The Guelph Mercury: An old friend passes and we are the less for it

By Gerry Barker

Posted January 25, 2016

I guessed last year when the Mercury presses were moved to Hamilton that the newspaper may close. Love it or ignore it, the Merc has been a key news source in our city since Confederation in 1867.

While the bulk of local advertising went to the Guelph Tribune, it spelled trouble for the six-day a week daily to sustain its existence. My condolences go to the staff of 23 fulltime employees, eight of whom were editorial writers and editors. A fine pool of talent managed by Phil Andrews.

I expect Metroland to find homes for these talented people who have performed their job under trying conditions. The bean counters decided that Metroland would be financially better off.

Other’s affected are the members of the Community Editorial Board whose variety of opinions were a cheap way to fill the space. Most of that group was writing self -serving pieces but not all, there were some levl-headed members who wrote balanced points of view and did it well.

Missed, will be the locally paid columnists such as veteran newsman, Geoffry Stevens, Owen Roberts and Michael Strickland.

Remember that the Letters to the Editor feature will pass on and no longer provide space for individual opinions. Instead, the only letters content will be in the twice weekly Tribune, with space to print no more than three of or four each issue. That’s a far cry from the Merc’s letters, space that published sometimes 24 letters a week.

But here’s the real fallout of this corporate decision to close a daily newspaper: In the business, the space provided for news and opinion is referred to as “the newshole.” That means the rest of the page space is for advertising.

This is what happened to our Mercury.

The editorial staff filled its space allotment every day. But the advertising space kept shrinking putting more pressure on editorial to fill the remaining space, thereby reducing the nember of pages each day.

Our Mercury has been on a page diet ever since Metroland bought the paper.

The corporate strategy of Metroland, a subsidiary of Torstar, owners of the Toronto Star, has driven the newspaper to oblivion, through patronizing the former Farbridge administration for some eight years. The result is the paper was way behind the wave of pubic rejection of that administration. The civic election results of 2014 were obviously the harbinger of the death of the Mercury.

The reason was the Metroland decision to support the former administration was to protect the estimated $500,000 a year advertising contract with the Guelph Tribune to buy city-paid space in the name of “City News.”

The Mercury editorial was instructed to support the Farbridge administration up to the election, despite the the loss of some $23 million, buidling the new city hall following a lawsuit for wrongful dismissal brought by the general contractor of the project.

In those days running up to the civic election last October, the Mercury, in its editorials, questioned the management of the city hall project’s cost overruns.

So what’s the fallout of this decisions to shut down our daily newspaper?

A friend and space is gone. A platform for personal expression is gone. An essential part of community is gone.

Oh well, only an estimated 9,000 subscribers really care if you believe the Metroland corporate decision.

It all occurred right under our very noses.

The rush is at city hall to force citizens to rely on city propaganda. It is being pumped out daily on the Internet by a large staff in the public-financed city communications department. It is presumed that it is sufficient to meet the balanced news of a multi-dimensional, community,

No, it isn’t

We know the power of the Internet. But not everyone is connected. It doesn’t provide sufficient public critique of action taken by the city on its website.

Our democratic right is to ask, challenge, demand answers and influence our elected members of various legislative bodies.

Today, we lost that ability with the death of the Mercury.

Finally, our Mercury delivery lady, Marla, presented our Mercury every day. We oten chatted with her at the front door and she was a credit to her employer. She was like a daughter to us but a corporate decision comes home and we won’t see her at our doorstep now. Just another victim of corporate action.

This decision was nother but a naked corporate exploition of a small community that cannot fight back.










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