The switch to online newspapers – I’m more interested in content


I like newspapers. One of the many wonders of the Internet is the ability to read local newspapers from around the world in your own living room. As of this coming Monday, October 17, 2022, my local newspaper, the Montreal Gazette, originally simply The Gazette, will no longer produce a physical version of the Monday edition of the paper. There will be a paper on Mondays, but you will need some sort of viewer to read it.

The Gazette is Canada’s oldest daily newspaper still in publication; it was founded in 1778 by one Fleury Mesplet, who was encouraged by none other than Benjamin Franklin, who thought it could be used as a means of encouraging Canadians to join the American Revolution.

Although it’s a bit tricky to fold the online edition and stuff it in your pocket for future reading, this shortcoming is more than compensated for by the ability to adjust font size on the electronic version. Something that aging readers must surely find useful.

Both The Gazette and, until 1979, its afternoon competitor, The Montreal Star, were read in my home. I have to admit I’m fine with this move to online-only papers, as I have been reading the paper via an online subscription for several years. Although it’s a bit tricky to fold the online edition and stuff it in your pocket for future reading, this shortcoming is more than compensated for by the ability to adjust font size on the electronic version. Something that aging readers must surely find useful.

So even if this one less hard-copy-a-week move is just the thin edge of the wedge, ultimately leading to an online-only journal, I’m on board. The benefits outweigh the steps it takes to get used to reading a newspaper online.

ot so long ago, essentially everyone who died would have an obituary printed in their paper. How else would family and friends know? Now funeral homes offer their own online obits.

However, regardless of medium, hard copy or virtual, newspapers are, or should be, all about content. Current editions of the Montreal Gazette pale in comparison to those of even a couple of decades ago. Not all of this is the fault of local management, but changing traditions also play a role. Not so long ago, essentially everyone who died would have an obituary printed in their paper. How else would family and friends know? Now funeral homes offer their own online obits. There’s Facebook and Twitter that reach far more people than any local newspaper, and are, I suspect, more often read by younger people.

Another problem, and one that all media seem to be dealing with, is the lack of local ownership. Huge media companies buy-up local papers, radio and TV stations, strip them down, and provide content more suitable to national publications than local. Large sections of The Gazette are merely inclusions from the National Post. Local radio stations are choc-a-bloc with nationally syndicated programming.

Over the years several of them were regularly found in various watering holes around town, all in the name of research, of course.

As a younger man, aside from the front page, sports section, obituaries, (having lost my father at an early age, I realized the importance of checking the obits) and comics, my favourite piece was the City Column. Usually found on page two or three, this was the most local part of a local paper. From municipal politics, to Montreal social issues; from local barroom rumours, (Overheard in a Bishop Street Bar) to items of interest perhaps only to those of us living in the central core of the city, these columns covered it all.

Often exposing the grittier side of the city, all the while maintaining a sense of humour, these columnists were often characters themselves. Over the years several of them were regularly found in various watering holes around town, all in the name of research, of course. I don’t want to compare city columnists, they worked in different eras and had different styles, but perhaps the most well know was the late Nick Auf Der Maur.

Not just a journalist, but a politician and raconteur, to say nothing of a frequent sporter of fine Donald Duck neckties (one of which now hangs, framed, in Ziggy’s Pub) Nick was the embodiment of what I think of as a city columnist. Whenever I drop by my parents’ grave, I always take a moment to chat with Nick, who is buried a sand wedge away from them.

Why, you may ask, did I not submit this post lamenting the loss of local content to The Gazette itself in the form of a letter to the editor? I thought of it, but then I remembered that The Gazette has recently cut back, and now only prints letters on Saturday,

Another great city columnist, who also left us before his time, was Ted Blackman. At one time he and Nick alternated days, leading Blackman to quip that he had an easy time remembering his schedule: He was on today, Auf Der Maur. One of the familiar sights in Montreal bars in the wee hours was the appearance of Kenny Owens, a Gazette hawker of fame (when not selling papers, he was a regular entrant in the Cock ‘n’ Bull weekly talent show, where he belted out All Jolson songs and wept the occasional tear). Blackman gave Kenny some publicity in a 1974 column. Kenny would make the rounds of downtown bars bellowing out details of the earliest edition of The Gazette. Often Auf Der Maur would buy a copy from Kenny to check on how his column had been edited.

Why, you may ask, did I not submit this post lamenting the loss of local content to The Gazette itself in the form of a letter to the editor? In honesty, I thought of it, but then I remembered that The Gazette has recently cut back, and now only prints letters on Saturday, so the competition must be tough.

Categories DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Humor, Media, Montreal, News, Opinion

1 thought on “The switch to online newspapers – I’m more interested in content

  1. Linda Blackwell Phelan October 14, 2022 — 7:33 pm

    And….no hard copies will mean nothing to line the bird cage with, no paper to spread around on the floor when you are training a new puppy or painting a small piece of furniture, nothing for the kindergarteners to tear into strips for papier mache, nothing for the butlers in the big houses on the mountain to iron every morning before delivering breakfast!! I remember the good old days so well, when we got two papers….and now the Gazette doesn’t seem much bigger than the Westmount Examiner some days. Lin

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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