The demise of newspapers and one retired journalist plea to reclaim his

J.W. (Bill) Fitsell was a reporter, editor and columnist with the Kingston Whig Standard from 1961 to 1994.

This is a letter he wrote to the editor of the newspaper. It’s not clear if it was published. But he has asked that it be distributed through social media.

Here it is:

How long are Kingstonians going to wait before they open their windows and their minds and shout: “I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO STAND IT ANY LONGER!”

I refer not to a political issue but a business one — the systematic strangulation of a once great newspaper — The Kingston Whig-Standard.
 It’s been said that a community gets the kind of a newspaper it deserves. Kingston, in the days when the Davies family were publishers, got a newspaper better than it deserved.
In recent years, the city has received a daily newspaper that it doesn’t deserve — a pale imitation of what it once was. When are Kingstonians going to stand up and say, “Enough is enough!” and tell Quebecor to shape up or ship out.
Readers have seen this once fine newspaper dwindle in size, quality and respect as advertising and pagination departments were eviscerated. Under various corporations, we have seen flashes of occasional good journalism, sharp sports, books, food and photographic work, but broad community coverage has disappeared or been abandoned to related weeklies.
“Local” seems to be a foreign word to corporate editors and first-hand “District” reports are replaced by “canned copy” clipped from nearby members of the chain.
Over-sized photographs, “Second Coming Type” headlines, coloured comics in profusion and chain stories that were once denigrated as “boiler plate” fill reams of space.
Whig publishers and editors, some of them with more than 30 years service, are dismissed without “a bang or a whimper.” Other talents disappear into the night. “Never explain, never apologize” seems to the company credo. How could Quebecor explain its recent niggardly decision to cut off a free newspaper for each staff member?
All we hear from the corporate owners is: “It’s a country-wide problem — declining readership and revenues.” Downsizing — a nice word for firing — is the only answer.
The piece de resistance came a few weeks ago when Quebecor, with its usual spin, announced the closing of printing plants in Kingston and Ottawa. One had to read Canada’s National Newspaper to learn that 40 jobs would be lost in this city (Kingston). This is scheduled to happen in mid-January, 2013.
Can you imagine this city (Kingston) — once its first capital — being without a printing press for the first time in 200 years — and the skilled and related jobs that go with printing and distributing a daily newspaper and numerous other publications?
Two years ago, at a Later Life Learning lecture, some of Kingston’s most learned men and women commiserated about the decline of The Whig-Standard. One distinguished professor even joshed about a “Take Back The Whig” movement. There was no “Les Miserable” rallying cry to the barricades.
The Whig has been very good to me over the years from hot metal days to computer composition and it pains me to see jobs shipped out of Kingston. Is there one vibrant voice left to lead a fight to save Kingston and its daily press? If “social media” are one reason for the decline in dailies, maybe this internet service can be utilized to help revive it.
On Nov. 28, the day that Kingston’s early newspaper history was reviewed on its Forum page, I was one of 28 members of the Whig-Standard Retirees Association at an informal luncheon who briefly discussed the sad situation of seeing our once-proud paper continue to wither despite the energy and dedicated efforts of the surviving employees. These retirees, who enjoyed “The Golden Years” of the Whig agreed that one last “kick at the corporate can” is worth a try.
Quebecor should face-up to its sorry “Sun-Standard” record and explain why it can’t maintain Kingston as a key Eastern Ontario corps-unit of its publishing empire.
Otherwise, the January printing plant closing (and printing of the Whig in Toronto) will result in earlier news deadlines, weaker news coverage and delayed deliveries for this region. Hardly a boost for circulation.
I don’t expect this letter to appear on the editorial page, but it will be copied and broadcast by emails, Facebook and Twitter, etc. Please join in and help spread the word. Maybe it will encourage Mr. (Pierre) Peladeau to come out from behind his Laurentian Curtain and explain his “Profits Before People” policy. Kingston and the Whig deserve better — much better.
Respectfully submitted,
J.W. (Bill) Fitsell)
This letter came to me through a newsletter written for “Freeps and Press Club survivors”
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3 thoughts on “The demise of newspapers and one retired journalist plea to reclaim his

  1. Extremely important issue.
    A single local paper is the face of the community.
    It is time London’s chain newspaper looked at itself including its
    website and considered what can be done locally to offset the
    corporate overseers.
    At least start a good natured Corrections/Clarifications section
    in the hope of increasing the literacy level.
    The press and other media have come a long way technically since
    those days of hot lead- let’s hope this form of circulating Mr. Fitsell’s
    message takes off – and that someone in the province next door is
    listening. The press is protected here, and those who make fortunes
    in the field have a duty to earn it.

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