Pembroke Daily Observer stopping the presses after 163 years

Eastern Ontario newspaper The Pembroke Daily Observer, founded in 1855, is printing its last edition on July 28.

Postmedia-owned newspaper to print last edition on July 28, 2018

The union representing staff at the Pembroke Daily Observer says the city will lose an important part of its identity when it loses its local newspaper. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The Pembroke Daily Observer, founded in 1855, is closing down next month.

The newspaper's parent company, Postmedia, confirmed the newspaper's final edition will be printed on July 28, 2018.

Four jobs have been eliminated, Postmedia said in an emailed statement Tuesday.

Now, another historic Canadian newspaper will die, and proud Pembroke will face the threat of becoming a local news desert.- UNIFOR

The company will "maintain a web presence" and continue publishing the weekly Pembroke News, wrote Phyllise Gelfand, Postmedia's vice-president of communications.

The newspaper has been publishing a print edition Tuesday through Saturday.

Unifor, the union representing journalists at the newspaper, said Postmedia is making the move to pay down its debt.

"We have asked the federal government to help newspapers transition to new and economically sustainable ways to deliver local news but have been met with essentially empty platitudes," said Paul Morse, president of the Unifor branch that represents employees at the Daily Observer along with some 2,000 media workers in Ontario.

"Now, another historic Canadian newspaper will die, and proud Pembroke will face the threat of becoming a local news desert."

Shocked and frustrated

Reporter Tina Peplinskie, who has worked for the Daily Observer for nearly 20 years, said Postmedia's decision to axe the paper was a shock to her and her colleagues.

"That is frustrating, because we have been putting our heart and soul and sweat and tears into this newspaper," she said.

Tina Peplinskie, a longtime reporter with the Pembroke Daily Observer, says she hopes her community will continue to support the weekly Pembroke News. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)

Peplinskie said the paper was especially important in a community like Pembroke, where many older adults and seniors still look forward to receiving their news through a physical paper.

"There are a lot of decisions that do impact taxpayers and our readers that — unfortunately — we won't be able to bring to them," she said.

Informing the community

Pembroke Mayor Michael LeMay said the paper was important for keeping the community informed.  

"There was a presence from the Daily Observer at every one of our meetings for the last three and a half years," he said.  

"If you wanted to know exactly what was happening in your community or were looking for updates you went to the Daily Observer."

He said the announcement the paper would have an online edition is some comfort, but he doesn't know how much local news they will cover and it won't be for everyone.

"We have a large senior population here and I know the hard copy edition of the Daily Observer was important to them."

After 163 years in business, the Pembroke Daily Observer will shut down next month. We go to the Ottawa Valley for reaction to the news. 11:50

Petawawa resident Carla Burgoyne says she was "very disappointed" to hear about the end of the Observer.

"It's where we all turn to for our news in downtown Pembroke," she said.

"The Daily Observer really was our newspaper, so I'm sad — we're sad — to see it go."

Carla Burgoyne lives in Petawawa, Ont., but says she still turns to the Pembroke Daily Observer for news. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)

Beyond reporting local stories, the Daily Observer also broke at least one story of national significance.

It was the Observer's Jim Day who first revealed the abuse of Somalis at the hands of Canadian soldiers in the early 1990s.

Four Canadian soldiers were later taken into custody in connection with the brutal torture and murder of 16-year-old Shidane Arone.

Those revelations spurred the federal government to launch the Somalia Inquiry in 1994, leading to the disbanding of the Canadian Airborne Regiment a year later.

With files from Marc-André Cossette