i can’t believe what it’s come to

by underswansea

photo 1-4

Our local newspaper hit a new low this week. The front and second page of The Columbia Valley Pioneer, usually reserved for local photos and news, was sold as full-page advertisements, making the newspaper look like any other piece of drab, cheap throwaway admail.

Or should I say the newspaper chain(s) that own and operate the local newspaper hit a new low.

It is bad enough the Valley’s two weeklies are operated under the same roof with the same staff and management. The newspapers state separate ownership, but you would never know it. Competition that guarantees a quality product is dead and gone between The Valley Echo and The Columbia Valley Pioneer. It is a shame what the newspaper chains have done to them.

The Valley Echo the once dominant newspaper, has gone through makeovers and a steady stream of interim editors and publishers. The building serving as their headquarters for over 40 years was sold off by the parent company, Black Press Community News Media. An incredible shortsighted move, considering property values at the time, unless they were dismantling the paper. Which, is essentially what was done. The Echo now exists, with diminished readership and advertising revenue, in rented quarters shared by The Columbia Valley Pioneer.

The Valley Echo with it’s storied and proud historical character, now functions as an afterthought. It’s purpose unknown. Possibly it acts as insurance warding off stronger competition. The logic being: the area has two weeklies; there can’t be room for three? However, with management like this even that’s up for debate.

And that is what it comes down to: management. The Valley Echo is owned by Black Press Community News Media. The newspaper chain Misko Publishing owns The Columbia Valley Pioneer. It has been said the partnership is to ensure the prosperity of both newspapers, which kind of sounds like bullshit to me. Regardless, both newspapers are managed under the same roof. I could never tell the difference between Misko and Black Press. They always seemed like they were joined at the hip.

Black Press is notorious for poor management but deep pockets. They are known for buying up the competition, shutting them down and replacing them with substandard products, as they did in Nelson, BC when they purchased and closed the 109-year-old Nelson Daily News.

Misko bought The Pioneer from an independent publisher and instantly implemented chain like policies, hiring a publisher without newspaper experience while cutting content and experienced staff.

It is often argued newspapers have run their course; the Internet has killed them, that they are no longer a valid form of media. I don’t believe it. The small weekly newspaper still has a place in the communities they serve. The information found in a good weekly newspaper can’t be found anywhere else.

The Pioneer has been a good example of this. The Valley Echo up until it’s mismanagement by Black, has been a great example of this.

So why choose to put a full-page advertisement on the front page for the first time in the history of either newspaper? Could it be: inexperience – maybe; greed – possibly; foolishness – absolutely, mismanagement – no doubt. The only two pages that can never be compromised in any respected newspaper are the editorial and front pages.

The bottom line: if you make your product look like shit then it will be perceived as shit no matter how sweet the nougat center. To see The Pioneer turned into no more than cheap flyer is disheartening. Their employees deserve better, their readership deserve better and their advertisers deserve better.