As we celebrate the first anniversary of The Local — an achievement anyone who has ever started a business will appreciate — this week has been a time for reliving memories for us.
It was a year ago that we put out our first edition, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the support we have received from the community since.
Readers and advertisers have supported and embraced our efforts, understanding and appreciating our goal to give locals the community newspaper we think they want, deserve and trust.
Before embarking on this adventure, my friend and colleague, Karen Skeoch, and I worked for what we call the “old Niagara Advance,” not to be confused with the Town Crier, renamed the Niagara-on-the-Lake Advance, which those of you reading this may receive in your driveways.
I was editor of the old Advance, and suddenly out of a job, while Karen, because she is so amazingly good at what she does, was offered a job at the new Advance, which she turned down.
Our Advance was indeed old — we had plans to celebrate its 100th anniversary with this amazing town.
For those of you who are new to NOTL, a bit of background. The paper that would have been in print in this town for 100 years in February, 2019, was closed Nov. 26, 2017, along with many other newspapers, mostly in Ontario, as a result of a trade between Postmedia,which owned a chain of Niagara dailies and community newspapers, and Torstar, which owns Niagara This Week, including the former Town Crier. Torstar then closed some of the community newspapers it acquired in the trade, including the Niagara Advance.
Although we never really expected the paper to close, we used to say, given the state of the newspaper industry and the many layoffs at the dailies through which we had survived, that we’d be the ones left to turn off the lights.
When a lovely woman in human resources came from London two years ago to walk me, Anna Tiedtke, who many of you know, and others scattered around Niagara, out the door, I told her we’d talked about this day, never thinking it might really come. She asked me if I wanted to turn out the lights. The newspaper that had been such a huge part of the community for almost a century, and my life for a quarter of a century, was closing. I said no, thank you, I couldn’t do it.
We are often asked, why do we need three newspapers in town? We know the others are run and staffed by hard-working people, but we had a different vision.
We think of The Local as comfort food. We want to share all that is best about this community we both know so well and love even more. We want to do what we can to unite, rather than divide, communities, with the support of all the like-minded people, the majority of residents who call this amazing town home.
That’s not to say we will ignore the blips, the issues that cause controversy, but we have pledged to treat all our stories — and your stories — with the integrity and sensitivity we believe you deserve.
We can’t do it, of course, without advertising. We need to build a successful business. After marketing local businesses to local residents, Karen has forged many lasting relationships in the community, where she began working in 1990 — how do the years go by so quickly? She had a son who was barely a toddler when she started, and he’s now the proud father of her first beautiful granddaughter, while her daughter is now at college.
In the intervening decades, Karen has earned the respect of her clients. That respect shows in the support The Local enjoys from the business community. Advertisers look to her for advice, and with her background in graphic arts as well as marketing, she can help them throughout the process. Her clients understand her sincerity in always wanting what is best for them.
I look back over the years and can’t believe how much the community has changed, but at the same time, how so many of the stories I covered years ago are being replayed, still impacting local families.
I remember reporting on businesses being concerned about the possibility of buses parking at Fort George and negatively impacting tourism revenue. I’ve helped fight to keep the St. Davids Pool open decades ago — my kids learned to swim there, and my youngest, Gill, competed throughout university at the national level, thanks to her great experience and coaches on the St. Davids swim team. We’ve been through school accommodation reviews as a family, seen two of the three schools my three kids attended close, and mourned their closure with our friends and neighbours.
I was recently in the gym of St. Davids, where I’ve attended so many sports events and Christmas concerts, to hear about the community safety zone for today’s students, much to the relief of parents.
I find myself running into and writing stories about people I knew when they were kids, and I’m constantly in awe of the great adults they have become. If it takes a village to raise a child, these villages of Niagara-on-the-Lake are doing an amazing job.
When we’re asked how The Local is doing, we say it’s doing great. It is. But financially, if we want to survive, we need to do better. We are relying on advertising, and nothing else, to allow us to serve this town. We are hoping our membership card will also help, and we count on continued support from the community to get us there.
We’re also very fortunate and grateful to a great team — Helen Arsenault, our proof reader, Rose Gowsell-Patterson, our graphic designer, Julia Coles, who looks after sales outside NOTL, photographer Fred Mercnik, aour great freelance writers and contributors. They support us, they work hard, and we love working with them.
We have a third business partner, whom we must thank. Pat Darte helped get us started, and has provided sound business advice as we progressed. Karen and I both know how to do our own jobs, but we’ve never been business owners before, so we appreciate his support.
When the old Advance closed two years ago, we felt the love from the community. It was pretty overwhelming for the two of us, who were just doing jobs we love. We knew how fortunate and privileged we had been to spend such a huge chunk of our working lives in this community, that we believe has no equal, anywhere.
And we continue to feel the love. Each and every day, we are reminded why we chose to do what we are doing now. We believe in the importance of community newspapers, and we know our readers do as well. We love telling your stories, taking photos of your events, featuring what you are doing and what your kids are up to.
Thank you, each of you who has shown us your support. We can’t say that enough. And with that support we will continue telling your stories and promoting your businesses, and feel so very fortunate to do so.
Our year has gone by so quickly, we look forward to sharing all the news, your news, of 2020.