By Stewart Grant
In the year 2000, former town councilor Frank Doyle started the St. Marys Independent Newspaper. With the St. Marys Journal-Argus being sold to Torstar Corporation the year before, Doyle felt that it was important for our town to have a locally-owned paper. For the last seventeen years, the Independent and Journal-Argus together served St. Marys, with the contrast of journalistic styles and editorial content providing excellent overall coverage to the community.
When bigwigs in Toronto made the decision to abruptly close the Journal-Argus this week, our St. Marys Independent suddenly became the sole newspaper in town. To say that the last few days have been hectic would be a gross understatement.
Here’s what I can tell you so far about the “new” St. Marys Independent…
#1 – Yes, it’s still free
This is the business model that works in 2017 and beyond. The majority of people don’t pay for news anymore, but they still love to read the news. Delivering an interesting newspaper completely free to readers provides excellent coverage to all of our advertisers whose support make our newspaper possible.
#2 – No, we aren’t jacking up advertising rates
We have a huge network of advertisers because our prices make sense, whether their business is big or small. While prices may increase slightly in 2018 due to the increased cost of newsprint, we are not “jacking up rates” whatsoever.
#3 – Independent + Journal-Argus = new Independent
Both the Independent and the Journal-Argus did things well. To ensure that the community is properly looked after, we are going to incorporate some of the best features from the Journal-Argus into the new-look St. Marys Independent. We are going to make the St. Marys Independent better than ever. Already this week, we have great articles from Andrea Macko and Jennifer Thorpe (who was to be taking over Andrea’s “Dishing It Out” column this week in the Journal-Argus), and photos taken by Nancy Bickell. Next week, Marv Arthur is onboard to write his “Looking Back” column while we hope soon to have Mary Smith return with her popular “Historic St. Marys” feature.
#4 – We are looking to hire
We’ve spoken with many of our friends from the Journal-Argus and the Gazette who recently lost their jobs. At the same time, we have had others reach out to us about different opportunities. We are definitely interested in growing both our editorial and sales staff, and hope to be able to announce something specific in the near future.
#5 – At the same time, we must remain profitable
The St. Marys Independent is profitable, but not overly so. We need to carefully make decisions and we need to be smart. We can’t just go on a massive hiring spree until we have a clear idea about what our new incremental revenues will be.
#6 – It’s important to get St. Marys flyers in our St. Marys paper
In analyzing the Postmedia-Torstar transaction, it appears as though Postmedia will want to take the large amount of flyers that were previously distributed in the Weekender and eventually add them to the large amount of flyers that are currently in the Stratford Marketplace. We need our St. Marys businesses to reject that idea and insist that their flyers go in the locally-owned St. Marys Independent. This will give us the revenue that we need to properly invest in our business, expand our staff, and continue to improve our service to the community.
#7 – We will increase our distribution network
We are going to print more copies of the Independent and we are going to find new places to drop off the paper. We’ve had a number of great suggestions on Facebook already.
#8 – We love getting your feedback, suggestions, and input
Our Facebook post this week has reached thousands of people already, and we’ve received tons of great suggestions and comments regarding the newspaper. This really helps us as we evolve the newspaper to meet your demands. We also hope to get photos and stories submitted to us that in the past may have gone to the Journal-Argus.
#9 – Yes, we will do more Sports!
St. Marys is a great sports town and we hear that loud and clear. We have intentionally had a very small sports section in the Independent and that was due to the respect that we have for the phenomenal job that Pat Payton was doing at the Journal-Argus. No one is better at local sports than Pat, so we just stayed away from that area in the past. It’s still too early to know exactly how we will cover local sports but it will certainly be covered more than we’ve done so previously.
#10 – Some changes will take longer than others
You’ll notice some changes to the Independent this week but there is so much more on the way. Everything takes time, and this week’s news caught us by surprise just like it did everyone else. We’re taking the bull by the horns and we’re working on a bunch of new things right now to make the paper better than ever. But just don’t expect it all to happen at once.