I'm Ken Waddell from Neepawa, Manitoba. It's a town of about 4,500 people, serving an area of about 10,000 people.
I've been involved in the newspaper business and publishing for nearly 50 years, but full time since 1989, when we started the Neepawa Banner from scratch, in competition with the Neepawa Press, which had been in business since 1896. In 2010, that newspaper sold out to a major corporation that also wanted to buy our paper, but I refused to sell, and five years ago, they sold their paper to me and my family.
Information for local communities has to be accurate and presented in a verifiable, accountable fashion. That is why local media is so very important. Information has to be trustworthy, and the only way to ensure that happens is with local accountability. Is the information reliable? Is it verifiable? If information is not reliable and verifiable, it is at best useless and at worst dangerous. In the newspaper business that means that ownership, or at least the role of publisher, has to be locally based. Regardless of the size of the community, the publisher has to be local.
Concentration in the media has been very bad for local communities, both large and small. The corporate shareholder agenda is too easily subverted into chasing maximum quick cash and away from providing news and information. The publisher has to be prepared to risk and to invest in staff, facilities, and equipment, and keep boots on the ground to make sure that the information is gathered locally. If a paper isn't growing, it is dying.
Digital media are a set of tools that help us in the newspaper business. Certainly, we use websites, Facebook, and Twitter, and we often release our stories onto our website and Facebook even before the print edition hits the streets. Despite this, print remains the foundation of our business model. We have three papers. We are the largest, the second largest, and the sixth largest papers in southwestern Manitoba.
Local newspapers are alive and well if they stick to their name: “local” and “news”. I might also say “paper”; that's the only way of verifying the news and keeping it verified, because you can change anything you want on the website.
As noted, news has to be accountable and verifiable. Newspapers are like a three-legged stool. Those three legs are: reliable, verifiable news; a strong editorial opinion section; and advertising. We can gather the news. We can put in the editorials, but we can't do the advertising.
Advertisers have to realize the consequences of where they place their ads. It doesn't matter whether it's businesses or whether it's government. If you're going to place your ads on the website, remember that the website producers and Facebook and YouTube and all these things, are not going to be supporting your local hockey club or donating to the local hospital. It ain't going to happen. It's especially important to realize that.
Facebook doesn't usually hire local people or spend at local businesses or support local sports and community organizations. If business and governments cut off the advertising leg, the stool will fall over and Canada's communities will fall over with it.