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Local newspapers still crucial for small towns across the country

Posted on April 21, 2022 by Vauxhall Advance

As the world transitions to a more digital age, the era of print seems to be ever-so-slowly dying out — overtaken by more digital forms of consuming media. Physically owning a book is becoming less of a commodity while steadily less and less people seem to be getting their news from newspapers.

There are still people who appreciate a good book, and love either having or collecting printed copies, but the fact is — buying and reading books online is cheaper and arguably easier to access than their printed counterparts.

According to the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association (AWNA), there are over 95 member newspapers throughout Alberta and the Northwest Territories, covering places such as Airdrie, Taber, Coaldale, Crowsnest Pass and Drumheller. Combined, the weeklies circulate around 630,000 newspapers for communities.

Small town, weekly newspapers have been around for decades, with the Taber Times originally beginning to publish in 1907. These weekly newspapers may not be huge, and may not employ a lot of people — but without them getting local news becomes a lot more difficult. Big international media corporations are not going to report on small towns unless something groundbreaking happens. Without weeklies, losing out on coverage of events, quotes from your government officials and kids sports becomes the steadily declining truth.

Canada’s federal government has also cut funding for weekly newspapers, and according to MP Martin Shields of the Bow River riding, supporting weeklies should be an initiative our federal government should follow. “I usually support the weekly newspapers because that’s what’s in this riding and what I support is the federal government doing the advertisement in weekly newspapers instead of on the international media platforms. Why is the federal government sending taxpayers’ money to international media platforms outside of Canada for advertising in Canada? This money should be spent on the newspapers inside of Canada rather than going after those ones to get money from them to pay back to those media platforms. Let’s just use the taxpayer’s money and do the advertising internally.”

On top of this, newspapers and reporters keep governments — municipal, federal and provincial — accountable. We recognize it’s not ideal to always think about what you say lest you end up on the front page, but, we also believe that there’s a certain standard elected officials should be held to.

Municipal governments are the face of a small town, and we don’t believe asking them to act accordingly is too much.

Weekly newspapers are also a museum of sorts for a community. There are archives from every edition of the Taber Times for a century — holding quotes from parents, grandparents, winning moments from sports teams, or the construction of a new building we pass everyday and see as normal.

The Crowsnest Pass Herald began a class action lawsuit a month ago towards Facebook and Google that claims damages of up to 1 billion dollars. Lisa Sygutek, Publisher for the Crowsnest Pass Herald and Vice President of the AWNA says that their goal is to give a voice to the small, independent newspapers.

“This lawsuit could be a real game-changer. It has the potential to stem the tide of “news deserts” (communities that have lost their local papers) and keep local news in small centres across Alberta. We are seeing hundred-year-old newspapers shutting down all over the country.” Said Sygutek in a letter to the Taber Times.

To be clear, we’re not reaching out to beg for support while wailing, “Woe is us.” It is our belief that one of the primary role of a newspaper is to create conversation. We’re not here to tell you what to do or what to think, we’re here to give you the facts about a situation and let you come to your own conclusions about the truth.

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