Right in the centre - Here's the deal


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

The Neepawa Banner has been going since 1989, 30 years this week. The Neepawa Banner now includes the Neepawa Press, which has been going since 1896. The Rivers Banner has been going since 1993 and it includes the Rivers Gazette and the Rapid City Reporter, which date back to 1907.

To say newspapers have changed over the past 123 years would be stating the obvious. Technology has gone from cold and hot lead set type and sheet fed presses, through decades and decades of change, too many to list. The newspaper business was supposed to die when radios became common in the 1920s. They didn’t die. Newspapers were supposed to die when televisions came out in the 1950s. They didn’t die. Newspapers were supposed to die in the 1990-2000s, when the internet and then cell phones came along. They didn’t die.

None of those things killed off newspapers and the reason is simple. Newspapers are, or at least should be, very local. A newspaper is where you read about local news and ads, no matter whether local is a small town or a larger city. Local news and ads are the reason we have a local newspaper.

There are two very basic reasons local newspapers are still doing okay and one is as stated above. But there is greater second reason, one that few people think about. In order to have a newspaper, you have to have news and it has to be on paper. Why paper, you may ask? You have to have news, ads and opinion columns on paper because of reliability. Once it is in print, it is there for all to see, forever. News, ads and opinions can be revised and changed on the internet and somewhat on radio and TV, but once words are printed, there is no going back to change them. What editors wrote 100 years ago or yesterday are, and still will be, there for all to see, forever. No other media provides a permanent record like ink on paper.

That permanency builds in a reliability and accountability that is needed more and more today than ever before. Newspapers “can” print fake news, but they would be pretty stupid if they did, as there is no way of erasing it after the print is on the page. That reliability is a safeguard for truth, reliability and for democracy. As the publisher of the Rivers Banner, Micah Waddell says, “Media without accountability is media without credibility”.

No other media can provide local readers with that promise to the depth that a local newspaper can.

Local, usually family owned, papers provide the best newspaper products because corporate ownership seems to have a single motive and that is to cut costs until there is nothing left. There are two close-by examples. The former Westman Journal (originally the Wheat City Journal) was a local, family owned paper. Later, after several years of corporate ownership and many years of staff cuts, it withered away until there was two or three staff. Now it’s gone. The Portage Daily Graphic and the weekly Herald Leader Press was a family owned operation that grew out of the Portage papers acquiring the MacGregor Herald and the Gladstone Age-Press many years ago. It went into corporate ownership and recently closed the Portage building and now only has two locally based staff.

Those two nearby examples should give us all pause to think.

The obvious conclusion is to have a local, family owned paper that labours away, gathering as much local news as they can find. It’s also very much the responsibility of community members to let the paper know about news and events, as the local staff can’t be everywhere.

The papers also need ads and those ads are a really good deal. With an ad in the Neepawa Banner or the Rivers Banner, you can get your message into every household and business in the area.

A newspaper needs news, both what we uncover and what people bring us. It’s the same with ads, the newspaper needs ads to survive, both what we sell and what the readers bring us. It’s a time-proven formula that keeps reliable news, ads and opinions available to our communities.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer chair of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.