Filling the Void

Introducing the Stratford Times

  • Stratford   Wednesday, August 11, 2021   Stewart Grant

Earlier in 2021, the Competition Bureau finally closed their investigation into the November 2017 transaction between Postmedia and Metroland Media Group (Torstar) which had resulted in the sudden closure of 36 community newspapers, including the St. Marys Journal-Argus and Stratford Gazette.
The exhaustive probe by the Competition Bureau concluded that “no further action” was warranted regarding the concern that Postmedia and Torstar had possibly agreed not to compete against each other in several markets.
As many of you know, in St. Marys we reacted quickly to the closure of the Journal-Argus. We basically tried to take the best elements of both the Journal-Argus and Independent and combined them into a new-and-improved St. Marys Independent. Pat Payton’s award-winning sports reporting continued over at the Independent, as did Mary Smith’s beloved “Historic St. Marys” column and Marvin Arthur’s enjoyable “Looking Back” series.
On the other hand, no such action has taken place in the City of Stratford in the nearly four years since the sudden closure of the Stratford Gazette. The void has not been filled.
This week we are taking an initial step to remedy this situation by launching our first issue of “The Stratford Times”.
This new publication is inspired by the St. Marys Independent. It will be a free newspaper available and accessible to everyone. Its primary focus will be local news, as opposed to a blend of local, national and international. Like the St. Marys Independent, the Stratford Times will be “for all the people”, including kids’ sports and feel-good community stories that might not usually make it into the corporate-owned papers.
Not only is this development good for Stratford, but I also look at this as a chance to further improve the St. Marys Independent. We are beginning slowly with the Times, publishing only monthly in order to keep costs down in the start-up phase, but as we ramp up, we will be able to add another full-time journalist to split their time between Stratford and St. Marys so that we can cover even more local stories.
Designing this new publication has also made me appreciate how much that Frank Doyle “had it right” from the beginning when he launched the Independent as a “free” paper in 2000. This structure truly makes the Independent accessible for everyone to enjoy. Each week, there are great articles and features in our sister papers, the Wilmot Post and Tavistock Gazette, that I’ve really enjoyed reading although I’m not “from” those places. If we convert the Post and Gazette to being “free” papers as well in the future, then we can share these extra stories on our website for those who are interested. Through these other newspapers, I’ve quickly come to realize that there are so many connections between St. Marys and these neighbouring communities.
The first-issue of the Stratford Times will be released online this Friday at along with a limited number of copies being offered in print format.