The state of community media is the state of our community

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Quebec’s community newspaper world held its annual convention last week, and although the competitive newspaper awards are always the big interest, the business

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Quebec’s community newspaper world held its annual convention last week, and although the competitive newspaper awards are always the big interest, the business
section of the affair, plus the professional workshops, bring their own rewards and have their own interest-generating items. These matters often endure much longer than the more glamourous awards announced at Saturday evening’s gala.
As usual the Pontiac Journal did well, given our tight resources and our huge territory to cover, and, as usual, our sister newspapers, the Bulletin in Aylmer and the West Quebec Post, did very well also.
But it is the general state of community newspapers which “did best”. Especially in today’s era when, we are constant told, the print media is fading away.  No fades in evidence last weekend in Montreal!
It is safe to say, that for communities which have independent and local papers—not the look-alike publications of the few giant media corporations – newspapers seem to be doing fine.  Looking at the quality of the publications, at the professionalism of the entries, and the skill of the investigators, writers, editors and layout pros, as evident in the award-
category entries, there’s
little sign of any impending demise. 
“The corporates” announced, to give an example of the suaveness of their management and the keeness of their interest in the communities which they serve, virtually at the conclusion of the convention, the closure of one
125-year old community paper in southwest Quebec which is becoming, we understand, only an insert within a larger paper’s
distribution matrix.
First, from the evidence of the awards evening, the First Nations’  papers are doing exceptionally well.  A new paper in Kahnawake, just outside Montreal, took numerous awards — as did its established competitor in the same community. The Cree paper in northern Quebec, The Nation, and the Arctic’s Nunatsiaq News were both among the big winners. While the money part of the business remains difficult, it is the dedication and the work ethic here which is so remarkable – in this
blossoming industry.
The other area which did well, as a region, is our own. Not only the Journal but the four other significant papers in West Quebec received enough praise to underline why newspapers and the news are such driving forces across our region.  No doubt, as with the First Nations, our region has a strong sense of identify and a pride in ourselves and our local culture – which results in, and in part results from, good local media.
City papers have a tougher time, although the Suburban in Montreal – judged the best paper of the year – is riding high. Otherwise, community papers run up against
the big corporate free-
marketeers.
Competition is the name of the game in
newspapers, and competition often results in better reporting, more in-depth articles, and papers with less  fluff than we see and hear in even national media. 
The annual convention is our industry’s measure – but it is also your measure, dear readers, one of the indicators of each region’s strength and community cohesiveness. A region without media or with a lacklustre public communications network is a dying community. Pontiac and the Outaouais are not
fading!
In fact, the Journal du Pontiac’s struggles with the language police was the talk of the entire convention. No one left the
weekend  ignorant of the Journal, its professional and determined staff, and the powerful community which supports us.  Virtually every media
present offered its support to the Pontiac.  No more talk of being Quebec’s
forgotten corner, for us!