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When a community’s biggest source of news disappears: Policy Options and J-Source look at examples in Kawartha Lakes and Guelph

The Guelph Mercury, around since Confederation, ceased publication in 2016.

When the Lindsay Post closed its doors for good after 152 years, it left a vacuum in the community that remaining media haven’t been able to fill.

A feature article published in January in the digital magazine Policy Options, and reposted by J-Source in late February, explores what happens when a community’s biggest paper closes shop.

The Post had a Monday to Friday run until 2007, and then moved to a twice a week publishing schedule until it ceased operations in June 2013.

The Kawartha Lakes community of 73,000 people now relies on the weekly Kawartha Lakes This Week and the bi-monthly news magazine Kawartha Promoter, the only print publications left in town.

On the broadcast side, the Peterborough-based CHEX-TV cut its Kawartha Lakes reporter years ago and Lindsay’s BOB-FM operates with only one full-time and one part-time news staffer.

The community has seen elections at all three levels of government since the Post closed. According to local MP Jamie Schmale, less media in the area means that “they couldn’t cover as much of what we were doing.”

The Ryerson University School of Journalism’s Local News Project found that during the 2015 election, the area only had 4.7 election-related stories per 10,000 people, compared with Peterborough, which got 20.18.

J-Source also published a Q&A Feb. 23 with Phil Andrews, managing editor of the Guelph Mercury for the last decade of its existence.

Andrews outlines what it was like in the paper’s last days and recounts some of the strong journalism the paper produced, from winning a National Newspaper Award for its reporting on the gravel industry, to a Guelph-backed effort that raised more than $1 million to fight HIV/AIDS in Lesotho.

You can read that story here.