Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/9/2010 (3443 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
LANA Meier has newspaper ink in her blood.
As a young child growing up, she hung out at the Stonewall Argus offices after school with her father, who owned the paper.
For 25 years, the now 43-year-old mother of five worked in the newspaper business, becoming group publisher for Sun Media when that company bought the three family-owned papers — the Argus, the Selkirk Journal and the Interlake Spectator — in 1992.
She resigned her position with Sun Media early this year, but clearly her departure from the business was not in the stars.
Starting Aug. 19, she and her two partners and 15 employees launched three new free weeklies in three weeks — the Selkirk Record (18,000 print run), the Winkler/Morden Voice (15,000 print run), and the Stonewall/Teulon Tribune (7,800 print run). Although she had planned to spend more time with her family and work on another family enterprise, the newspaper business drew her back in.
"People started asking if I wanted to start a new paper. Then the owner of Interlake Graphics, the printing company my father and uncle once owned, called and asked if I wanted to buy it," she said.
In mid-June she bought the printing company and two months later the first of her new papers, the Selkirk Record, was born.
"I love the industry," she said. "We think there is definitely a place for the community newspaper."
When it comes to newspaper competition, Selkirk is starting to rival big cities. The Record is the town's third paper after the small Selkirk Enterprise started earlier this year.
Meier said she was not happy with her role as the bearer of bad news as the group publisher for Sun Media's stable of nine Manitoba weeklies during the general climate of cutbacks the newspaper industry has experienced over the last few years.
Neither did she agree with the almost industry-wide focus on online content.
"The fact is, many of our readers (in rural southern Manitoba) do not have high-speed Internet in their homes," she said.
Meier said the mission of the new papers is to provide grassroots reporting to connect people to the communities and make the communities stronger.
"Many have told us they would support us," she said, adding that local businesses have told them they appreciate the fact they are being run by longtime residents like herself and her partners, Rick Reimer and Brett Mitchell.
Duncan McMonagle, journalism instructor at Red River College, said, "It's always interesting when someone starts a new paper."
But he said small-town papers need to have an online presence, even if many readers don't have access to high-speed Internet, because it's such a powerful way to involve readers — especially young people from the community.
Among other things, Meier said they are working at getting on the radar screen of the provincial and federal governments to ensure that her papers are part of media buys for government ad campaigns.
Next is to establish a presence in the national commercial ad market and then they will also try to capture some of the regional flyer business.
Mike Johnson, president of the Manitoba Community Newspapers Association, said no one escaped the effects of the global recession, but Manitoba community newspapers certainly did not bear the brunt of it.
"This is a pretty stable industry," said Johnson, publisher/owner of the Baldur-Glenboro Gazette. "We're holding our own. Revenues in the industry have been fairly stable over the past number of years."
But that's not say there is plenty of growth, however.
There are close to 50 members of the Manitoba Community Newspapers Association with about half of them independently owned and the rest owned by Sun Media, Glacier Media Group and Canstar Community News Ltd. (a division of FP Newspapers, the company that owns the Free Press).
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.