Mercury fallen: Where Guelph residents may go now for local news
The Guelph Mercury has closed, leaving a large daily news hole in the Royal City
The Guelph Mercury website remains, but the heart of one of Canada's oldest newspapers has stopped beating.
When the news came down that the 149-year-old newspaper was closing as of Jan. 29, it shook the community. In the final hours of the newspaper, residents gathered outside the Mercury's downtown offices to say goodbye, some leaving love notes, others physically hugging the building.
- Guelph Mercury stops publishing print edition, all staff cut
- Guelph Mercury staff to work to the last day to put paper out
- Crowd shows up for Guelph hug mob to thank Mercury staff
- Guelph Mercury closure puts paper carriers out of work
For many in Guelph, there is now a large hole when it comes to coverage of local events.
So after the loss of the daily newspaper, where will the people of Guelph turn for news about their city?
While the city has lost its daily newspaper, there is still a newspaper in the city and residents are still served by the CBC and CTV in Kitchener, as well as local radio stations including Magic 106.1, the University of Guelph campus station CFRU and Kitchener's 570 News. As well, Rogers Television offers local programming.
Metroland, a subsidiary of TorStar, owned the only two papers in Guelph – the Mercury and the twice-weekly Guelph Tribune. Since the Mercury's editorial staff walked out of their building, boxes and personal items in hand, some Tribune stories have been used on the Mercury website, along with stories from other Metroland papers, such as the Hamilton Spectator.
The Tribune, established in 1986, covers politics, publishes police briefs and writes local features. The Record in Kitchener's publisher says that newspaper could be expected to cover some events and news in the city.
New online source
A new website that was set to launch in September, GuelphToday.com, has moved up their plans and will now start posting news on Monday.
"We are moving very quickly," Jeff Elgie, the CEO of Village Media, told CBC News in an interview.
The website is currently looking for downtown office space and has already secured two high-profile local journalists and former Mercury reporters: Tony Saxon and Rob O'Flanagan. As well, two former Mercury columnists, Scott Tracey and Owen Roberts, have signed on to write columns for the website.
I think what we'll see is different entities pop up trying to fill a hole.- Adam Donaldson, Guelph blogger
In a media landscape where newspapers struggle to make money online, Elgie said the key to their business model is they are small enough to make changes quickly when necessary, but they also work with a lean staff. For example, he said, GuelphToday.com may run press releases verbatium where a regular newspaper would not. The bulk of their investment, Elgie said, goes to getting direct, local content.
"We were born digital. We've been in the business of online news exclusively for 15 years now, actually it's now 16 years almost. The whole business has been geared towards that," he said.
"This is our world. We've all become experts in various aspects of online and so we're good with technology, we're good with learning how to write for online, we're good with social media, we're fast, the team is very quick."
Busy lives can sometimes mean people need to get their news quickly and where they're already going online for other information, like cat videos or to find out how their friends are doing. This takes them to social media sites or apps on their phones like Facebook and Twitter.
Royal City Matters has popped up on Facebook as a community page focusing on what is happening at Guelph City Hall. They will post reports and information about council meetings and will post emails from concerned citizens about local issues. They have described themselves as "facilitators of a community driven page" where posts are "factual and are meant for initiating conversation or for informational purposes only. We will not be posting our own opinions, but you and everyone else are encouraged to do so."
The creators of the group remain unnamed.
On Twitter, there are several accounts, including former Guelph Tribune editor Chris Clark at @GuelphMatters and former Guelph Mercury editor Phil Andrews at @PhilAndrews519. News aggregating Twitter accounts also include @GuelphUpdates, @GuelphTimes, @instanewsGuelph and @GuelphNow.
There are a few blogs focused on Guelph issues that existed long before the Mercury's demise.
Adam Donaldson, who has been writing his blog Guelph Politico for eight years, said he won't be surprised to see more local blogs in the coming weeks and months.
"There have been news outlets, websites, that tried to pop up and tried to address some of the holes in local coverage, specifically more in depth political coverage. I think what we'll see is different entities pop up trying to fill a hole, a specific hole, according to whatever niche they want to cover, whether it's politics, whether it's community events, whether it's local sports," he said in an interview.
He also raises concerns about citizen journalists branching out on their own and perhaps not fully understanding what they're getting into, including how much work they're taking on. As well, they may not understand the ethics of reporting on local matters, fact checking and protecting sources.
Some blogs, Donaldson notes, also tend to take a certain slant towards issues.
"What's going really to be missing is a more even-handed voice" in local reporting, Donaldson said of the loss of the Mercury.
Two other well-known blogs in the city include Guelph Speaks written by former journalist and GrassRoots Guelph founder Gerry Barker, and the Guelph Bugle, which has been posting coming events on its website, but regularly retweets local issues. Mayor Cam Guthrie also has his own blog.
Donaldson said these blogs serve the citizens, but others would be welcome.
"I think there's always room for more," he said.