Right in the centre - Local is essential


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

It seems the ultimate goal of business corporations is to dominate the world, or at least their home country. I have written recently about the dreadful downside of big corporations effect on the newspaper industry. This week, I want to address some history and how corporations swallowed and then spit out many newspapers.  I also want to show how that trend is affecting other part sf our local communities. 

In early years of newspapers, an ambitious person, or a couple of partners, would buy a printing press, build, buy or rent a shop on main street and start producing newspapers. The early days encountered some failures and setbacks, but many newspapers survived. It wasn’t unusual for every town to have a local newspaper. As years moved on, some towns grew, some stood still or shrank and newspapers were then only in somewhat larger towns. Through the 1960s and 70s, the number of newspapers across North  America was fairly stable.

In the 1970s and 80s, the smaller local newspapers owners started to anticipate what retirement might look like. Some sold out to other private small town owners, some faded away and some sold to corporations. Through the 80s, and even into the 90s, corporate ownership wasn’t so bad. The remnant or legacy staff stayed on, sometimes former owner/family members worked for the big corps and things clicked along fairly well. Then the corporations figured out that they could amalgamate, sell and accumulate int larger and larger chains. They didn’t need local publishers, all they needed  was big money. The hedge funds took over but didn’t know anything about publishing and didn’t seem to care. Corporations saw newspapers as a cash cow they could keep milking with less staff. The older, more experienced newspaper people soldiered on but eventually, the corporate chokehold  eventually killed many papers. Manitoba lost 20 papers. Canada lost many dozens. The US lost over 2600. Fortunately, new start-ups and some buy-backs from corporations have been taking place, but sadly it’s too late for some communities.

The corporate world is a hungry beast and has taken over another piece of local endeavour and that is gambling. In the world of sports betting, it has gone big time corporate and none of the money stays local. TV ads blast away about  the magic joy of sports gambling but the profits go to corporations not local groups. As far as government run gambling is concerned, I was told by  a businessman that he won’t have video lottery machines in his establishment because so much of the money leaves the community. Except for a tiny bit, the profits all go to the government and it feels like those profits are never seen again.

In contrast, that same businessman said, he supports the local hockey 50/50 draws and the local charity lotteries. Why the different view? Pretty simple. With a local 50/50, all the money stays local, The local organization and the winner basically split the proceeds. The same is true for local lotteries. Often the winners are local and local groups keep the rest to fund their organization.

We encourage our communities to buy local whenever possible. Corporations force people to drive ti the next biggest centre to get what you need or want. If you don’t think that shift is important, dig into your memory bank or look up the local history books to see how many businesses used to be in our small towns. There are many villages in this paper’s  coverage area that no longer even have a grocery store. If you are currently driving by your local grocery store to buy in a larger centre, just ask yourself, is the few cents savings worth the trip. Considering the price of gas and the risk of losing a local business, is it really worth it?

The overall message, be it newspapers, fund raising or groceries, keep it local. You will be glad you did. Be sure you support your local community as much as you possibly can. People who have done so have almost always been glad they did.

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.