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Still mourning the death of newspapers

I remember the exact moment we knew that the Prince George Free Press was doomed. It was when the decision was made to go from publishing twice a week to once a week.

That was when we seriously started circling the drain. We lost our relevancy in the community and, more importantly, in our own minds. There was no recovery.

So I can sympathize with everyone at the Prince George Citizen as they broke the news this week that it will move from a subscription-based daily to a free weekly.

Prince George still needs a print publication, so I don’t think the Prince George Citizen is facing the same fate as we did at the Free Press. However, it won’t be anything close to what it was.

There will be job losses as the press division will likely disappear, there will be fewer reporters reporting on the community, fewer production people putting it all together, less advertising staff, fewer distribution people, and fewer carriers.

It truly is a sad day for the community.

Managing editor Neil Godbout put on a brave face, saying the Citizen will ramp up its online presence. Fair enough, but they should have already been doing that.

The Citizen’s parent company, Glacier Media, however already has gone digital in the city. It opened Prince George Matters in the city just over a year ago, which has had many scratching their heads as to why it would start a digital operation that competes with its print one. Prince George Matters, like us here at the Prince George Daily News, is online-only. We’re the only two such news outlets in the city … all the others are supported by more traditional media i.e. newspaper, radio, and television.

Prince George Matters has four employees and a small office downtown. It is completely separate from the Citizen and I doubt whether it’s making any money either.

So it has to be a bitter pill for everyone at the Citizen to swallow knowing their parent company is subsidizing a competing operation while cutting theirs to the bone. The Citizen is a union shop, Prince George Matters isn’t, so that may be a factor.

I may be biased, but the community suffers with fewer journalists working in the city. It’s that simple. And, even though I’m a digital journalist now, print is still king. We could disappear tomorrow and not a lot of people would notice simply because the online world is so cluttered and chaotic it’s hard to notice anything of note. Facebook feeds will be just as jammed with junk as they ever were.

Newspapers, however, are physical … tangible. We notice when they are gone, we miss them, and we try to tell those who never knew them how good they were.

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