Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


A disturbing trend next door...

Posted 1/23/18 (Tue)

During a normal week, I would write something in this space about North Dakota, from the Roger Maris Museum to agriculture in Divide County and just about anything in between.

However, this isn’t a normal week and here’s why. A very disturbing trend is developing that hasn’t happened in North Dakota but is closing in next door.

Many of us in the newspaper world found out in October the Moose Jaw Times-Herald in Saskatchewan would close in December. It printed its last edition Dec. 7 after being in business 128 years.

In November, a report on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., indicated that six suburban weekly newspapers in the nation’s capital region of Ottawa, would be closing sometime this month.

It was also announced in November that 21 small-town weeklies in the province of Ontario will close this month or in February.

In December, we found out that two, what we thought were strong South Dakota weeklies, had been purchased by the Rapid City Journal and shuttered. They are the Belle Fourche Bee and the Meade County Times in Sturgis, both of which actually ceased publication in late November.

The latest announcement is even more of a shocker. The same company that closed the Times-Herald, announced that if buyers aren’t found, 12 additional newspapers in Saskatchewan will close and they include three in some of the larger cities in Saskatchewan.

One of them, the Oxbow-Carnduff Herald-Gazette, has already closed, pushing its last issue out on Dec. 22.

Others include the Southwest Booster in Swift Current, the Lumsden Waterfront Press and the Prince Albert Daily Herald.

It just seems too incredible that these newspapers have been dropping like dominos just in the past four months?

And to someone who has been in journalism in North Dakota the past 31 years, I’m having a very difficult time wrapping my head around this.

If you break down some of this information, you’ll most likely understand why this is so hard to swallow.

First of all, Moose Jaw is the fourth largest city in Saskatchewan and had the fourth largest newspaper in the province with a reported circulation of 9,800. The population is 33,800. There are no TV stations but it has one AM and two FM radio stations.

Prince Albert is the third largest city in Saskatchewan and the Daily Herald has a circulation of 6,080. Prince Albert is served by six radio stations and has a population of nearly 36,000.

The population of Swift Current is 15,500 and the Southwest Booster reports a circulation of 13,700 that includes a southeastern Alberta trade area. Four commercial radio stations serve Swift Current.

Lumsden has a population of 1,800 and the Waterfront Press has a circulation of 3,860, according to its website.

One of the others set for closure is the South Central Star in Coronach. OK, maybe I can see that one because there’s less than 650 people in Coronach. But these others folding? My gosh, Prince Albert is the third largest city in Saskatchewan and Moose Jaw the fourth. That would be the equivalent of the Grand Forks Herald and the Minot Daily News in this state.

I reached out to Roger Holmes, the publisher of the 13 Saskatchewan newspapers. He said he still believes in print but he just can’t fight the battle any longer. He cited declining subscriptions and plummeting ad sales across the board and government placing nearly all their ads online.

But Mr. Holmes also told me something that we all know in journalism but we don’t like to talk about. It’s  the Internet and how it is sucking up a lot of revenue from local newspapers.

“Everybody still thinks the digital emperor has clothes. One day they will realize the digital emperor has no clothes, but the real journalists will all be gone by then and they will not understand what happened to their communities,” Holmes said. “The people have voted with their wallets and their eyeballs and they will reap what they have sown and reap what they have sown in communities without responsible journalism.”

It’s a really powerful statement, and it’s true. Unqualified news sources, bloggers and even certain newsletters aren’t proofread, aren’t edited and are likely in existence to serve a target audience rather than the general population.

As a result, integrity gets lost and the public begins to believe Internet bloggers who think they are good journalists.