Saskatchewan

Ever wanted your own newspaper? A good essay could win you one for $1

In Saskatchewan, where several newspapers have blown away like tumbleweeds in recent years, a century-old weekly is holding an essay contest to find a new owner. 

Davidson Leader's owner is retiring and looking for someone to take over

The Davidson Leader covers sports, politics, city council and other happenings in the small Saskatchewan town of 1,000 and surrounding area. (Davidson Leader)

In Saskatchewan, where several newspapers have blown away like tumbleweeds in recent years, a century-old weekly is holding an essay contest to find a new owner. 

The Davidson Leader has been in business for more than 115 years. It serves the small communities of Davidson, Craik, Kenaston and Hanley in south-central Saskatchewan.

But the owner and publisher is retiring and looking for someone to convince her that they would be the best fit for her job by submitting a 500-word essay. 

"My hope had been all along that someone within the communities we serve would come forward and want to keep it going," said Tara de Ryk.

"But I hadn't received any response so our newspaper association came up with this idea."

She's hopeful a journalist or someone passionate about the town will step forward. 

Mayor getting anxious

Word is getting around Davidson, a town of around 1,000 people, that the paper's days may be numbered.

"I'm kind of in a bit of a state of denial," said Mayor Tyler Alexander. "I was really hoping that someone would take it over … I'm still hoping that somebody steps forward."

Alexander said the town depends on the paper in myriad ways. The Leader helps officials get their message out, and having a reporter show up ensures transparency to the public, he says.

"Fundraising — it's going to be tough," he said. "Our fundraisers get a lot of support from the paper due to articles. Even just recently we formed a skate park committee, and Tara came to the meeting and did a big report on that."

Tara de Ryk is the current owner of the Davidson Leader and is giving away the paper so she can spend more time with her elderly parents, who live in Ontario. (Davidson Leader)

Alexander says the fact that de Ryk is willing to essentially give her newspaper away in a contest — applicants pay only a $1 submission fee — shows how kindhearted she is and demonstrates her public spiritedness.

De Ryk says she wanted to keep the price affordable to give everyone a shot at experiencing the kind of opportunities she had when she bought the paper. 

"We are the paper of record; we were a watchdog. We cover municipal councils. We let people know what's going on," she said. "We offer people an opportunity to put their opinions in the paper."

Still making a profit

Unlike other small town papers, the Davidson Leader is still profitable, de Ryk said. 

She said she is leaving the paper after more than two decades in the industry because the work can take a toll on family time, she said. 

"My parents are in Ontario. They're getting older, and I just feel now is the time I need to spend some meaningful time with them instead of two or three days a year," de Ryk said. 

"I guess I've been a bit of a workaholic, but I've enjoyed every minute of it."

Some stories stand out as de Ryk looks back at her time with the paper. One was about a new immigrant couple who came to Canada from the Philippines to start a new life but had to leave their small children behind. 

"I couldn't imagine what that would be like to be separated from your family like that for all those years," she said. 

The entire family has now been reunited in Davidson.

"We all have a backstory, and that was a chance to share one of those back stories," she said. 

De Ryk said if she doesn't get any applicants, it will be a loss for the town and the surrounding region. 

"Who's going to tell those stories? Who's going to let people know what's going on?" she said. "It's a record of this area's history."

One of the recent editions of the Davidson Leader is from November 18 which features an image of Christmas trees and lights being installed. (Davidson Leader)

With files from The Morning Edition and Kevin O'Connor

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