually much more reliable than any other news source.

Q. Are there less local newspapers than there used to be?

A. Yes, many have disappeared. In the past few years local papers have ceased to exist in Melita, Reston, Deloraine, Souris, Brandon, Carberry and Altona. That’s only seven examples but about 20 papers are now gone across Manitoba. Across Canada, it’s in the 100s.

Q. Why have so many papers disappeared?

A. That’s a great question and it will take a little bit longer to explain. Almost all of the closed papers used to be locally owned and when the owners went to retire, they were bought up by large investment corporations. These corporations were run by shareholder boards and managed by CEOs who often had no local connection and who could care less about our local communities. The local papers were seen as a cash cow to feed the shareholders. To do that, staff numbers were slashed. Fewer staff, less news, fewer pictures, less ads sold. The brilliant minds at corporate headquarters in some faraway city decided they should cancel building leases or sell buildings and lay off more staff. The CEOs kept squeezing more blood out of the papers until they died. In many cases, big corporations just walked away and left the few remaining staff, the buildings and equipment blowing in the wind. 

Q. Can newspaper staff work off-site?

A. Yes, they can and sometimes do. It works as long as the jobs get done and the staff stay in close touch with their local community.

Q. Ken, you are well past retirement age, what happens when you can’t do this any more?

A. That question has been addressed in a couple of ways. We have excellent staff and they can do a lot without my presence or involvement. We have two sons and a grandson who stick pretty close by in case “the old man” can’t do the work any more. And, we have put that theory to the test a few times as I have been hospitalized for a week at a time on several occasions. Currently, I am in very good health and plan to work until the good Lord says to stop. Thank you and may God bless you and yours.

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.