‘The community is feeling it’: Glengarry News shutters after 131 years

Glengarry News closure
Glengarry News published its final edition on Wednesday after 131 years in operation.

After more than 130 years serving its community, an Eastern Ontario weekly newspaper is closing its doors. 

On Wednesday, The Glengarry News published its final edition, in which it confirmed that the paper is shutting down permanently. Founded in 1892 by the Macdonald family, it was the only news outlet that specifically covered North and South Glengarry, according to publisher Richard Mahoney.

He said the outlet’s revenue sources had eroded significantly in the past five years

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“(It was) a combination of COVID and losing a lot of national advertising, like from car dealerships,” he said. “Government advertising, of course, dried up. Increased costs. Our readership was pretty solid, except we didn’t get a lot of local advertising because the beast of social media gobbled up a lot of revenues.”

The paper published a weekly print edition, which Mahoney said remained widely read. But the outlet also made efforts to adapt to a digital landscape. 

According to Mahoney, Glengarry News had over 8,000 followers on Facebook. He said Meta’s recent decision to ban Canadian news content from its platforms was already starting to have an effect.  

“We used it to alert (readers) to breaking news, or if something happened on the weekend and we couldn’t wait for the paper to come out on Wednesday,” he said. “(The effect of the ban) was immediate and financially took a chunk out of us as well. And it’s a relatively new decision, so, long term, it was definitely going to hurt us more.”

Glengarry News employed about 20 full- and part-time staff, as well as contractors. That includes eight employees represented by the Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild / Unifor Local 87-M, covered under the current collective agreement. 

He said the decision came as a shock. 

“We’re all probably trying to start looking for jobs by 4:30 p.m. today,” said Mahoney. “There’s not a lot of possibilities out there. Jobs as journalists are pretty hard to come by these days.”

He said the paper’s staff were informed by the owners last Friday that the outlet would be shutting down.

Glengarry News is just the latest local paper to close, following a trend that’s accelerated with the internet and social media. Eastern Ontario has lost several small community newspapers in the last decade. In 2020, the Winchester Press closed after 131 years in business. A few years prior, in 2017, 15 papers in the region were closed after being acquired by Postmedia, including Metro Ottawa, Belleville News, Frontenac Gazette, Kingston Heritage and Kanata Kourier-Standard.

“The industry has been kind of littered with corpses for quite a while,” said Mahoney. 

For Glengarry residents, losing the paper is a blow, he added. While there are some bigger publications in nearby cities, such as the Cornwall Standard-Freeholder, he said there is no other paper dedicated to covering the Glengarry community.  

“The community is feeling it as much as us,” said Mahoney. “It’s an older demographic and the old-fashioned print is still really important for people my age. It’s a big blow to the community and also a loss of accountability. You’re not going to have any reporter sitting in a town hall. When we lose accountability, everybody suffers.”

North Glengarry mayor Jamie MacDonald said on Facebook Tuesday that councils for the North and South Glengarry townships will hold an emergency meeting Thursday to “search out options and people who can preserve our local news.”

“My phone has been ringing with residents asking what can be done,” he wrote. “I can’t promise we can save it but I promise we will leave no stone unturned.”

He said the meeting would be held in a closed session. 

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