The Kamloops Daily News, one of British Columbia’s most venerable newspapers, will publish a last edition on Saturday after staff and management agreed to expedite a shutdown that will leave the province’s 12th largest city without a daily newspaper.
On Monday, Glacier Media Group, which owns the paper, said it would shut the paper down within 60 days because it was not financially sustainable. However, staff and management honoured with National Newspaper Awards and Jack Webster awards for the best of B.C. journalism agreed there was no point delaying the end.
“It is surprisingly early but it was certainly by mutual consent of the parties,” publisher Tim Shoults said Thursday, shortly after the shutdown was confirmed.
The end of the newspaper after about 80 years, and the fact that the bustling community of about 83,000 people will be without a daily paper, dramatically highlights the challenges facing the newspaper industry as past models for financial success are challenged by shifts in advertising, declining circulation and the Internet.
Mel Rothenburger, editor in chief for 34 years and a former Kamloops mayor, said the demise held out a warning to newspapers across Canada.
“It is an indication that newspapers have to keep changing and that they have to face up to the challenge of social media and, at the same time, they have to find ways to contain costs and continue to do good journalism. That’s not a small challenge.” He added: “It’s a warning to the industry because it was such a sudden and final decision.”
While Mr. Rothenburger, who left the paper in 2012, was aware of challenges facing the Daily News, he said it was a shock to hear this week that the paper would shut down.
Earlier this week, Mr. Shoults said in a statement the paper was suffering from declining revenues and had not been able to sufficiently cut costs. Earlier in 2013, Glacier contracted out ad production for several of its B.C publications to India and the Philippines.
Mr. Rothenburger said Kamloops won’t soon have a replacement daily and the community will suffer for the absence of a reflection, on most days of the week, of its political, social and sports culture. “There’s going to be a big gap in that after Saturday,” he said.
Friday will be the last day of work for most staff at the paper, which has had a circulation of about 27,000. In addition to about 34 full-time staff, there are 12 contracted delivery drivers.
Mr. Shoults said the paper would go out with a final edition worthy of its history. “It’s a bitter task, but it is going to be a very fitting and compelling sendoff,” he said.
Under the Labour Code, staff will be paid for the full 60 days, said Rob Munro, vice-president with the Media Union of B.C. He said some workers are facing serious financial challenges while others are near retirement so within sight of being able to access pensions. “Initially there was a lot of tears and shock,” he said. “Now [employees] are just looking at making the best of it and moving on.”
Kamloops This Week, another newspaper in the community, is going to publish three days a week instead of its current two-day schedule, and hire two more journalists for its newsroom. Other positions may be filled as needed. The paper, launched in 1988 as a weekly, is owned by Thompson River Publications Ltd.
Christopher Foulds, the paper’s editor, said three days a week seems the “prudent” expansion for advertisers and readers in the Kamloops market, noting the Daily News was once a weekly paper. “We’re trying to fill the void as best we can,” he said. He said the end of the paper was a sad turn for its employees and journalism. “Any death of a newspaper is like a death in the family, but, having said that, we have to carry on.”