January 06, 2014 - 2:52 PM
KAMLOOPS - Even the man who has come to personify the Kamloops Daily News never saw its closure coming, and expressed the same shock this morning as many others in the community.
Mel Rothenburger spent nearly 40 years with the newspaper, formerly as editor and still as a regular columnist.
“Quite honestly, I feel like I’m in mourning,” he said. "A daily newspaper is so integral to the distribution of news to the community and to the reflection of what a community is all about.”
After more than 80 years, the paper will cease publication within the next 60 days citing economic reasons. The paper has a subscriber base of just under 10,000, which is down from a circulation base of 10,499 in 2011 and 12,627 in 2010.
Publisher Tim Shoults said they worked hard to try making the paper more viable and after assessing several scenarios and options, decided to close.
“We worked quite diligently.... We added new special features and publications and reduced costs in every department,” Shoults said. “In the end it was the only option we had.”
Roughly 55 full-time and part-time staff will lose their jobs as well as some contract drivers and carriers. He said when he broke the news to staff Monday morning there was 'shock and sadness for all concerned.'
Kamloops Chamber of Commerce President Bob Dieno said for many — including himself — it’s an adjustment to a daily routine. He wondered about those who rely on the paper as a primary source of information.
“Especially a lot of older people,” he said. “They’re going to have to go elsewhere.”
However, he attributed the paper’s financial troubles as a sign of the times.
“People have so many options now to specifically target their advertising and there’s so many other options out there,” he said.
This is a sentiment several people at Sahali Mall shared today after the news broke. Harold Sartorius, owner of Inky's Quality Ink and Toner, said he gets all his news online and isn't overly surprised, nor disappointed, over the paper shutting down.
“I'm not surprised about the newspaper as far as that's concerned,” he said Monday morning after hearing about the closure from a customer. “Kamloops is a very staid town... not very forward thinking.”
Down the hall staff at Simply Computing were shocked, disappointed and not altogether surprised by the move either.
“I had heard they were cutting back on designers, so I'm not surprised,” one staff member said, while another questioned the option of creating a regional paper.
While they each admitted they typically go online to get the news they don't look just to one outlet, rather it's 'whoever has it first', but that doesn't mean they aren't concerned about the closure. The computer company does a lot of business with the newspaper and at least one staff member was concerned over what the loss of that business could mean for them.
While some businesses will be impacted not all will. At one downtown gas station they struggle to sell even 10 newspapers a day, and some days selling even one paper is doing well. Based on those declining numbers the closure did not come as much of a surprise to store management, though they are still disappointed to see so many jobs affected.
City councillor Arjun Singh said he reads the online and digital versions of the paper everyday and expressed his shock, calling the institution a ‘history’ of the community.
“The role of the media in terms of democracy and in terms of community is incredibly, incredibly important,” he said.
In addition to the loss of a newspaper and jobs in the city there will also be a loss to more than 100 local charities and organizations that looked to the paper for support. Shoults noted more than $500,000 of in-kind advertising was run last year and helped raise nearly $100,000 through the Christmas Cheer Fund and Raise-A-Reader campaigns.
The exact date of closure has not been released but Shoults said the company will be meeting with the union to hammer out those details soon, though the closure will take place in the next 60 days.
It's a day former editor Rothernburger said he never thought would come, even after all the changes he's witnessed in journalism in the last 15 years
"I have no information on what actually brought about the closure," he said. "I retired at a time when I thought that the Daily News would be in the community as far as I could see into the future."
“Kamloops has always been well-served by media, but the city needs a daily newspaper and that’s what we’ve lost," he said.
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—With files from Jennifer Stahn
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014