There is growing concern about the future of local reporting and accessible free news after Metroland Media Group filed for bankruptcy protection.
Journalists believe this will be difficult for reporters, readers, and their neighbourhoods.
Metroland owned many community papers across Ontario, including the Etobicoke Guardian, North York Mirror and Scarborough Mirror. The group announced it would cease printing most of the 70 community newspapers it owned, moving towards a digital-only future.
Metroland was born in February 1981 when TorStar’s Metrospan Community Newspapers bought Inland Publishing Company. And 42 years later, it is laying off more than 600 staff, including journalists.
This means hyper-local stories about communities that give a voice to people will be untold. So will the ability for readers to be informed about things involving their neighbourhoods and local politics.
Mike Adler, a journalist who spent the last 28 years working for Metroland covering primarily Scarborough, believes it’s a drastically different world than it was decades ago.
He said changes at Metroland started years before the pandemic, with internal structural changes concentrating power and centralization of content. Throughout recent years, papers slowly closed and staff walked away.
“It’s been very frustrating because all of us in local media can tell that we have meant a great deal to a lot of people in the community,” Alder said.
To him, the local papers gave everyone, from older folks to newcomers, timely information about things from hospitals and food banks to developments in their neighbourhoods for free, straight to their doorstep.
Ceasing the publication of local papers would mean readers would now have to depend on outlets like the Toronto Star to tell their local stories.
“I don’t think the Toronto Star is going to be capable of bringing community news to people,” Adler said. “And, so this really hurts, we are essentially being sacrificed.”
The Star, along with other news media around the world, is moving towards pushing forward a subscription-based model, something that is representative of the shift happening in the industry.
“My whole career, I’ve just seen the warnings about local media,” Adler said. “I’ve seen local media in decline, but that doesn’t mean that local media isn’t important or that isn’t it doesn’t have the ability to change people’s lives because it does.”
Joanna Lavoie, a digital journalist at CP24 who spent 17 years working for Metroland, said she isn’t surprised at all.
“The industry has been hurting for several years now with the changing landscape of advertising sales in the flyer businesses is decimated now,” she said. “Everything is evolving, and digital.”
Lavoie saw these changes coming and thinks it will still be a massive loss for communities and for journalists, like Adler, who dedicated their lives to “hyperlocal journalism.”
Moving forward, reporting from most Metroland papers will be available only online at toronto.com. However, daily papers, including the Hamilton Spectator, St. Catharines Standard and Peterborough Examiner, will be available online and in print.