Moose Jaw Times-Herald irreplaceable, former MJTH staff say

A man watches as flames engulf his business in a fire on the zero block of Moose Jaw's High Street West in a file photo taken by journalist Justin Crann. He and other ex-Moose Jaw Times-Herald staff say the community turned to the MJTH for important news like the 2014 fire, and it is unlikely that other outlets will be able to fill the hole it will leave behind. 
Courtesy Justin Crann/Moose Jaw Times Herald

By Emina Gamulin 

The Moose Jaw Times-Herald, the only daily paper serving its namesake Saskatchewan community, has announced it’s shuttering its doors, leaving many to wonder what, if anything, will fill this pending news vacuum.

The paper, which has published since 1889, announced in early November that it will release its last issue on December 7, 2017.

Unifor Local 87-M member Samantha Emann cut her journalism teeth at the Times Herald in 2012 as a page editor and recalls its importance to the community.

“I can remember when an entire section of a block of Moose Jaw burned down not too far from our building and the reporters were out until 3 a.m. reporting on it.  The impact on the community was just huge,” said Emann over the phone in Toronto, where she currently works as an editor with Metro News. “Everybody wanted to know ‘How did this happen?’ And a lot of people looked to the paper for those answers.”

Emann’s partner Justin Crann, frustrated with unpaid internships and precarious work situations where the pay was unreliable, followed her out to Moose Jaw and also secured employment at the MJTH as a reporter. He’s most proud of the work he did on a contract disagreement between the city and the local Humane Society.

“It turned out that the city had let ride a plum deal for the services for years beyond when the contract expired, and because the MJHS didn't want to see animals suffer, it kept doing the work at its own detriment (and to its own expense),” explained Crann, a former 87-M member who now works at Pagemasters.

“The Humane Society was about as beloved an institution as anything in Moose Jaw; it had a huge base of support in the city, so when it took the dispute public, there were actual protests at city hall and a lot of inflammatory rhetoric on both sides …  [the story]  involved some investigative elements, including getting my hands on copies of contracts and other documents I wasn't supposed to have, and there was a huge payoff at the end (both sides, when all was said and done, thanked me for my reporting and said it helped clear a lot of the air and get them back at the table to negotiate a fair deal).”

It’s stories like these that likely won’t get the same level of coverage or professional treatment when the MJTH shutters its doors, according to both Emann And Crann.

Emann describes the demographic in Moose Jaw as an older one that relies on the physical paper to deliver the news.

“It’s a smaller community. They embrace the paper, they use it for a lot of things. Without a daily paper there they are really going to feel the impact,” she said.

In terms of newspapers, Moose Jaw also has the Moose Jaw Express, a weekly, but according to Emann the reporting is nowhere near the standard that was established at MJTH.

Crann said people can check out Discover Moose Jaw online but, similar to the Express, it doesn’t fill the hole that TH will leave behind.

“It traditionally hired high school kids and their lack of training and professionalism was evident,” said Crann, who added that the online outlet was often just copying stories from the Times-Herald.

“With the death of the TH, Moose Jaw loses its most reputable and venerable source for local news, and I think it's fair to say that the Times-Herald is irreplaceable. It didn't always hit home runs and there was more coverage of local pancake breakfasts than a respectable journalist might like to admit, but when it produced quality journalism, it produced news that mattered — and it did that on a scale no independent journalist or outlet will be able to replicate.”