It’s no secret that the newspaper business is in free fall as businesses tighten their advertising budgets. Local papers, like the Grand Bend Strip, are supposed to be immune to such a tightening, but that’s changing. I have to admit that I didn’t see the change coming. It’s my worst kept secret that my profit margins are so slim that they’re often non-existent. And that was before the economy tanked. I faced this reality earlier this month when I headed into early May prepared to put a newspaper together. News came that several key clients decided not to return to the fold for the summer, and it became apparent that I would no longer be immune to the changes that are happening in this industry. Faced with taking a fairly large loss, I was forced to cancel the May 13 edition of the Strip. It was a hard decision to make. Even harder is the decision I’ve had to make since then, and that is the one to end free distribution of the Strip. It’s simply no longer sustainable, especially for an independent publisher like me. So, despite a letter that went out to subscribers outside the free coverage area of Grand Bend, Exeter, Dashwood, and Crediton, the paper will no longer be available free anywhere after the June 17 edition. Starting with the July 8 edition and going forward, the paper will only be available by subscription or paid at local shops. Going forward, I want to thank you, the reader, for helping the Strip achieve the success it has to date, and hope you’ll continue to support it. I am especially grateful for the 600 loyal subscribers who mailed in their cheques, often with kind notes. It’s important for someone like me to receive such affirmation, especially considering I have done this for two years without pay. Not that there haven’t been other rewards. Last year, I earned first place in Canada for reporting, second in Ontario for photography, and third for photo page design. This year, mostly for my reportage, I earned two first-place awards in Ontario, a second in Canada and one in Ontario, and four thirds in Canada. It’s among the best turnouts for any paper in Ontario (and possibly Canada) this year. A full list of the honours can be found on page two and at GrandBendStrip.com. So, if you think what we are doing with this newspaper is worthwhile, please support it financially. First, I hope you will subscribe, and second, support the businesses that have advertised in the past and those that continue to advertise in the Strip. I also hope you’ll consider taking one of my photography classes, and attending my art show and sale at Bliss Studio this summer. Reprints of photos from the newspaper are always available for sale, so if you like a photo, please consider taking one home. I’ve said this in the past, but I’ll say it again: Thank you. I can’t do this without you.
Excerpts from comments by CCNA and OCNA award judges:
CCNA judge Michelle Stewart (2nd place in Canada for feature series): Casey Lessard’s series on wheelchair accessibility had touching personal stories of people confined to wheelchairs and their everyday struggles with limited access. Lessard accompanied his subjects in their everyday activities and spent time getting to know this issue through their eyes. This writer wasn’t satisfied to just report on an issue, he took time to live it and do his part to remedy it.
OCNA judge Ted Murphy (1st place Sports & Recreation story for No Lifeguards…) Lessard did a masterful job on two fronts: he highlighted a dangerous situation (three drownings in three years) in addition to paying tribute to the most recent victim, a 14-year-old girl. It was a clear cut winner.
OCNA judge Kelly Clemmer (1st place Best Editorial for No Lifeguards…) This editorial… was striking. It was worth the additional effort. It begs the question, how much is a life worth?