30 – Lambton’s oldest weekly closes

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The oldest weekly newspaper in Lambton County is closed.

The owner of The Lambton-Middlesex Standard, Dale Hayter, told his readers via email Tuesday they would no longer be producing what had become a PDF of the newspaper mailed to homes each week. Five people worked at the paper.

The Standard is the amalgamation of four community newspapers in the region. 

In the 1970, the Glencoe Transcript purchased the Alvinston Advocate. That Glencoe newspaper later merged with the Watford Guide in the 2000s. 

Hayter took over The Forest Standard, which he purchased from the Boyd Family in 1990s. After some financial struggles, the Guide Advocate and The Standard merged into the Standard Guide Advocate. Four years later, the Parkhill paper – which the Hayter family owned for decades – merged with the group and it became known as the Lambton-Middlesex Standard.

Hayter says even then, times were tough for newspaper as social media and the Internet expanded rapidly.

“When I bought for standard 1990, we were 36 to 40 pages religiously every week. But that’s before the internet really took off.”

Things got worse during the pandemic. Hayter immediately began delivering the news to his customers via email, concerned about the spread of the virus and the lack of sales to pay for rising print costs.

The decision was originally “just to get help get through the COVID situation because I knew that, you know, you can’t blame these small businesses, (who normally bought advertising) they were shut down. Why would they advertise? I think at the end of the day it was the perfect storm.”

The economics of printing a newspaper grew worse in 2021 as print prices shot up during a shortage of paper. And some of his oldest readers stopped subscribing, not wanting to adjust to using a computer.

As the paper struggled both financially and with trying to cover news in a very broad region with limited resources, Hayter, who had a kidney transplant just before the pandemic, started asking some tough questions about his business.

“At my age, I’m not going to keep funding this with my own money. It’s just not paying for itself …Well, it may pay for itself, but I’m not getting anywhere… So at the end of the day I just said, that’s enough. You know what I mean, I just pulled the plug.”

Hayter says the decision to move away from print in the pandemic, and then to close were gut-wrenching.

“I’ll be honest with you that one of the hardest things I ever had to do…My mom and dad owned the Parkhill paper. 

“I mean, I grew up around the newspaper. I have the ink running through my veins. And the hardest thing to do was there two or three years ago, when COVID hit that I decided to get out of print – that was even harder.”

The closure of The Standard Guide Advocate leaves only two community newspapers which serve Lambton County, The Independent and Post Media’s Sarnia This Week. Post Media also serves the Grand Bend area with a weekly based in Exeter.

Last month, The Sarnia Journal, which began publishing in 2014, moved away from print as well and became an online publication.