Friday, September 25, 2009

Mass Publishing VS Local Family Publishing

When I first moved to Barrhaven, three community papers were delivered to me at the end of each week. They weren't subscriptions, just community papers. One was called Nepean This Week, another was The Barrhaven Independent, and a third was called The Barrhaven Weekender.

They were good papers - but they were also all better than each other. One was a local paper that was family-owned, solely published under that small family-owned business. Another was published by a medium-sized newspaper printing group. And the third was published by a very large printing corporation that published a wide-range of newspapers across southeastern Ontario.

The thing is, it's substance. I got the most news and interest out of The Barrhaven Independent because it was a very local paper and it published good material. It was mostly the same with the Nepean This Week, though a little broader and just a little bit less interesting, not exactly as much substance. Then there was the Weekender, of which I virtually got nothing out of.

The difference here is the paper that is mass-published from a chain of similar papers from a large newspaper printing corporation, and the newspaper owned by a small business in Manotick.

When you have a large chain of newspapers, the look is all the same. The news tends to sound similar between every different paper. We had the Barrhaven Weekender. Five kilometres away, I'll bet a different community had a similar paper, something like the Nepean Weekender, distributed. The news and look between the two papers would be completely similar.
The news itself wasn't very interesting. Like I said, it had very little substance because the news was about something very mundane, like a local neighborhood daycare running and doing well. Plus, with the bland, monotonous news style that ranged throughout each paper, you got barely any difference between them. Sometimes I read about something that happened elsewhere and had little to do with Barrhaven.

That's the problem with big newspaper corporations, because they market their newspapers all in the same style. It's branded. Each community paper has the same look and style, the same design and banner, the same font and headline style. And the same news sources. So the result is a continuous, uniform style that's not interesting or unique. No substance.

I enjoyed the Nepean This Week, but in 2006 it was bought up by Runge Newspaper Group - the huge corporation that distributed the Barrhaven Weekender and countless other community 'weekenders.' From then on the paper became boring, mundane, and lost its substance because it now deflected to the uniform style of all the other branded papers alongside it. The banner was replaced and rewritten as Nepean This Week Weekender. It looked like it was full of interesting news and stuff, but it really wasn't and the style wasn't appealing. There were some sections in there that I thought had no use for the paper at all and just took up pages because they had nothing to say.
There was even a page that featured four or five local people with their comments - a reporter would ask them a question at a location somewhere prominent (or not prominent), record their opinion, take their headshot, and impliment it into the page. I don't think it had too much merit other than exciting those people for getting their faces in newsprint.
We stopped getting the Nepean This Week Weekender soon after it changed ownership between companies.

In contrast, The Barrhaven Independent is a small, family-owned publication that has a head office in Manotick. The family who owns it, The Morris Newspaper Group, produces this as well as The Manotick Messenger and the Prescott Journal, I believe. Just three papers. Not fifty-three.

Each paper is branded in someway, but each paper is also quite unique. I haven't actually read the other papers but the news is very substantial in the one I get. It looks appealing and the writing is pretty good. The journalism works. And I like the publisher, who's columns are sometimes quite funny.

I was very priviledged to actually work for that newspaper for a co-op placement in my second semester of grade 12. I got to meet the guy behind the funny columns and the journalism. You know he wrote several articles at once for that paper most of the time? I don't want to brag about the publisher of the paper but it was pretty cool for me. I contributed to the paper I'd read since I was fourteen and had gotten the most out of. When I wrote earlier that I'd read the editor from the Nepean This Week had quit from the paper at the end of 2005, he'd actually gone from that paper to the Independent, which made it five times better because I now read two people that I liked working for a paper I liked the most out of the others.

I think I also contributed to the paper's uniqueness by always being credited with "Justin S. Campbell," not just "Justin Campbell." No other reporter, writer or editor inserted their second initial in their name. I was surprised they'd publish it as that.

All in all, I think community newspapers that are owned by a smaller business, that are more concentrated on the community, are the better papers because it's unique and full of substance and material oriented for the place it's distributed in.  I don't want to unintentionally be biased because I like the paper myself, worked for it and like the personnel - it's just my opinion and argument that these kinds of papers are better for their uniqueness, their community concentration, and their reliance on only one news source that's entirely their own.

These days, we just get The Barrhaven Independent, The Barrhaven This Week Weekender, and The News EMC Barrhaven/Nepean Edition, which is basically another form of mass paper published like the Weekender (hence the "community edition" at the end). I only read the Independent. For obvious reasons.

-Justin C.

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