Earlier this month, it was announced that Gravenhurst printing company McLaren Press Graphics will close its doors at the end of the month. This is bad news for many community newspaper customers, including the North Grenville Times, North Dundas Times, and Merrickville-Wolford Times, who rely on McLaren to print their papers. While the work is already underway to ensure that the papers will continue to be produced on schedule, the closure of McLaren speaks to a much broader issue – that of the rising costs of paper and printing.
Ontario Community Newspaper Association CEO Ronda Parkes sent a press release to members, which expressed much sadness at the news of the closure. “Effective May 31, McLaren Press Graphics is closing its doors,” the note reads. “Sad news for the industry and for the McLaren family that has been serving many of our members for years. McLaren has also been a major supporter of the OCNA, and we are forever grateful. President Drew McLaren cites numerous issues leading to the closure. A global paper shortage, increases in material costs, as well as labour shortages all added up to what we can only imagine was a difficult decision. We are also concerned for our members who are affected by this news and face disruption to their businesses.”
All problems have a chain that can be followed. Community newspapers often struggle financially because of the ever-increasing cost of printing. Printing companies must raise their prices because of supply chain issues that drive the cost of paper up. The cost of paper is driven up by many factors, such as the increased cost of fuel which makes it more expensive to transport both materials and finished products, not to mention the exponentially higher demand for wood pulp in recent years owing to the amount of cardboard packaging used by online retailers. Finally, the dramatic increase in buying from online retailers can logically be explained at least partially by the high rate of inflation, which pushes people to look for the cheapest options when purchasing goods. No matter what path leads to printing companies not having the supplies necessary to meet their orders, or having to significantly increase costs for customers, community newspapers feel the resulting pinch. Should governments and members of the public care? Of course!
Community newspapers are vital because, unlike the internet, they provide content that can always be trusted. “Don’t believe everything you see on the internet” is a common lesson parents teach their children, but no such lesson is necessary for newspapers, which contain both professionally written content and community firsthand experiences, all of which are vetted through an editor. Community newspapers also act as a place for the community and local businesses to connect, making them vital in supporting local economies. In this way, newspapers also help create pride and a sense of belonging by providing information, resources, and entertainment that are unique to one’s geographic area, but exclusive to none within the area (for newspapers that are free).
In correspondence with the Times, Ronda Parkes summarized the importance of community newspapers very nicely, saying “The silver lining is that community newspapers are the lifeblood of the people of Ontario, as showcased throughout COVID-19, providing information and resources that ensure transparency, promote accountability, and support our local economies.
There is an increasing recognition amongst governments that local news is a vital part of small communities, and grants and other government programs speak to this recognition. However, it is clear that there is always room for improvement. Many thanks to the McLaren family for nearly 40 years of dedicated service to community newspapers.