(June 15 - Looks better already, not much Sarnia news all week, 16 pages minimum. We know they read this site. Now bring back local news on the website and replace those dumb new comics with Dagwood and some other funny strips. We all need a laugh right about now.)
First, the familiar comic strips such as Dagwood were replaced with boring unamusing strips that have yet to demonstrate any comedic value. The crossword was removed, then returned after an outcry from the public with a version so large that the blind could read it. A new layout bears little resemblance to the format of the past which earned the News several accolades.
Local news is taking a backseat to articles from Sarnia and Osprey Network, leaving just three dinky briefs across the top of page 3 for all of Chatham-Kent, often including something from Sarnia as well. Award-winning editors have been forced to chose between retirement, relocation to Sarnia, or demotion in Chatham. National and international news now seems relegated to appear as filler in the classified section.
Stale news recently remained on the online version for a month, and now the Chatham-Kent section is void of anything other than banner ads, with none of the content visitors have become accustomed to. Some local news appears in the Regional section, often padded with Sarnia items.
The Chatham Daily News recently conducted a survery of readers seeking ways to improve the publication. It's hard to believe that subscribers came up with ideas to see less local news, more Sarnia news, the replacement of local editors with regional desks based in Sarnia, unpleasing page layouts, and an editorial policy that favours certain individuals over balanced reporting. With Monday's edition ringing in at just 12 pages after a busy weekend, it becomes clear local news is secondary to the amount of advertising sold. One is left to ponder how dedicated the Chatham Daily News remains to journalism in Chatham-Kent.
It is clear that Osprey Media is downsizing the Chatham operation and regionalizing editorial and publishing tasks in the Sarnia bureau. Following Osprey's purchase of the local daily from Lord Black of Crossharbour in 2001, the printing press was removed from Chatham and publication began using facilities in Sarnia. This moved the deadline to the previous evening, resulting in a morning paper that arrives too late for breakfast perusal, often not being delivered until after school in late afternoon, fully 24 hours after breaking news occured. The operation has continued to be gutted ever since, leading to speculation that Osprey intends to leave little more than a Chatham Bureau intact, replete with a couple of advertising representatives and reporters. Ospery Media is currently being considered for purchase by Quebecor, a company noted for regionalization of existing publications, offering little hope of a reprise if the deal closes.
Some days, the thickness of the delivered package is indeed impressive. However, once the advertising flyers are deposited in the recycling bin, not much remains. News articles are often two days old, leading to the conclusion that one could just save the hassle and read the same dated material in Chatham This Week during a single weekly sitting, minus the special slant. The remaining editors (except for Bruce), reporters and photographers continue to do an excellent job under difficult circumstances. Statistics Canada indicates that only about 100 daily papers still exist in Canada, a 15% drop from 25 years ago.
It remains to be seen how long the local publisher and managers will hold their positions. As the driving force behind editorial and advertising policies that have exposed Ospery Media to liability for lawsuits and Press Council complaints, local management tasks could possibly be regionalized next. As a result, there might be even less local control over content than the current journalistic style which has been criticized as unbalanced.
This website, a non-profit community service, does not pretend to have the capability to fill the void. It will continue striving to provide an alternative and hopefully entertaining viewpoint of local politics and events, including a look at the neglected aspects of municipal government. While some people seem to be going to great lengths to ensure certain details are never reported, we remain dedicated to maintaining a small corner of reliable and interesting information to help keep people informed.