How the Mercury Tribune rations online access to its website content

By Gerry Barker

July 2, 2019


How low can the Tribune stoop to deny full access to its online news?

In all the years of working in the news business, I have never witnessed a newspaper reject access of its online content that has already been published.

Is it possible they are building a list of future subscribers?

Here is what the organization that owns the weekly newspaper demands before you can access content online. This is reproduced from the Mercury Tribune online website under the heading “Local News.”

Unless you aren’t registered to receive the complete story online, the following is posted on the Mercury Tribune’s website:

HEADING -Guelph could phase out vacant property tax discount by 2021Currently, vacant and excess commercial and industrial lands see 30% discount on property taxes

News Jun 26, 2019 Guelph Mercury

In a report to council, city staff is proposing to phase out the 30-per-cent property tax discount for vacant and excess commercial and industrial properties by 2021. – Dreamtime

Owners of vacant commercial and vacant properties may soon have to start paying the same tax rates as others in the city.

According to a report to be presented to councillors at their July 2 meeting of committee of the whole, city staff are recommending that the property tax discount for vacant and excess commercial and industrial lands be phased out over the next two years. (Balance of  the article is blanked out)

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Torstar is the corporation that owns the Toronto Star and Metroland Publishing that owns the Mercury Tribune. Now, you may ask, why is there an arbitrary limit to access the full article online, as published free every Thursday?

Am I the only reader who has reached his article limit? Perhaps the Tribune management should explain why the restriction online access is only to those who register.

This is a form of public information censorship that only one major advertiser would request.

The only advertiser who resen any criticism of its operations by is the City of Guelph administration.

The Tribune refuses to label the city administration’s weekly ads labeled “City News” when, in fact, it is advertising and not labeled as such. The kicker is that these “City News” ads are paid with public funds.

Now some of the “City News” content, as published weekly in the Tribun includes legal notices that are required to be published. It remains advertising and not news. Missing is the city logo. Wonder why?

But that does not excuse the city spending thousands of public funds to pretend the content is legitimate news. Perhaps the following Tribune statement urging readers to register to get their news online explains it:

“Please register to support the local, relevant news you need from a source you trust.”

Two words stick out from this statement, ‘support’ and ‘trust.’

Believe me, I know from personal experience that both those words can mean the opposite.

I can only comment about the Tribune statement using the expression, ‘support local, relevant news you need.’ It’s not only an untrue premise but a deceptive way to disguise the Tribune’s real intent to support the administration’s point of view.

This comes down to trust.

How can the thousands of citizens who receive the free ad-heavy Mercury Tribune each week trust the content? More important why is the city paying to print only one side of the story produced by the city’s communications department?

I know what it has cost me to defend my right to speak freely as outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights.

It comes down to public participation in government affairs without the threat of litigation to prevent it.

This concerns every citizen to be able to access information and comment on it wuthout the threat of costly retaliation.

Opinions matter.

One final question to ask yourself: Would you have voted to merge Guelph Hydro with Alectra Utilities in December 2017?

Well, ten elected members of council did and that sealed the deal.

That was the most lurid misuse of the public trust that this city has endured in the past 13 years.

Trust is not just a five-letter word.





Filed under Between the Lines

6 responses to “How the Mercury Tribune rations online access to its website content

  1. I think all Torstar online news publications are going in this direction. When the Orangeville Banner recently introduced the exact same mechanism to require registration before you could read as many news articles per month, I told them I would refuse to do that.

    The idea of some news organization tracking what stories I might find interesting is repugnant to me. How that “supports” local journalism, is beyond me and is likely an irrational and emotive statement – you know – the same sort of thing that “fake news” is made of.

  2. boomer828

    No readers, no advertising, No advertising, no revenue.

  3. Barry Smith

    I gave up Gerry on the Tribune as each time I commented I had to create a password. The next time I wanted to comment it would not recognize that password so again create a new one. And also it disgusted me being told I had reached my limit of reading. I try now to just stick to Guelph Today.
    As another topic are you aware that Staff have recommended (not yet before Council) to disband the two Environmental Advisory Committees? They feel we restrict the process of pushing new development. Without us two developers and consultants will have clear sailing. They do propose that some of our members could be part of another committee. Seems to be staff are attempting to secure their jobs. Both Committees have multitudes of experienced volunteers but the staff feel they have that knowledge covered now with existing staff.

    • Barry Smith: Your first point confirms that the Tribune protects its large advertising account paid by the public. The editorial content reflects the alliance with the city administration. Pity, I always liked feisty tabloids but this isn’t one of them.

  4. LM

    Yea they completely lost credibility in the 2018 municipal election.

    Brian Holsteins an idiot, condemning Jason Dodge for criticising Phil Allt. Holstien doesn’t realize we have the right to criticize government officials. If he doesn’t like it he should move to some middle eastern country where that sort of thing gets people arrested.

    Alan Pickersgill is another idiot complains Cam campaigned with people, yet Farbridge did the same thing, his article started off strong citing lack of diversity on council then fell apart but apparently to progressives it’s okay to be racist if a visible minority isn’t progressive.

  5. LM

    Use incognito mode in chrome if you want to check Guelph Mercury Tribune

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