Former Ottawa community newspaper owner plans to bring papers back

The man who ran a chain of community newspapers in Ottawa in the 1990s and early 2000s says he was irritated to hear the papers were going to be shut down, so he's getting back into the business.

Michael Wollock working to relaunch community papers in south and west end

Michael Wollock ran a chain of eight community newspapers for around 15 years before selling it. He's now planning to get back into the business. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

Michael Wollock was visiting family in New Zealand when he heard of the plans to shut down 15 community newspapers in eastern Ontario.

"The daily newspaper, which was supposed to represent communities, was basically turned off …. And I got angry," he said Thursday.

"When I get angry I do something about it."

The 63-year-old ran a chain of eight community newspapers in Ottawa in the 1990s and early 2000s before he saw the Metroland newspaper company coming.

"I could have lived a small existence or taken the money and run," he said.

Wollock sold to a company that sold the chain to Metroland a year later.

In late November of this year, Postmedia and Torstar (which by then owned Metroland) announced plans to swap and shutter 24 community newspapers.

The last issues are expected in mid-January.

Wollock said he was irritated that community newspapers were vanishing, so he decided to get back into the newspaper business.

In mid-to-late February, people living in areas south of downtown Ottawa, such as Alta Vista, Greenboro and Hunt Club, along with residents of Kanata, Stittsville and Richmond, will get a free community newspaper delivered to their doors.

"A good community newspaper reflects a good community. It brings the community together. It informs them what happens in their backyard," he said.

"We don't really care about what's happening on Parliament Hill or Queen's Park unless it affects what is happening on your street."

Would reach up to 80,000 homes

He said he already has a sales manager and editor and is going to sign the papers to register the business name Thursday afternoon.

The papers will have a circulation of 70,000 to 80,000 homes, he said, and he's confident they will make money.

"If you're successful in the community you'll be successful financially. One comes with the other," he said.

"If you're able to reflect and promote the community — the families, the children, the small businesses — and make everything work together, I will succeed. I will succeed very well."

He's met with a few city councillors and the reception has been very positive, he said.

One of them, River Ward Coun. Riley Brockington, tweeted the news on Wednesday.

"People still like to receive that newspaper in the mailbox, sit down with it and see what's going on in the neighbourhood. It's very important," Brockington said Thursday.

"I've heard from many residents once that announcement was made … how much they read it and how much they rely on it to get that local, grassroots information on what's happening."