Right in the centre - In praise of local


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

Last year at this time I wrote about newspapers and press releases. Seeing as we have a new Manitoba government, maybe it’s time to re-visit that topic.

Here’s fair notice to the new government and their various agencies. Governments can’t survive without taxes and newspapers can’t survive without advertising. Stores can’t afford to give away their stuff and newspapers can’t either. Some governments and agencies seem to think that social media and press releases are the whole answer to their messaging needs. I have bad news for them, you need more than social media to get the word out and you need more than press releases. Here’s why! Social media only reaches some people but newspapers reach more. Press releases are easily ignored, we just don’t have enough room for all the dozens of press releases we get every month.

Here’s fair notice to the new government. Unless it is of very important local interest, a press release may not appear on these pages.

Three factors played a part in the fact that Manitoba has 22 fewer papers than we did five years ago. Those factors are (sometimes) a decline in the local business community and a mistaken belief that social media will cover all the messaging needs. The third factor is that governments have invested (dare I say wasted) our tax dollars normally used to advertise in out-of-Canada owned social media.

Local businesses and agencies are by and large good supporters of locally owned media. The paper you are reading is locally owned by the Waddell family. The Neepawa Banner & Press is owned by Ken and Christine Waddell of Neepawa, The Rivers Banner is owned by Micah Waddell of Rivers. (As a side note, Brandon’s News in a Minute is owned by Mike and Naomi Waddell.) The Waddell family has been involved with printing and media since 1966. That’s a long time and we are proud to say, we are still learning how to serve our communities better.

So, there is a fourth factor about newspapers and I have written about it before. Newspapers are best run by local people, local owners and local staff. There are 34 papers listed as members of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association (MCNA). Twenty-one are local, family owned papers. I personally think it’s too bad they all aren’t as my experience with corporate paper ownership has often not been good.

So getting back to governments. They all say they want to be transparent and open.

If that is the case, and we must hope that it is, then they need to belly up to the bar and buy ads in the local newspaper or radio or TV station. As I said above, unless it is really of value to local people, we don’t feel we should have to publish a press release. Everybody in the whole chain gets paid to do that press release except the newspaper or radio or TV station. The politicians get paid, the chiefs of staff, the assistants, the deputy ministers, the speech writers, the secretaries and accountants, all the civil servants, everybody up and down the policy chain and the “engagement specialists” get paid. The news outlets need to be paid too. News people have to feed their families, pay their rent, buy gas (ugh!) and heat their homes and businesses. 

If governments want to be truly transparent and open, they need to show it in real ways. Certainly social media has a place but social media isn’t always very reliable or even truthful to be blunt. Locally owned, accountable media is very important to convey messages that are important. Our communities and our democracy depend on it.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.