I was saddened to learn that after more than 125 years of business, the Moose Jaw Times-Herald will cease operation in just under two months on Dec. 7. The newspaper began as a weekly publication in 1889 and transitioned to a daily paper seven years later. Since then it has been an integral part of the community and has also served as an archive of local news, sports and weather events.
In a story in the Regina Leader-Post, owner Roger Holmes was quoted saying the closure will result in 25 staff being laid off. He purchased the newspaper last year and said changing times and economic factors resulted in the decision to shut down the daily paper. He would not comment on the future of the Prince Albert newspaper which he also owns.
Former Moose Jaw publisher Rob Clark said the news hit him hard and it felt like something had been ripped away from him personally. He expects the city will be “devastated” by the loss of local news and sports coverage.
Angela and I got to know Rob when we were publishing the Advance Times. The local newspaper was printed at Moose Jaw for several years and we have many memories of late night excitement that resulted in our rush to get the paper to press on time. Perhaps one day I will make the time to write about some of it.
As for losing the local newspaper, Rob said, “People are going to be pretty sad because it covered a lot of the community and supported a lot of the community — in sponsorship or in following stories.”
He is absolutely correct in his assessment of what a newspaper does for a community. It serves as an ongoing record of events from an unbiased point of view. It champions local causes and celebrates local successes and milestones and promotes local businesses and initiatives. Perhaps most importantly, a newspaper is intended to reflect the nature of a community and its residents.
Electronic media such as facebook has impacted print media around the world because of its ability to quickly inform or update people. However, it does not provide a physical hard copy that can be archived for future reference and often omits detailed information. Furthermore, electronic media seldom survives a hard drive failure or a large electromagnetic pulse. Perhaps the biggest downfall of electronic media is its platform (equipment and software) is constantly changing and can be obsolete in a few years. Remember the eight-inch floppy discs that early home and office computers used in the 1980s? Then came 5 ¼-inch floppies and then the incredibly small 3 ½-inch discs. Unfortunately, the information stored on older floppies could not be accessed using new technological format so that information was no longer accessed. For all intents and purposes it was lost and that is what I see happening to much of the information we can access now.
For example, there was a time when all photographs were stored on a negative or photographic paper. Then digital cameras were invented and photos were stored electronically on memory cards or internal storage chips. Cameras were built into cell phones and photographs could then be quickly shared with friends who have phones or uploaded to Internet websites. As a result, fewer photographs were printed on paper. While hardcopy photos are not obsolete, they are definitely on the way out.
How many photos are printed now? I cannot answer that question with any degree of accuracy, but I know for a fact the quantity is much less than 10 years ago even though more photos are taken now than at any time in history. Granted, many of the photos taken now should not be printed because they are terrible: too dark, over-exposed, poorly composed and do not capture the essence of the moment. My point is all media – hardcopy and electronic – has its weaknesses, but electronic formats are subject to power interruptions and fluctuations, hacking and changing technology.
How many of us had 8-track tapes that could not be used in cassette players, and cassettes that were made obsolete by compact disc players. CDs are now on the way out since the information they store can be kept on a computer somewhere (aka a cloud) and accessed anytime and at anyplace . . . provided you have an appropriate device operating on compatible technology and you can remember the password to access the information.
I am trying to point out that a newspaper is user friendly and when it disappears from a community a lot more is lost than residents realize. Gone is the paper record that can be archived and accessed by any future generation, provided they are literate. History, especially unbiased history, is no longer recorded since social media sites are full of personal opinions, rants and sometimes fake news.
Losing a local newspaper reminds me that we seldom truly appreciate what we have until it is gone.