Editorial: A death in the family

Trent Ernst, Editor


While we were away in the Dominican Republic over Christmas, Frodo, our 13-year-old Shih Tzu/Chin cross passed away.

Frodo was born with a hole in his heart, which ultimately lead to his passing. He hadn’t been expected to survive more than a year, so the time we got to spend with him was all gravy.

Fortunately, he was staying with friends when he passed, and not at some dog boarding house. Indeed, when he was younger and capable of running away, we would frequently get calls from the Coopers. “Your dog is here again.” Knowing that he was with someone that cared for him makes his passing while we were away a little easier to handle.

Recently, I found out that there was another local passing: The longstanding Chetwynd Echo published its last issue on January 6.

The Echo had been having troubles finding someone to fill the job of reporter after Mike Carter left to go to the Alaska Highway News.

But more than that, it had been struggling with circulation and declining ad revenues.

The paper has been publishing for more than a half century. That’s longer than there’s been a Tumbler Ridge, let alone a Tumbler Ridge News. That in itself gave it a sense of gravitas.

I call the Chetwynd Echo a “sister- in-spirit” paper. While it is ultimately owned by media mogul Conrad Black’s family, it was not part of Black’s empire and operated like an independent, which the Tumbler Ridge News is.

We would often share stories between the papers: I’d send publisher and editor Naomi Larson information on Grizfest and she’d send me photos from the Chainsaw Carving Competition. Alas, that is now at an end.

Unfortunately, this is a far too common occurrence.

A few years back, the dailies suffered a purge as people decided why buy news in a paper when I can get the news for free online?

Community Newspapers seemed to be immune to that, though. They were offering hyper-local coverage before the term even existed. You could find stories about Provincial and National events all over the place, but who other than the local paper would care about the Lion’s duck race, for instance?

However, more and more, smaller papers like the Echo are starting to feel the squeeze.

In some communities, the big chains that run multiple papers have sat down to divvy up what remains of the spoils, as the communities they serve can no longer support multiple papers.

Black Press and Glacier Media have been carving up the landscape for local papers so they don’t compete head to head. We’ll give you Surrey, but we keep Delta.

In Prince George, the Aberdeen owned Free Press closed down, leaving more space in the room for Glacier Media’s Citizen, while in Kamloops, the Aberdeen owned Kamloops this Week pushed the Glacier-owned Kamloops Daily News out of the market. Coincidence or just a war of attrition being fought and lost by both sides?

Here in the north, Glacier bought both the Alaska Highway News and the Dawson Creek Daily News, then merged the two.

While the two individually served their community, the bigger, better, stronger AHN has turned its sights on the larger region, distributing free to communities like Chetwynd and Tumbler Ridge while charging for the paper in the communities it ostensibly serves.

One can’t help but think the death of the Echo this is part of a larger strategy.

How will this affect the media landscape of the Peace?

When the Free Press closed, founder Bill Phillips wrote “Two newspapers is good for a community. Having two newspapers provides readers with different perspectives on the same issues, different looks, different voices.”

One of those voices has now been stilled. I, for one, will mourn the silence.