Town Hall meeting proposed re Local News

Many people in Cobourg and nearby areas were unhappy when Northumberland Today closed down. The weekly Northumberland News and various blogs (like this one) do not fill the big gap.  What’s needed is not just a daily coverage of all kinds of news but also coverage of community activities such as entertainment events, births, engagements, deaths and club meetings as well as local classifieds – preferably daily.  And of course multiple reporters (and others) were put out of work.  But John Miller, professor emeritus at Ryerson University School of Journalism and resident of Port Hope, wanted to do something. With the help of interested citizens and in particular, Rob Washburn, John got people discussing the issue.  John is “out of town” right now but passed the baton to Rob who called on his colleagues at Loyalist college.  They believe they can repeat what was recently done in Belleville: that is, “have a constructive conversation with the public around the state of local news, successes and challenges facing the industry and what potential next steps could be taken to address concerns.”

Rob Washburn
Rob Washburn

At the next Cobourg Committee of the Whole meeting, Rob will talk about the idea of having a Town Hall meeting to accomplish this.  He will ask for a waiver of the normal fee to rent Victoria Hall on a Monday or Tuesday evening in April and asks for help from Town staff to organize the event.

Rob says:

We will be inviting the public, as well as contacting the various councils, community groups, service clubs, agencies, non-profits and, most importantly, the public within Northumberland West to join us. We also hope to record the event, as well as stream it live, to ensure we reach out to as many people as possible. We will also be using various tools to engage the public in advance and to follow up after the event.

There is no magic answer nor even a single idea of exactly what the problem is but the start is to get a conversation going with people who are interested – not just journalists but consumers of newspaper content.  Various solutions have been suggested and some actively tried.

  • A paywall so you pay to get online news (won’t work for small local newspapers)
  • Employee owned newspapers
  • Subsidized local newspapers
  • Expanding existing news gatherer/outlets – radio and online
  • Creating a local Portal (e.g. the now closed Northumberland View)
  • Expanding the role of a library
  • Designating local news as an essential service so that it gets funded by Government.

To get a background on the subject, you can watch the following video of John Miller discussing the problem in an interview on TVO shortly after Northumberland Today shut down.

Will the Cobourg (or West Northumberland) community rally around and find a solution?  



Feb 11, 2018

The Meeting will be in Victoria Hall Tuesday March 20, 2018 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m

Feb 20, 2018

At the Committee of the Whole meeting, Council approved Rob’s request for support.

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5 Comments on "Town Hall meeting proposed re Local News"

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With such knowledgeable and experienced journalists as Rob Washburn and John Miller leading the charge I am both thrilled and excited to see what innovative projects will emerge out of work that will be done.

The result may be something we’ve never seen before in local journalism, but it will certainly show us the way forward in keeping our community in West Northumberland well informed and at the forefront of local innovation.

We’re off to a grand start, let’s all pitch in to make it happen.

“Will the Cobourg (or West Northumberland) community rally around and find a solution?”

That’s the question asked at the bottom of the above article. The response to this article on Mr Draper’s blog is ZERO! NO RALLY! and certainly NO SOLUTIONS offered.

Crickets. No one cares. People won’t pay for newspapers anymore. Even the giant ones ar struggling. Ie Toronto’s star, national post, etc. Facebook news and other internet sources have ruined that’s industry. Local radio will be next to go. Mark my words. Sad but true reality. Telegraphs used to be vital too at one time. Time marches on.

People care about obtaining local news. It’s not news that newspapers have diminished. Everyone knows that time marches on. People may not care about newspapers, but they do care about news. So the meeting will be attended by learned and experienced journalists who have ideas, and most importantly, they would like to exchange ideas, to listen to new ideas, ask questions. How do you get your daily news today? How would you like to get your daily news? It’s an outreach to the public, the consumers. There is a lot of potential to learn something about this news situation Cobourg and environs find themselves in. Northumberland News is a weekly. It’s advertising supplements pages exceed the pages devoted to week old news. As a matter of course, they do not retain a digital archives of previous news stories.

I’m with you, Wally. It’s the news that is getting lost here. My friends and I want a reliable source for local news. It doesn’t have to be paper. It does have to be local.