Uncovering corruption: The stories we'll miss when local newspapers are gone
Communities across Canada were left reeling on Monday as Postmedia and Torstar announced plans to shut down more than 30 small papers across Ontario, in addition to one in Winnipeg and another in Vancouver.
The reporters who showed up at work that morning — some after decades-long careers — found the lights turned off and the office doors locked.
There's going to be a lot of history that's not written.- Chip Martin, former reporter and columnist, London Free Press
"People are shocked in Orillia," regional newspaper editor Nathan Taylor told As it Happens host Carol Off on Monday.
"We're going to work every day … thinking about what's happening today, and what we're going to put in the paper tomorrow. So there was really no way to prepare for something like this."
Roughly 290 people will lose their jobs as a result of this week's shutdowns. But veteran reporters warn that the communities they served stand to lose a great deal more.
Local stories, national acclaim
Chip Martin knows what's at stake as small newspapers close their doors in droves.
In 2012, Martin broke a national story when he reported on the questionable financial dealings of then-London mayor Joe Fontana.
Martin's reporting revealed that Fontana had used federal funds to help pay for his son's wedding reception in 2005, while Fontana was a Liberal MP and cabinet minister.
Martin agrees that the loss of yet more community newspapers across Canada will have a real impact on the stories that are — or are not — uncovered.
"With fewer papers, there's fewer opportunities for this sort of thing to happen."
As a historian, he worries what that will mean for future researchers.
"You see it talked about in journalism, 'it's the first draft of history'. Well, there's going to be a lot of history that's not written."
Shining light on government failures
Gillian Slade is a reporter with the Medicine Hat News in Medicine Hat, AB.
In 2010, she was nominated for a National Newspaper Award after she uncovered flaws in the provincial government's response to a major flooding disaster that devastated her community in June of that year.
Slade started digging for details about the Alberta government's Disaster Relief Program after getting calls from local residents who were struggling to obtain government help in the wake of the flood.
If it hadn't been for the newspaper, and my availability to cover the story and to dig down and find the truth, I don't think it would have been uncovered.- Gillian Slade, Medicine Hat News
Slade's investigation revealed that the program had been contracted out to a private company run by former government officials. That company was receiving millions of dollars in administrative fees despite its poor handling of the disaster.
Like Martin, Slade worries important stories will be missed if local newspapers aren't there to cover them.
"If it hadn't been for the newspaper, and my availability to cover the story and to dig down and find the truth, I don't think it would have been uncovered."
To hear Chip Martin and Gillian Slade tell the stories of their nationally-acclaimed investigations, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of this page.