Four years after immigrating to Canada in its centennial year, looking for a new life, we had ditched our previous jobs and purchased the Dunnville and Area Shopping News.
Kevan, an inveterate sales guy who had spent his teenage years in England hawking wares at the local marketplace after school, used his previous artistic experience to design ads and sank into his advertising sales role with gusto, while Chris was busy typesetting and growing our young family.
Within a year or so we expanded to take in the whole of Haldimand and began to add local news to the mix via a series of reporters, changing the paper’s name to Regional Telegraph to reflect its new status and adding a partner to take care of financials.
A few years later, the partnership foundered on clashing viewpoints and the Regional News This Week arose from its ashes.
As our children grew older, Chris began taking on the reporting duties attending everything from council and school board to provincial court, agricultural meetings and all kinds of local events.
As time went on and the paper grew, we hired more reporters and sales and layout people and Chris concentrated on editorial duties.
Thus it was until 2012, when the print paper folded under financial pressure. Our printing and distribution costs were high (Canada Post), and there was no corporate parent company to help us, so it was just a matter of time before we had to close the doors after forty years.
After six years of sitting on the fence and watching with dismay while council approved most controversial issues 6-0 and 7-0 with very little significant debate and ignoring local input, we decided to begin this online website to put some balance back into local reporting.
Our first issue was November 2017 and we were received with enthusiasm by residents who had spent years fighting council on various local issues, which one newspaper viewed mostly with indifference while the other was owned by family of one of the councillors.
We like to think we have made a difference, and continue to bring some transparency into local Haldimand council affairs.
February 10, 2012
Christie Blatchford: Caledonia loses brave, feisty voice as Regional shuts its doors
It’s always a lousy day when a newspaper shuts its doors, especially for those in my business of course, but also usually for the broader community
I can’t think of a better example than the closing down of The Regional This Week, also known as the Regional News, in Caledonia, Ont., a town that more than most has needed strong and independent voices in recent years.
After 40 years, the paper printed its last this week, out of business as a result of a tsunami of events — the loss of official Haldimand County advertising, cutthroat tactics of a big-time competitor and the attendant drifting away of real estate ads that were the backbone of the free weekly.
Caledonia is infamous as the town that was and is the subject of one of the most notorious native occupations in Canadian history — and arguably the most successful one.
Protesters from the nearby Six Nations reserve and well beyond first blocked a residential subdivision called Douglas Creek Estates, then under construction, in February of 2006; the OPP, the county’s contracted police force, turned a collective blind eye.
The occupation turned nasty that April when the OPP finally dared to act like a police force and roused itself to move to evict protesters. The plan was so flawed, the OPP met with such ferocious resistance, that officers were driven from the land, tails between their legs, to whoops of joy from the occupiers.
What followed were weeks of outrageous violence and law-breaking — the torching of a bridge, hijacking of a police vehicle, blocking of roads and issuance of “passports” for non-native locals and destruction of a power transformer — and widespread intimidation of local residents.
The site itself, though purchased by the province that summer, remains essentially under native control.
Watching over all this ever since, providing an irascible voice for those who dared criticize the OPP style of policing and the force, was the Regional.
As the relentless editor, Chris Pickup, wrote of the OPP in her last editorial, “… they need to be held accountable. They can’t just be allowed to shove their oaths under the bed because it’s convenient for the provincial government to avoid the truth…”
Until last summer, the county advertised in four local publications, the Regional and Metroland-owned Sachem among them. (The Sachem became a free-distribution paper, like the Regional, after Metroland, a fully owned subsidiary of Torstar Corporation, bought it in 2004.)
But under new Mayor Ken Hewitt, the county decided to trim advertising costs, and issued a request-for-proposals that included some new conditions — newspapers had to take out $2-million in liability insurance, provide their civic-minded bona fides, be willing to have their financials scrutinized and offer “value-added” bonuses, such as access to the opinion pages for columns by politicians.
“Right there,” Ms. Pickup snorted Friday, “they lost us.”
She also said that since the county supplies the ad copy to the papers, who send the final versions back for approval, what the insurance clause really means is “we [are] having to insure them against their making a mistake.”
In addition, she said, the RFP noted that a newspaper could win the competition but still lose the contract if the county decided against awarding it.
“We’ve always been extremely critical of council,” she said.
She also has a source who told her that a senior bureaucrat pledged, on the night of Mayor Hewitt’s victory in October of 2010, “that he was going to get council’s advertising out of the Regional.”
There’s little doubt the paper had few friends on council: Activist Gary McHale, who wrote a column for the Regional for the past two and a half years, and two of his sh– disturber friends ran in that same election. (Mr. McHale didn’t write columns during the election, which was quite proper.) One of those friends, Merlyn Kindrade, routinely wrote and got his furious letters printed in the Regional.
Perhaps most importantly, the paper gave prominent coverage to Mr. McHale’s rallies, including a Jan. 27 one, coverage that was missing in action in the pages of the Sachem, though Mayor Hewitt’s column was there.
Believing the game was rigged against the Regional, the Pickups didn’t even respond to the county’s RFP. Though the municipality was one of the paper’s regular advertisers, as Ms. Pickup put it, “We were surviving fine without the county’s advertising.”
What they couldn’t survive at the same time was the loss of 13 pages of real estate ads every week to the Sachem’s new low prices.
She doesn’t see a plot here, as long-time advertisers melted away. “I think they were just responding to the rates,” she said.
In the end result, Caledonia has lost a brave and feisty voice, not to mention one which, as the Pickups wrote in their farewell to readers, correctly used the word “concomitant”.
On a personal note, it was the Pickups who offered the Regional offices for my book signing in Caledonia a couple of years ago. The book is about the disgraceful performance of the OPP and the Liberal provincial government during the occupation, and other, less courageous businesses in town were only too keen to keep their distance from both me and the book. So, condolences and thanks are due.