Ads bought by Black Press community newspaper readers – Dave Stephen in the the Chilliwack Progress, Chad Skelton in Peace Arch News, and Josh Reynolds in the Abby News – has sparked a discussion about the importance of local journalism in these challenging times amid the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. (Chilliwack Progress, Peace Arch News, Abby News)

Ads bought by Black Press community newspaper readers – Dave Stephen in the the Chilliwack Progress, Chad Skelton in Peace Arch News, and Josh Reynolds in the Abby News – has sparked a discussion about the importance of local journalism in these challenging times amid the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. (Chilliwack Progress, Peace Arch News, Abby News)

COLUMN: Abbotsford citizen’s full-page ad sparks community journalism discussion

If you are holding a copy of the Abbotsford News right now, you know that it came to your doorstep or mailbox or apartment lobby and it didn’t cost you a penny.

You may have noticed a somewhat unusual full-page ad on page 15 in the April 9 edition. It was purchased not by a company selling a product or service, or by a community agency or branch of government trying to relay information.

It was bought by Abbotsford resident Josh Reynolds.

It said only: “I only bought this ad to support local news. (You should get one too) #localnewsmatters – Josh Reynolds.”

Reynolds purchased the ad out of his own pocket in a move similar to that of former Vancouver Sun reporter, now a journalism instructor, Chad Skelton who bought a page one ad in the Peace Arch News, his community newspaper in White Rock.

• READ MORE: Peace Arch News ad sparks discussion about value of community newspapers

That spawned half a dozen others to do the same, and the sharing of Skelton’s ad prompted community member Dave Stephen to follow suit in one of our sister papers, The Chilliwack Progress.

Community newspapers are in the unique position of being businesses, but we also serve a real and important community good, a community need.

Studies show that community newspaper readership is very high particularly in small and medium-sized communities. That’s because, if you want to find out what the provincial or federal government is doing, there are many sources, from national newspapers to broadcast TV to radio to big-city dailies, and the websites of those media outlets. If you want to find out if Abbotsford city council will approve that large housing development down the road, or what sentences are handed out at the Abbotsford courthouse, you will only find that here.

So why did Reynolds buy an ad?

“I bought this ad for two reasons,” Reynolds told me. “One, I believe in supporting the things I value. Since the Abby News doesn’t have subscriptions, buying an ad is the easiest way I can directly support their work. More broadly, I wanted to encourage others to do the same. I know other people value their work; my hope is that they realize you don’t have to be a big business to financially support it.

“Unfortunately, local papers are almost entirely supported by advertising revenue, which is quickly drying up as businesses are forced to shut down. This means that, as their work becomes more important and valuable, they are earning less revenue to provide it.”

Rick O’Connor, president and CEO of Black Press Media – the parent company of The Abbotsford News – explained that the current economic crisis is difficult for community papers that rely so heavily on advertising revenue, both in print and online.

Company revenue dropped 40 to 50 per cent in late March, he said.

Though the details for each newspaper are different, as a ballpark figure, the cost to print and deliver each edition is 25 cents per copy – a number that does not include overhead or staffing costs. The circulation of The News is 33,533.

“The double-whammy for newspapers is that the government considers them an essential service, and so they should be, but by the same token, good local journalism costs money.”

These are historic and challenging times, but we will get past this and continue to serve the community while running our business.

Citizens buying ads may be a symbolic gesture to help us along that path, but we think it’s a great one.

“Abby News, and local journalism in general, has always been important to me, but even more so during COVID-19,” Reynolds said. “Having journalists who can identify the local impact and needs is unbelievably important to the vitality of our city.”

Stay safe and be kind.

Paul Henderson is the editor of The Chilliwack Progress.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Some of the hundreds of pounds of trash removed by divers last month from Abbotsford’s Walmsley Lake.(Henry Wang photo)
VIDEO: Divers remove 462 pounds of trash from Abbotsford lake

Walmsley Lake dive uncovers several tires, hundreds of drink containers and a tent

Comedian and ventriloquist Jeff Dunham is scheduled to bring his Seriously? tour to Abbotsford Centre on Nov. 4 after it was cancelled twice in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Jeff Dunham’s ‘Seriously?’ tour rescheduled for Abbotsford Centre

Show set for Nov. 4 after twice being cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
Harrison woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Once a star player with the University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team, Kayli Sartori is moving into a new role coaching the next generation of Cascades. (UFV photo)
Chilliwack’s Kayli Sartori goes from court to coach with UFV basketball Cascades

Sartori is taking a new path as part of the U-Sports female basketball apprentice coaching program

Once again Fraser East is among the health service delivery areas with the highest rate of COVID-19 transmission in the province. (Datawrapper)
Fraser East sees third highest rate of COVID-19 cases in B.C.

The region is seeing a sustained increase in new COVID-19 cases

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Trent Miner is returning to the Vancouver Giants, the team announced. He has been released by the Colorado Eagles of the AHL.(Rik Fedyck/Vancouver Giants)
Trent Miner returns to play goal for Vancouver Giants

Netminder was part of epic 11-game winning-streak by Langley-based team

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complains about that condo

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. A joint federal and B.C. government housing program announced today aims to help people living in up to 25,000 vulnerable households pay their rent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Federal, B.C. governments announce $517-million rent aid program to help vulnerable

Benefits for those not eligible for B.C.’s Rental Assistance Program or Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Is it safe to give your dog some peanut butter? Not always, BC SPCA warns

Some commercial peanut butter ingredients can be harmful to dogs

Most Read