A major announcement by one of Canada’s largest media companies will have an equally major impact on part of North Grenville’s history. Metroland Media Group, which owns more than 70 community weekly newspapers, has sought bankruptcy protection and announced that it will cease print publication of all of its community newspapers, including the Kemptville Advance. The corporation is also pulling out of the flyer program which had been distributed through the Advance in this region. The closures across the group’s chain of newspapers will result in the loss of over 600 jobs, roughly two-thirds of Metroland’s workforce.
The digital versions of the newspapers will continue for now, but the print issue of the Advance will cease, bringing an end to more than 130 years of tradition. Although it had changed ownership and even political allegiance over those years, the Advance has been a constant in regional media. Begun in 1881 by S. E. Walt, it almost immediately stopped publication for almost ten years before Walt restarted the paper in 1891, having decided on a Liberal Party slant.
Bought out by a consortium headed by G. Howard Ferguson, it changed its political stripes, leaning to the Conservative side for many years. Over the decades, it changed hands a number times, remaining a true local newspaper, covering its home town of Kemptville, as well as the general area of Eastern Ontario.
When the Crawford family sold out to the Runge Publishing Company, it changed from being a local newspaper, and this process accelerated after Runge itself was acquired by Metroland. For a number of years now, the Advance has had no physical presence in North Grenville, operating out of offices outside the Municipality, and leaving only a single reporter to cover local events.
The switch to a completely digital presence, through its generic website, completes the transformation of the Advance from local community newspaper to corporate digital outreach. The loss of the flyer program will have a much greater impact on the community than the loss of the physical paper, as it was the flyers that provided the greater service in the recent past.
But the ending of the Advance means the end of another historic link to North Grenville’s past, and underlines the tenuous existence of community newspapers in a digital age. The competition posed by Google and Facebook, illustrated by those corporations’ recent forced closure of all media sites, including the Times’ Facebook page, shows how powerful on-line sources are, when even a major corporation like Metroland Media Group has to surrender to the commercial pressures. The media landscape is changing, and possibly not for the better.