The decline and fall of local newspapers continued earlier this week as Glacier Media Inc. announced that it is closing The Kamloops Daily News after 80 years in print.
While the last year has seen the death of several free large-market dailies and small-market community papers, John Hinds of Newspapers Canada* told The Vancouver Sun that this is “the first major market paid daily that we’ve seen close in recent memory.” (If memory serves, the last one before that was the Halifax Daily News, which died in 2008.)
According to Newspapers Canada’s latest circulation report, the Daily News had an average daily circulation of about 12,000 copies in 2012—though if you exclude Thursday (when its circulation spiked to 27,000), it was more like 10,000 copies per day. For a city its size, those numbers aren’t stellar; the Cape Breton Post, which distributes to a comparable population, had an average daily circulation of 20,675. Cape Breton and Kamloops aren’t perfectly alike, but the Daily News’s much lower circulation in a marginally smaller area looks like a red flag in hindsight.
Kamloops is now without a daily, but the gaps on newsstands won’t go totally empty. Kamloops This Week, a free community paper, has already announced that it will move from printing twice a week to three times a week.
We can’t think of any newspaper publisher that’s flush with cash at the moment, but the troubles at Glacier are illustrative of the trend in local journalism: it offered buyouts to employees of its Abbotsford-Mission Times in November; most of them took it, just in time for Glacier to sell the paper to Black Press, which promptly shut it down.
Two months before that, it laid off 20 staff from ad production. Around the same time, Thunder Bay’s The Chronicle-Journal laid off local reportersand stopped paying some columnists. Glacier owns a 27.6 percent stake in Continental Publishers, which publishes The Chronicle-Journal.
Glacier isn’t alone, though: as Tamara Baluja wrote in J-Source’s year-end round-up, Sun Media also brought down the axe in 2013, closing eight community papers and three free dailies.
*Full disclosure: I worked for Newspapers Canada’s senior advisor, policy and public affairs, in the summer of 2012.
For more on money troubles in local news, check out Harriet Luke’s article about the end of the Local Programming Improvement Fund.