It is truly a sad day for us here at the Prince George Free Press, and for the community of Prince George.
As of May 1, the Prince George Free Press will cease publishing.
But it’s sad for the community as well.
Two newspapers is good for a community. Having two newspapers provides readers with different perspectives on the same issues, different looks, different voices.
As journalists, it keeps us sharp because we’re always trying to beat the other guys (that goes for all media) … trying to get the “scoop” as it were.
Sadly, competition is good for the consumer, it’s not good for business.
In most of B.C., newspaper chains have made concerted efforts to get out of each other’s way, rather than take on the other guys. Black Press and Glacier Media have been carving up the landscape geographically so they don’t directly compete with each other in communities big and small.
The Free Press is owned by Aberdeen Publishing, a relatively small newspaper chain, so we haven’t been a part of that rush to competitively not compete.
For us, it was simply a matter of revenues disappearing.
When I started at the Free Press in 2006, we had 27 people on staff and we were publishing between 40 and 48 pages twice a week. Now, as we close, we have 10 people on staff and have been publishing, on average, 32 pages once a week.
You don’t need to have a UNBC MBA to figure out that, as our owner Bob Doull said, “we just weren’t moving the needle in the right direction.”
And it’s not a case of advertisers flocking to our competition. The Citizen isn’t publishing as many pages as it used to either. The advertising dollars just seem to be going away. So, these days, newspaper wars are battles of attrition. It becomes a question of who can hang on the longest.
Here, it was the Prince George Citizen. Just last year the Kamloops Daily News, which was a sister paper to the Citizen, lost the attrition battle to our sister paper Kamloops This Week.
So, Prince George is not unique. Declining revenues are an issue facing the industry everywhere and if I had a solution to that problem, well, I’d be rich.
As for me, I don’t know what the future holds.
It was on the May long weekend in 1985 when I was hired as the sports reporter for the Fernie Free Press. Almost 30 years to the day.
When people have asked me what I like about being a newspaper reporter and/or editor, my response been the same over those 30 years: “Every day is an adventure. You never know who’s going to come through the door or where the day will take you.”
Today, another adventure begins.