Councillors weigh in on newspapers purchase, formation of SaltWire

Premier Stephen McNeil speaks to a crowd member prior to a funding announcement for CCOA in Enfield on Feb. 21. (Healey photo)

BEAVER BANK: The sale of 27 community newspapers previously owned by Transcontinental Media across Atlantic Canada to SaltWire Network, the parent company of The Chronicle Herald, has left local councillors with mixed feelings.

Lisa Blackburn, the HRM councillor for District 14 (Upper/Middle Sackville-Lucasville-Beaver Bank) and a former journalist, said the news came as a surprise.

“It makes me incredibly sad,” said Blackburn on April 17 about her reaction to the news. “I know many of the journalists who are on strike and know it’s been a real struggle for them.

“For their employer who has cried poor, has said the industry is dying and they have this laundry list of demands and cuts to make the paper viable, to all of a sudden and scoop up dozens of other newspapers in a takeover.

“It just really reveals their true nature as a company.”

District 1 councillor Steve Streatch said the whole situation has left him with mixed feelings. He knows a lot of the reporters who are on strike for more than a year now, and continuing in their trade with Local Xpress.

“I think they are doing the best they can to stand up for what they believe is right,” he said.

Streatch said he’s not sure the consolidation of media as done in the acquisition of the community papers from TC Media by the Herald and the creation of SaltWire is a good thing for consumers.

“I know the level of reporting in the Herald over the last number of months has gone down significantly and it’s been commented to me by members of the public, wondering what has happened to our provincial and local newspaper,” said Streatch. “It concerns me greatly where the owners are taking that paper.”

He spoke of having met Graham Dennis, the former owner of the Herald, many years ago.

“I’m not sure how he would interpret the current events at his newspaper,” said Streatch.

Streatch said his father had a good relationship with the Herald during his days as a politician, describing it as a “stoic approach and was a very respected news source across N.S.”

He said he has not had any interviews with anyone from the Herald, but wouldn’t say if he’s off limits to their reporters.

“Am I taking a stand in support of local journalists? Possibly,” he said. “At the same time the Herald has not dug in deeply like they used to and has not had the same level of service to the community.

“That disappoints me. It kind of makes me sad.”