After 80 years of publication, the Kamloops Daily News will be no more.
On Monday, Daily News owners Glacier Media announced the paper will close within 60 days, leaving the city without a daily publication and the community without a daily reminder of who lives here and what’s happening here.
The shutdown was a business decision that came from financial losses blamed on a struggling economy, a broadening of advertising options and a change in modes of reaching readers.
Publisher Tim Shoults said the realities of the newspaper industry took their toll.
“We have struggled for the last several years, worked tirelessly and taken many difficult steps along the way which were designed to ensure our future,” he said.
“We recognize that this decision severely affects our staff and their families and our hearts go out to them as they deal with the shock and loss this decision creates.”
The 60 days notice was given to the union according to the labour code.
The 80-year-old newspaper wasn’t just a presence in the community, it was a part of the community, spearheading fundraising efforts through Raise-A-Reader and Christmas Cheer campaigns as well as giving hundreds of groups free advertising.
Housed in the former Hudson Bay store building at Fourth and Seymour, the Daily News employed 55 staff — 43 full-time and 12 part-time, as well as more than 100 drivers and carriers, said Shoults.
Retired editor Mel Rothenburger was at The Daily News for more than 40 years. Monday’s announcement stunned him.
“I was sitting at my desk in my home office, getting some work done. Then the media calls started coming in. Then I commenced to feeling quite sick,” he said.
He sees a loss of jobs for his colleagues, but also a gaping hole in the community.
“I don’t know that it can be filled, but of course, things will have to be dealt with as best they can in the way that people receive their news. Just as important as getting a newspaper on newsprint is the quality of journalism that goes into it.”
The newspaper’s shutdown affects the community’s political life, volunteerism, and even its general sense of where it’s headed, he said.
“In a way, a daily newspaper really reflects what a community is and what a community wants to be. And it provides a breadth and depth of coverage, news events and issues that can’t be found anywhere else,” said Rothenburger, who took his staff on to win a long list of newspaper awards.
“These are challenging times for all media because of changes to technology, in particular. But I had fully expected and certainly hoped that the Daily News would endure and be around forever.”
Kamloops Chamber of Commerce president Bob Dieno understood economics were behind the closure decision.
“It’s just shocking. How could a paper just pack up and leave a city? But business is business,” he said.
But it’s part of his morning ritual and it’s a community asset that’s disappearing, too.
“I think the community will definitely lose a little bit of touch with itself. And maybe it’s what they didn’t notice before, all the things The Daily News does. Boogie the Bridge, Christmas Cheer Fund, things people have taken for granted for so many years now because it’s just there,” said Dieno.
“I think that reality will settle in fairly quickly. The other thing that will sink in hard is the first day or the first week they don’t have a newspaper.”
Mayor Peter Milobar agreed some people won’t realize what the newspaper provides until it’s gone.
“I don’t think people realize. And they won’t until it’s no longer printing, what it actually meant to the community as a whole. Not just from the local political coverage and school district and things like that, but even the local sports page to see what their friends and neighbours are up to.”
When he was a kid, involved in sports, his mom clipped out articles in which he was mentioned. Sports are a huge part of the community and now some of those stories about young Kamloops athletes as they progress will get lost, he said.
“It’s one less avenue for the public to be informed and one less perspective,” he said.
“I think the downside is there’s a certain ethic and standard that’s adhered to and you don’t always get that in social media type news. You get opinions and assumptions without fact checking . . . . That’s a worry that we don’t see further erosion of mainstream media.”
TRU journalism assistant professor, Alan Bass said newspaper closures are too common and not a big surprise.
“Obviously, the economics for newspapers are not very good right now. The problem, essentially, is that there are so many other options for advertisers,” he said.
“This town is too small, in this market, under these circumstances, with the internet, to sustain two newspapers. One of them was going to have to go.”
Advertisers have a huge range of options for reaching their target markets, and newspaper readers are dwindling. Even online, newspapers haven’t made up lost ad revenue, he said.
“At this point in time, it’s difficult to know who’s going to survive,” Bass said. “I think it’s a real problem to have a city this size without a daily.”
A few hours after he spoke, Kamloops This Week announced it was returning to three-times-a-week publication.