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Black Press closes five small-town papers

After a burst of newspaper purchases in the B.C. Interior, Victoria-based Black Press has closed down papers: the Nelson Daily News and its companion Kootenay Weekender, the Prince Rupert Daily News, the Quesnel Advisor and the 100-Mile House Advisor.

Reaction from the media community has been largely negative. The Canadian Association of Journalists said in a news release that it is "disappointed" by the decision:

The CAJ is concerned about the livelihoods of more than 50 employees who will lose their jobs between now and Sept. 3. In addition, the residents of those four communities will suffer. They'll lose a voice that has kept them informed about their community and reflected their lives through local coverage.

"We're not ignorant of the challenging economic conditions that exist for media owners. But we're disappointed and saddened by this decision that will reduce the quantity and quality of journalism available to residents in these communities," CAJ president Mary Agnes Welch said. "People in these communities knew they could seek out several perspectives and several opinions on what was happening around them. Now they will get fewer perspectives and opinions."

The Media Union of B.C. reported on July 5 that the Prince Rupert and Nelson papers were closing. Then on July 7 it linked to a Business in Vancouver report on the total of five closures.

Reaction on the papers themselves was restrained. At the Nelson Daily News, the headline was "After 109 years, NDN's run over":

After 109 years in business, The Nelson Daily News is folding, closing its historic doors for good.

And with that, the Heritage City will no longer lay claim to being one of Canada’s smallest communities with its very own daily newspaper.

Most of the 25 workers who’ll be without jobs before summer’s end received word of the imminent closure first thing Monday morning, after a whirlwind of major moves in the Kootenay newspaper market over the previous week.

In Prince Rupert, the headline was: "Final days at the Daily News:

Staff learned of the sale on Friday and of the closure Monday morning.

A spokesperson from Black Press informed employees at the Daily News that the paper was no longer economically viable due to significant financial losses and declining circulation over a number of years as well as the economic conditions within the industry.

The sale and closure came as a shock to the paper’s employees, who are members of the CEP 2000 union.

The Daily News has been published daily since 1911, but began in 1909 as the Prince Rupert Optimist.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Black Press's own website had no news of the purchases and closures, and its links to its papers did not include other new acquisitions like the Trail Daily Times and the Fernie Free Press.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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