As 2023 draws to a close, readers may be interested in an update about the state of publishing small newspapers. The Pontiac Journal, like about 35 other small local newspapers across Quebec, is still printing. The fact that you, dear reader, are holding a print newspaper in your hands is something to celebrate!
Outaouais is a unique region in Quebec for newspapers. There are six minority-language newspapers here, more than anywhere else across Canada — and this, in such a sparsely populated region. This is a testament to involved readers, advertisers and dedicated staff.
Key to the paper’s success are the people who make it happen. Readers will notice that Peter Smith, Dana Bertrand and Bonnie Zimmerling are holding the fort strong with Lynne Lavery at the helm, following some recent changes in others with key responsibilities. Jess Cloutier, the Production Manager and Graphic Designer, moved on after 13 years with the Journal team, and Lisa Neuman, with 19 years of newspaper experience, took over the job in June this year. Bonnie James has been filling the Editor’s chair since October. The newsroom, to cover the grand expanse that is Pontiac, includes many community journalists, proof-readers, translators and trusted advisors, including Lionel Tessier and François Carrier.
Federal and provincial aid for minority-language newspapers
Newspapers are at the heart of minority-language communities, and Pontiac has benefited from the Federal governments’s Action Plan, recently updated. This helps cover some of the costs of delivering and printing newspapers (“Aid to Publishers”), as well as paying some reporters (the “Local Journalism Initiative” and the “Journalism Internship Program”). There are also refundable tax credits at both levels of government and Quebec has recently opened up programs for more than just online publishing as they realize the population isn’t rushing towards digital living only.
This financial help from governments is important to mention for a number of reasons. First, it helps explain to readers how this newspaper is even possible. Yes, it is my fundamental belief that every household should have access to credible information, free if possible, to reduce inequity between “have” and “have-not” families. But seeing the long list of people who work to produce the newspaper and knowing the high cost of printing and delivery, it isn’t hard to understand that a handful of ads can’t cover all the costs.
Clearly, this newspaper is a critical part of marketing for local businesses. And government funders understand that in helping newspapers, they also help local economies and isolated communities by keeping advertising costs affordable.
Meta (Facebook and Instagram’s parent company) has blocked genuine news on their platforms, but the Federal government has recently reached a deal with Google, so Canadian news will still be found in Google searches. The Journal, with its total and free distribution, brings the news that’s important for citizens to know about on a local and regional level—right into your mailbox!
Why go over these details at the end of 2023?
Readers should know that the managers and staff of the Pontiac Journal are working hard to keep this newspaper healthy and rolling, assisted by our MP, MNA, and municipal representatives.
With bad news everywhere concerning the future of democracy, journalism is itself threatened. But in the Pontiac, we are holding steady. And, all of us are part of this process. So, please shop with our advertisers, write letters to the editor, continue sending in news tips, and, especially, talk about what you read at every level of government – this is the role our readers play in this big puzzle that is local newspaper publishing.
NOTE: Ms Ryan was born in Pembroke, schooled in the Pontiac, earning a BA from McGill University, plus additional instruction while travelling abroad (France, Mexico, China). She has been involved with The Journal since its inception in 1987 and was editor from 2002 to 2005. She took over ownership of the paper in 2014. She is multilingual (4 languages) and is the former president of the Quebec Community Newspaper Association.