The former managing editor of a recently shuttered Eastern Ontario newspaper is “cautiously optimistic” about ongoing efforts to bring the paper back to life.
In September, The Glengarry News closed after 131 years covering the communities of North and South Glengarry.
At that time, publisher Richard Mahoney told OBJ that the closure was sudden but not entirely unexpected, as 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.”
But after an outcry from Glengarry residents, efforts have been underway to revive the paper.
In a joint statement last week, the townships of North and South Glengarry said they are in the process of searching for a new owner for the paper in an effort to prevent the area from becoming a “news desert.”
“We, both Councils and the Glengarry County Archivist, Allan MacDonald, have been working tirelessly to see that The Glengarry News has a triumphant return, and with that we have had to be patient to make sure we have the right buyer to bring the paper back,” said Jamie MacDonald, mayor of North Glengarry.
“We’ve been approached by numerous Glengarrians inquiring about the return of the ‘News’ and we consider it our duty to ensure that our corner of Eastern Ontario receives adequate coverage and representation.”
Lachlan MacDonald, mayor of South Glengarry, told OBJ Tuesday that residents relied on the paper, which published a weekly print edition until its closure in September.
“A lot of people read it cover to cover,” he said. “They kind of feel now that they’re without news. A considerable portion of our population don’t have Facebook, they don’t get their news that way. Without the newspaper, what they’re missing is that feeling of connection to their community.”
While the future of The Glengarry News remains up in the air, its former managing editor, Steven Warburton, has stepped in to fill the gap.
Earlier this month, Warburton launched The Glengarry Phoenix, an online-only weekly newspaper that he’s currently running and writing solo.
“I did it as a stopgap solution while The Glengarry News isn’t here,” he told OBJ. “I want to keep our readers informed as to what’s going on in Glengarry by covering the councils and doing the feature stories they’re used to reading.”
He’s currently preparing to publish his fourth issue and while he said he’s received support from the community, the digital format isn’t ideal for the paper’s primary reader base, or himself.
“There’s been some problems with people accessing it,” he said. “I’m a total Luddite. I don’t quite know how to address those concerns except to keep trying or, if you pay me, I’ll send you the link to a free download.”
According to Warburton, the News was the only outlet that consistently covered what was happening in the area, which is why its loss is so deeply felt. While some papers based in neighbouring towns occasionally pick up stories, there’s no direct alternative.
“For the most part for years, when we went to North Glengarry or South Glengarry council meetings, we were the only people covering it,” he said. “I don’t think anyone’s covered it as in-depth as we have.”
While Warburton isn’t in the loop on the councils’ efforts to revive The Glengarry News, he said he feels “cautiously optimistic” about what he’s heard, adding that, at a recent council meeting, one of the mayors said they were in talks with a potential owner and plans could be solidified as early as this week.
“I’ll just wait to hear,” Warburton said. “I’ve been saying, if the paper comes back, I would happily put the Phoenix to rest again.”