Winchester Press owner refutes closure plans, seeks buyer for eastern Ontario paper


The owner of a community newspaper serving eastern Ontario is contradicting a statement made on the publication’s Facebook page last week, insisting the paper is not throwing in the towel after more than a century of publication.

The Winchester Press had announced via Facebook last week that its New Year’s Day edition was its final publication after 131 years. But 81-year-old Beth Morris, who has owned the community newspaper as well as the Prescott Journal with her late husband John for 39 years, published a follow-up statement on Facebook stating that the paper is searching for a new owner in an attempt to stay alive amid shrinking revenues at the publication.

Morris blamed staff at the paper for prematurely posting an inaccurate statement without her approval.

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“That statement did not come from me, and those who posted it did not call me to confirm that it was true. In fact, what the staff was told was that we would not be printing an issue on January 8,” reads the follow-up post.

“This inaccurate and false statement may force us into bankruptcy,” Morris added.

OBJ reached out to staff at the Winchester Press seeking comment but did not immediately receive a response.

Morris’ statement added that revenues at the Winchester Press – a weekly publication covering southern rural Ottawa, Kemptville and Dundas County – have declined 40 per cent in recent years. She ascribed her paper’s struggles to the rise of Facebook advertising and a surge of big box stores in the region that supplant independent stores and opt not to advertise in community papers.

Business from her web press printing company in Prescott had similarly declined in the past decade, and was ultimately “sold for scrap metal.”

“I am left with a huge bank loan. My only assets are the Winchester Press building and my home, and I am losing both,” Morris wrote, adding she has already used all of her savings and a year of her pension to keep the newspaper afloat.

Morris said she planned to give staff eight weeks notice of her intention to slowly wind down the business while she sought a new owner for the Winchester Press. The Prescott Journal, meanwhile, announced it would not publish editions on Jan. 8 and 15 “due to circumstances beyond our control.”

Morris concluded her statement with a call to Winchester Press readers to support the institution of community journalism.

“Newspapers are an important part of any community. If I didn’t believe that, I would not have invested my life’s savings in both the Prescott Journal and the Winchester Press.

If I am successful in getting someone to carry on publishing this 131-year-old paper, please show them the support you have given us over the past 39 years.”

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