COLUMN: Changing to try to keep ahead of the COVID-19 curve

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There are some big changes coming to journalism and some will be devastating to communities across Ontario.

Local journalism – which plays a critical role providing trusted information about what is going on in your community – has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Journalism, by and large, is funded by advertising and when everyone’s business is closed, there aren’t a lot of advertisers. Advertising revenue has fallen through the floor with losses between 30 and 70 per cent across Ontario. And you see the results already.

A new study shows across the nation since March 13, 50 media outlets have closed, some temporarily, some permanently. Twenty-seven of those outlets are in Ontario.

Just in Lambton County, two of the three independent newspapers have altered their printing schedule. The Independent is the only one still printing every week to keep you informed. But, like everyone else, we’re hurting, too. And we’re worried about the future. We know there will be newspapers close because of this. But, with a little ingenuity, a little luck and fast thinking by industry leaders The Independent hopes to be one of the lucky ones.

First, we’re still working hard to give you the information you need – including who is open and closed and what public services are available.

We’re also making it easier to see all that information. We’ve recently redesigned our website, something that was in the works since January. The new design makes it easier to find what you’re looking for and soon, you’ll be able to read the entire paper online.
By May 1, we’ll be installing a paywall, and for less than you would buy a yearly subscription, you can subscribe online to get up to the minute news and the full version of the newspaper.

And lastly, our partners at the Ontario Community Newspaper Association have set up a website which allows you to support the continuation of local journalism with a donation. The website – www.ocnf.org – allows you to directly donate to your local paper and receive a tax receipt.

If this pandemic has proven anything, it is that we need accurate, local information now more than ever. We think the changes were making will allow us to continue doing that for our communities.