It’s been said that the most dangerous thing you can give a man is hope.
I would argue however, that “belief” will trump “hope” any day of the week.
After all, people have waged war in the name of their “beliefs”.
About two years ago, I had a dream… actually more of a concept that popped into my head. It was a concept for a new community paper.
I was working at The Northern Times at the time and wasn’t particularly happy with my lot in life. I felt like I was stuck in a rut and my work suffered for it.
People would routinely stop me at the grocery store, on the street and just about everywhere else you could think of to tell me how much they disliked the product and I frankly couldn’t blame them. Near the end, it the paper had become a shell of its former self.
Funny thing though, the more people piled on, the more that little concept that had popped into my head started making its way to the forefront of my mind.
It was really quite simple. I believed there was a way to bring the people along the Hwy. 11 corridor a newspaper they would enjoy again, as long as I could: a) Bring them a fully bilingual product and b) Bring them a product that was all local, all of the time.
As disenfranchised as I was and as much as I believed I had little to no control over what was going on, when the Northern Times closed, I don’t mind telling you my faith in my vision and my abilities was as shaken as a James Bond martini.
I felt defeated, like I had let the entire region down because the newspaper died on my watch. It weighed so heavy on me, that I went weeks without getting a decent night’s sleep.
That’s when I got a phone call from now town councilor Sebastien Lessard, asking me if I had considered starting a new paper.
Knowing that I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t at least try to bring the people of Kapuskasing and the surrounding area the newspaper I felt they wanted, needed and deserved, we, along with the Chamber of Commerce, set about putting a package together to pitch to potential partners.
From there, Lessard put me in touch with Claude Chabot, the General Manager of CKGN. Claude and I instantly gelled well and in August, we set about putting a plan in action to bring a newspaper back to Kapuskasing. The idea was pitched to the board of directors of Radio Kap Nord Communications Inc. and they decided to fund the project. Just like that, we were off to the races.
Together, Claude and I put together what we believed was the strongest collective of journalists possible, thus giving the newly-minted “La Presse Communautaire/The Community Press” the best chance to succeed. Chris St-Pierre, Nicoleta Blaja and Rémi St-Amand, all three of whom were on-air personalities at CKGN, offered their services for French-language writing and translation in their spare time. We also lined up a group of freelancers we believed would help make the project a success.
I already had the perfect people in mind to round out the full-time staff in Sylvie Genier and Nicole Veilleux, two of the most talented and dedicated people I had worked with at The Northern Times. They believed in my vision and quickly hopped onboard.
We were handed the ball and we ran with it. I may be biased, but I think our team scored a touchdown with the design and content of the product and I’m proud to say it. On a more personal note, it has been by far the most satisfying experience of my almost 20-year career and dare I say, my best work in that time frame.
Since the first edition hit doorsteps across the region, our days have been filled with nothing positivity and support from the communities we serve.
People have stopped each and every one of us frequently and commented on how great it was to have a newspaper in town again, how nice it looked and how much they appreciated the fact that it was fully bilingual and all local. They’ve applauded our efforts in a way that has truly been overwhelming and humbling.
Despite that, the product’s popularity with readers hasn’t translated to financial success, which led to last week’s announcement that the paper would be suspending operations indefinitely.
I’m not going to lie. I’m devastated… and even that isn’t nearly a strong enough word to describe my feelings.
I still believe with every fibre of my being, that the Highway 11 corridor wants, needs and deserves a newspaper.
I see a newspaper in this region as “the great uniter”. It is a way of not only knowing what is going on in your own town, but also a way to share in the triumphs and tribulations of neighbouring municipalities.
All of that being said, if this is my last foray in the media industry and by extension my last chance to address the masses, I’m thankful for having had the opportunity. I can go out knowing that our entire team poured their hearts and souls into this paper and produced what we believe was a great product.
Before I go though, there are some people I need to thank.
First and foremost, I want to thank my wife and daughter. Thank you for never complaining about all of the crazy hours I was putting in that kept me away from you guys. Thank you for putting up with the emotional roller coaster. Thank you for letting me chase my dream and believing in me and what I was trying to do.
Thank you as well to Sebastien Lessard, the Chamber of Commerce, Claude Chabot and the board of directors of Radio Kap Nord Communications Inc. for taking the concept that was in my head and putting it into the hands of the public.
I want to thank Nicole, Sylvie, Chris, Nicoleta and Rémi and everyone else who contributed to the paper.
I want to thank those merchants who showed their support for what we were trying to do by advertising in our publication.
Most of all I want to thank you, the readers for your kind words and support.
Your enthusiasm for the paper was contagious and fueled the staff’s desire to push harder and harder all the time in order to bring you the best product we could.
You told us you loved the paper and we loved bringing it to you, even if it was just for a short time.
Goodbye for now.