“Community journalism is about covering everything from municipal politics to church suppers and everything in between.
“Local Newspapers provide a very strong link between the individual and the community. For 50 years the Wellington Advertiser has done just that, delivering uniquely local and Canadian content.”
Those words, from uniquely local Canadian Senator Rob Black, were included among numerous tributes offered by political and industry dignitaries at the Wellington Advertiser’s 50th anniversary celebration at the Wellington County Museum and Archives on April 4.
“I want to congratulate the Adsett family and the Wellington Advertiser on this milestone anniversary. Fifty years as a family-run business and Newspaper is a tremendous accomplishment in these times of consolidation and mergers,” continued Black, a life-long county resident who was appointed to the Senate on Feb. 15.
“In this era of fake News the Wellington Advertiser has, for over 50 years, provided continuous access to real News stories about Wellington County for Wellington County residents.”
Black noted the county publication provides critical journalistic services and functions for local residents.
“It conveys information to citizens. It ensures those in power in our area are held accountable. But above all else, it helps people to connect to each other,” he said.
Wellington County Warden Dennis Lever said 50 years is “an incredible amount of time when you think about it.”
He pointed out the first issue of the paper in 1968 contained advertisements for four houses selling for less than $20,000 each.
The warden also commented on the history of enterprise and community service from Advertiser founder William (Bill) Adsett and current publisher Dave Adsett.
“Bill served on local council as reeve (of what was then Eramosa Township) from ‘75 to ‘82 and Dave was the mayor (of Guelph-Eramosa) right after amalgamation,” said Lever.
“Both Bill and Dave served as Wellington County wardens as well – Bill in 1981 and Dave in 2003. Their long-term contribution to our communities’ well-being simply can’t be measured.
“There have been many topics covered in the editorial column over the years and the way they’re written speaks to the type of character of those individuals.
“In my view they are caring, compassionate and genuinely involved in our communities.”
Noting he looks forward to each week’s issue of the Advertiser, Lever stated, “Many have written in the last two years about how important good press coverage is to our democracy. Ensuring an informed message goes out to our residents, reporting on what your local government is doing … and of course sometimes being critical as well, this has been a key strength of the Wellington Advertiser over the years and has led to the respect that they have.”
County councillor Shawn Watters, chair of the county’s information, heritage and seniors committee, pointed to the digitization of five decades worth of Advertiser pages – officially launched by the museum and archives at the event – as an example of the connection between the county and its Newspaper.
“Our staff at the county are very proud to work with the Wellington Advertiser to do this and provide this information for not only the next few years, but almost forever,” he said.
“This information will be available … not only to the county, but to the world.”
Watters also noted, “It’s interesting in these times when papers are having a really hard time … this paper … has endured and stayed, because it really is a testament to this community.
“And just looking around the room, I think it speaks volumes to what you folks have done with the paper. People feel a closeness to that. They feel like it’s their paper. It’s not just some entity out there. And I think that’s really important.”
A Newspaper’s role in a democracy like Canada was a focus of local members of parliament and provincial parliament at the celebration.
Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong said a free press is the foundation of a democracy.
“The people who founded democracy here in North America understood that and that’s why, over many centuries, our democratic rights have always included a free press that can advocate, that can criticize, that can cover the News to ensure an informed citizenry so we can have a solid, strong democracy,” Chong said.
“The Wellington Advertiser has been an integral part of that for 50 years.”
He congratulated Bill and his wife Trudy on the growth of the paper.
“Bill, through hard work, you and Trudy built this into one of the country’s largest family-owned independent papers,” Chong said. “Something that we all in the county can be very proud of.”
He reminisced about looking through the paper’s classified ads in the 1970s and ‘80s looking for cars and pickup trucks to one day purchase.
“Your paper’s evolved much beyond that, from simply classifieds, to cover the News here … and it serves an important part of our democracy … for local township councils, for county council, for the provincial legislature and for our national parliament,” Chong said.
He thanked the Wellington Advertiser for the service it provides.
“You have not only survived but thrived in this last 50 years, particularly as we look at the current media landscape and its rapidly changing nature because of the introduction of the internet,” Chong said.
“So all the best for the next 50 years and we look forward to the continued coverage that you provide.“
Perth-Wellington MP John Nater also congratulated the Advertiser.
“The importance of local journalism and local media is more important now than ever,” Nater said.
“We have a lot of politicians in the room today and I know we appreciate when our local media keeps us accountable because it’s a fundamental purpose of democracy to be kept accountable by a free and independent press.
“We appreciate all that the Wellington Advertiser does for that.”
Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott discussed how important community Newspapers are in the changing media environment and how the Advertiser has contributed to local democracy and political culture.
“Your coverage of local News and events not only keeps us informed, but it also binds us together as a community, giving us a common point of reference upon which to discern, understand and to act,” he said.
“Yours is one of the finest in the whole country, and you have earned our trust, our respect and our support.
“We greatly appreciate all that you do, and all that you represent.”
Perth-Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece said he agrees with the comments from other politicians and noted it was the Letters to the Editor section that caught his eye the first time he read the Wellington Advertiser.
“It seems that people in Wellington County have a lot to say,” Pettapiece said. “And I’m glad that they have a forum to say it at.
“It seems to me that this paper has welcomed that over the years and encourages that.”
He also recognized the Newspaper for its years of service to the community.
“To everyone at the Wellington Advertiser, I say keep on doing what you’re doing because we need you; we need you out there and it’s actually so much fun reading your Newspaper … thanks for all you do.”
Ontario Community Newspapers Association president Ray Stanton commented on the Advertiser’s unique status as an independent publication “founded and continuously run by the same family” for five decades.
“Congratulations everyone,” said Stanton. “All the best.”
Publisher Dave Adsett highlighted the Advertiser’s journey from its “humble beginnings as a one-man show” to a staff of 44 and the milestone of 50 years in business.
“It wasn’t easy getting established and running a Newspaper remains a challenge,” he said.
From the local business person soliciting business or trying to hire someone, to local government notices, to readers keen for local information, Adsett said, “this whole enterprise has and continues to operate on good will and the very highest of hopes for our readers, our advertisers and the communities we serve.”
The publisher also commented on the contribution of the “exceptional staff” the operation has employed over the years.
“Dedicated, hard-working, passionate and committed employees have helped bring us to this moment; where we have grown to having the largest Newsroom, the largest graphics department and the only full-fledged mailroom left in this region.”
Adsett also remarked on the unique vantage point he and his father were able to work from as both publishers and politicians.
“An inescapable truth is half of our company’s existence, almost 25 years, included the distraction of either Dad or me sitting on local and county council,” he said.
“We both had the honour of a one-year term as warden of Wellington County. It gave us a perspective and opportunity we would both be poorer for not having. We know this county. We know its people. We know its customs and we know how important it is for each village, small town, hamlet and sideroad to have a voice and connection with their neighbours.”
Adsett continued, “We also know what good government looks like and that has proven invaluable when writing editorials or advising reporters on the nuances of local government.
“We truly care about what goes on here. We are invested in Wellington and I think that shows.
“Thank you for sharing part of your day with us and keeping your county Newspaper, the Wellington Advertiser, strong and free.”