WHY IS THIS COMMUNITY JOURNAL IMPORTANT? Small but mighty newspapers deliver impact journalism
By Ruby Irene Pratka
Every day, Trevor Greenway sees the impact of his work. Greenway is the publisher of The bottom to the hull and backan English-language independent weekly from Wakefield that covers part of the Outaouais region.
“If you are new to the area, the first three things you learn are the Black Sheep Inn, Wakefield Spring Water and the bottom downsays Greenway. “People won’t read about the town council of Low or Denholm in the Citizen of Ottawa or on the CBC website, but they will read it here.
The 29 English-language and bilingual publications that are members of the Quebec Community Newspaper Association (AQCQ) distribute weekly, bi-weekly, monthly and daily to some 384,000 readers, focusing on high-quality local news impact. According to the QCNA, three out of five English-speaking residents of the regions served by the association read their local newspaper.
KEEPING COMMUNITIES TOGETHER
Quebec’s English-language community newspapers are part of the glue that binds their respective communities together, keeping long-deceased former residents abreast of events in their hometowns and often covering great distances.
“Editor Penny MacWhirter explains that the Spec plays a vital role in the lives of English-speaking seniors, many of whom are unilingual and
lack of internet access.
Lily Ryan is the editor of Western Quebec Post (established in 1896), The Pontiac Journal, The Aylmer Bulletin and The Gatineau Bulletin. Ryan notes that until his father, Fred Ryan, founded the bilingual company Pontiac Reviewno English- or French-language newspaper covered the entirety of the vast, mostly rural Pontiac region, an area that takes two hours to drive. The newspaperThe slogan of is “Uniting the Pontiac”.
Gaspé Spec, an English-language weekly in the Gaspé, plays a similar role in uniting remote English-speaking communities in eastern Quebec. Before the Specification published its first edition in 1975, Gaspesians “knew more about New Brunswick affairs than about Quebec,” explains the newspaper’s website. the Specification is the only regional newspaper covering the territory of nearly 350 kilometers from Rivière-au-Renard to Matapédia.
Editor Penny MacWhirter says the Spec plays a vital role in the lives of English-speaking seniors, many of whom are unilingual and don’t have internet access. During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the journal produced daily public health summaries online, which were then shared in the community. The extra work stretched the newspaper’s four employees to the limit, but strengthened its public service role.
FILLING A VACUUM
During the COVID-19 pandemic, when major regional newspapers shrank further due to advertising constraints, community newspapers filled a void and helped readers understand a rapidly changing world.
In May 2020, veteran Montreal Gazette reporter Brenda O’Farrell founded The 1019 report, covering the 1,019 square kilometers of Vaudreuil-Soulanges. Existing local publications had closed, and the Gazette had stopped airing a weekly segment focused on the region.
“This area, which has one of the fastest growing English-speaking populations in the province, had no local English-language media,” says O’Farrell. Its aim was to launch a “hyperlocal publication worthy of people’s times”, and the weekly quickly filled the void left by its defunct predecessors.
Thanks to a daring councilwoman, O’Farrell exposed a real estate cover-up and her reporting led to major changes in local planning policy. “We were able to give voice to a person who said, ‘That’s wrong’, sort out what was true and what wasn’t true and give people the right information,” she says. “That’s the role that newspapers play in a democracy.”
STORIES MAKING THE NATIONAL HEAD
Community newspapers are staffed with dedicated journalists who leverage the trust they have gained over years of community involvement to cover stories that make national headlines.
Last fall, a teacher from Chelsea called Greenway at bottom down newsroom to say that his colleague, Fatemeh Anvari, had been reassigned after wearing a hijab in class at the height of the provincial debate over Bill 21. Greenway met with Anvari, who was initially reluctant to be interviewed, and told him spoke about the potential impact of the story.
“She was worried that the story would put a target in her back, but she got so much support,” Greenway recalled. A Léger poll suggested that support for the secularism law fell from 64% to 55% after the Low Down published Anvari’s story; Prime Minister Justin Trudeau voiced his support for Anvari, and the story was picked up by The Washington Post and The Globe and Mail.
“All political stories start at the local level, and the story (of Anvari) is a great example of that,” comments bottom down editor Nikki Mantell. Like Ryan, Mantell has devoted his entire professional life to community journalism.
Greenway launched his career as a journalist at bottom down before working for a daily newspaper in Ottawa. In 2021, he returns to the newspaper as editor-in-chief.
“Community Newspapers are staffed by dedicated journalists who leverage the trust they have gained over years of community involvement to cover stories that make national headlines. »
“I’ve published great stories in Ottawa, but I don’t feel like they had the same impact on readership. Community journalists, however, can explore important stories that impact people right in their homes, says Greenway.