Kingston wants its above-Standard newspaper back

The Whig-Standard's homepage, in need of focus. Screenshot from May 23, 2011.

After years of newsroom cuts that they say have tarnished the image of their once-great local paper, Kingston residents and area journalists have had enough. Together with Communications Workers of America — Canada, they are launching a campaign to put pressure on the Kingston Whig-Standard‘s owner, Quebecor, to restore the paper to its former glory. In plain words: the paper needs more money.

The Make It Great campaign has several elements: advertising, on billboards, and in transit ads, radio spots, and flyers;, designed by a Kingston-area firm, which has video testimonials about the importance of the Whig-Standard from professors, business people, politicians, and former Whig staff; and a Facebook fan page.

A key message of the campaign is the importance of maintaining local jobs. Martin O’Hanlon, deputy director of CWA Canada and executive of the Kingston Typographical Union, which represents Whig employees, initiated the campaign last fall. “We want to convince Quebecor that investing properly in its newspapers and keeping jobs in the community is good for readers, employees, democracy — and profits,” he said.

The campaign also laments the change in editorial direction of the Whig-Standard. From the a post on CWA Canada’s site about the campaign: “Quebecor’s Sun Media has spread its right-wing tentacles into its newspapers and broadcast outlets to espouse its agenda and silence voices of opposition. The chain’s newspapers are filled with articles that spread the gospel and barely reflect the communities they purport to cover.” This, together with Quebecor’s decision to centralize subscription services and advertising, have shifted the focus of the paper away from local issues, decreasing its importance as resource for Kingston residents.

The comments already posted on the campaign’s Facebook page reflect this sentiment amongst current (and former) Whig readers:

“Rarely purchase The Whig. Mostly because it does not give me anything different than other newspapers. We live in a great community and its a shame The Whig does not reflect this.”
“One thing that I miss from the old Whig is concert reviews. Once in while they now publish concert promos — if the act is considered to be high-profile enough — but I think a more committed approach to covering the arts in the community would be great.”
“…Most of the problems surround the editorial slant towards the right and the significant lack of local based content. Understandably because of the recent economic times the numbers for subscriptions and sales have gone down significantly, however it won’t increase the presence when you don’t speak to the community in a thoughtful way.”

It’s hard not to see this campaign as an example of a much broader shift in print media. Struggling to stay profitable, newspaper chains cut back on local reporting and use syndicated content (editorial and ads) to fill out the pages. Meanwhile, online-only news sites are filling in the localized reporting gap., for example, has been covering Kingston news for the past three years, likely picking up some of the local stories that the Whig-Standard no longer has the resources to cover.

Besides publicity, the campaign will also try to get the attention of Quebecor chief Pierre Karl Péladeau with emails and a petition asking Quebecor to “devote the appropriate resources to the Whig-Standard so that Kingston can once again have a newspaper worthy of our great city.” No official response yet from Quebecor, but check back here for updates on the campaign’s progress.

Posted on May 24, 2011 at 1:25 pm by editor · · Tagged with: , , ,

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