A last is almost always followed by a first. This will be the first time the Advertiser is printed out of province.
As noted last week, the newspaper business is full of changes these days. While intimately aware of the industry ourselves, we recognize the average Canadian may not follow the issue to the same extent. And really, why should they have to add that measure of worry to already challenging times?
Unfortunately, they must.
By reactions online this past weekend and some personal overtures to our staff, a more fulsome conversation is needed than the limited offering of grief spilled out in last week’s secondary editorial. Fears that the print edition would cease are misplaced, but the sentiment of concern that such a prospect was possible, was gratifying.
We try our best here.
This month we celebrate 55 years in business and that milestone has been triggering memories of times past. While personal remembrances are of this specific enterprise we care so deeply about, it won’t be much different than the experiences of others who have watched their own community, industry, business or workplace change over the decades.
It is a mighty rare circumstance that time stands still for anyone or anything.
Driving through Wellington County we remain amazed at the extent of change in our relatively short lifetime. In five and a bit decades, villages and towns have bloomed and the countryside has prospered. The quality of life here is incredible, affording for the most part an existence we would suggest is the envy of the world. And the farms, oh the farms – tidy, post-card perfect operations abound – providing dairy, meat and produce for a growing population here and around the world.
Within that sphere of change there have been losses too. The “little guy” has often succumbed to forces larger than individual effort. Failing to keep up with current equipment or contemporary practices causes a competitive disadvantage that at some point is insurmountable. Similarly, community organizations, whether that be a small collection of rural churches, service clubs or social groups, many have withered under the strain of change.
Recognizing all of these things it should come as no surprise that newspapers – arguably a very representative reflection of the community they serve – have witnessed great change as well.
We easily remember the first little press where editions of the Wellington Advertiser rattled off. That site was in or around what is now the old Quebec Street Mall in Guelph. It was a fairly primitive operation, soon replaced itself by advances in technology that allowed for larger page counts, use of colour and great speed.
Rather than a three or four hour round trip to drop off pasted-up newspaper flats, which in turn required extensive use of chemicals to process plates, publishers can now simply hit send and magically that big box of flats, flow over the internet as digital files.
The significant investments in press-installations for small towns (often by fabled firm Thomson Newspapers) were made to ensure timely delivery of their daily and community newspapers.
Corporate newspaper groups since that time have moth-balled presses, reducing what one former owner dryly assessed as “excess press capacity,” devoid of any attachment to local employment or pride in community. We wonder if news a month back that his family’s old printing plant is being closed by Postmedia in Saskatchewan, caused a moment of sombre reflection or a shrug of indifference.
We can readily recall six plants within a two-hour drive that printed our newspaper over the years. At last count over 20 printing plants within that transportation range have closed, with the pace of those closures accelerating in recent months. A combination of retirements, leases coming due and financial problems factored into these closures. The pandemic did not help matters either.
News that our supplier of 20 years was closing led to seeking out a new source. Finding a fit that could handle our format, schedules and not impact our advertisers, readers or staff, proved more difficult than first thought. Three weeks into the process, reality set in that options were indeed quite limited.
Inopportune days of the week, pricing that resembled gouging and formats that just aren’t our style made the decision very easy: we would need to print in Quebec, despite the costly price tag to ship.
We will need to be more steadfast with deadlines and staff will have to juggle work hours, but in the end, it will cause as little disruption as possible to our advertisers and readers.
At some point, independent printers closer to home may ramp up their workforce or get in a position to take on an account of our size. Uninterrupted service to community remains our primary interest.
Although residents of this county will continue to be well served, there remains cause for concern in a larger sense. Without a strong independent press, communities languish and democracy withers. It really is that simple.
Thank you for supporting your local newspaper.