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They can dissolve The Kingston Local, but not Kingston’s local journalism

A stack of notebooks salvaged from the Metroland-Postmedia “asset-swap” and subsequent closure of local publications in 2017. Photo by Tori Stafford.

It has happened again.

Like a bad recurring nightmare that one attempts to keep at bay, we sat in our shocked-unshocked-ness, wondering how it would all play out… knowing full well how it all played out.

On Monday, April 26, 2021, The Kingston Local, a Kingston-based publication, was shuttered by Metroland Media, a division of the TorStar Corporation. By the end of the day, the publication – which had been touted by its publishers as “hyper-local Kingston news” dedicated to keeping Kingstonians informed – was gone. And when I say gone, I mean gone. Try finding it: No website, no social media, no trace of the articles that once were (and therefore hard work put in by the journalists behind them).

And it had only been, what, a year? Just over? About that.

Sadly, it wasn’t a surprise to us. In fact, that may be the saddest part, apart from the journalists suddenly left jobless in the middle of a pandemic and Kingston finding itself, yet again, with one less news source. We expected it. We didn’t want it, in fact, none of us have ever wanted to see our community served by fewer news sources – that’s why we purchased and rebuilt Kingstonist some three+ years ago on the precise model Metroland touted: hyper-local Kingston news.

“We” is Cris Vilela, A.J. Keilty, and I, Tori Stafford. We’re the three publishers behind Kingstonist, and there are plenty of reasons we were not surprised at the news about The Kingston Local. Even its complete erasure, as though it had never existed… that was something Cris and I expected for another reason.

In late 2017, Cris and I both worked for Metroland Media, under the direction of Hollie Pratt-Campbell, Editor of both the Kingston Heritage and the Frontenac Gazette. These two weekly publications served the vast majority of the KFL&A region, free of charge to readers. I’d been there over a year, and Cris had been freelancing for about two years at that point. I remember where I was when Hollie called me: three-quarters of the way to North Frontenac for a meeting with a source for an upcoming article. Hollie told me to come back to the office. I argued, but when she repeated herself, I knew. I’d already lost multiple newspaper jobs due to downsizing. I recognized the tone in her voice.

I expected to return to the office, but not my job. What I didn’t expect was that Metroland would completely close both publications. And no one expected what happened next.

With one remaining print news publication in Kingston, Metroland, in a deal with Postmedia, completely erased all history of these two publications’ existence – no website, no social media, no trace of the articles that once were. (Keep in mind that a journalist’s past work is their tangible professional history; without access to previous articles written, there’s no evidence of the hard work put in by the journalists who researched, wrote, and edited them.) We had a matter of hours to load our files onto jump drives and vacate the office. I didn’t even manage to salvage 1/5 of the content, files, and documents I had saved on the company computer. And, just like that, it was as if Kingston never had those two news publications.

We can’t fully know what those writers who’d been employed with The Kingston Local felt in the moment their publication was dissolved, with no prior indication their jobs would be ending, and the sudden realization that their past work – apart from any copies they’d saved – was gone. But we can certainly empathize, because we know how we had felt. And we remember what the optics looked like: just another media conglomerate with headquarters far from our community that cares more about their corporation than the purported objective of keeping local news alive. Just another group of writers whose talents weren’t valued and supported properly. Just another team of local eyes, minds, and insights that the community will lose.

Yes, it has happened again.

And just like the three of us behind the re-envisioning of Kingstonist wouldn’t sit back and let it happen without action three years ago, we decided that we wouldn’t let it happen now either.

In an attempt to retain the talents that could so easily have been lost with the evanescence of Kingston Local, we here at Kingstonist thought, “What if we welcome them to our platform?”

Over the past few weeks, you may have noticed a number of new authors’ names appearing on Kingstonist articles as we’ve slowly worked to bring these talented Kingston-based writers on board — Michelle Dorey Forestell, Yona Harvey, Zoha Khalid, Jill Pineau, Stefan Strangman, and Jamie Swift. Many of these are journalists and writers Kingston may have otherwise lost. Instead, they remain here, using their training and skill-sets to help us better serve our readers with expanded content. They’re officially part of Team Kingstonist, and we couldn’t be more pleased to welcome them.

So, if you happen upon a Kingstonist article that surprises and entertains you, if you find yourself turning to us for breaking news or the latest COVID-19 updates, or if you just want more of Kingston’s talented writers doing what they do best without the threat of a far-off corporate head-office closing yet another publication without notice, please support Kingstonist. To those of you who already support Kingstonist: Thank you. We could not do what we do without you.

We always have and will remain rooted in this community, writing about this community, for everyone in this community.

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5 thoughts on “They can dissolve The Kingston Local, but not Kingston’s local journalism

  • May 19, 2021 at 10:15 pm
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    I’m so happy to support the Kingstonist. My husband was a reporter for The Whig many years ago and he and I mourn the loss of a daily newspaper (not even that anymore) that no longer represents Kingston in any way. We need local news because there’s literally nothing left on paper, tv or the internet that actually reports the true local news! I don’t think a newspaper is necessary (they’re expensive and the wood usage is no longer viable.) But we do need something that says Kingston. I wish you all a long and successful career!

  • May 20, 2021 at 10:42 am
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    Thanks for this Tori.
    Keep fighting the good fight and please send my best to Hollie.
    We did good work, in our previous iterations under the Metroland banner – an outfit we (naively) thought was a decent, committed newspaper chain – and it’s heartening to see you’ve kept the torch held high.
    Good luck with Kingstonist and I happily bought a subscription this morning after reading this piece!
    Cheers

  • May 20, 2021 at 1:16 pm
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    I am a person who does support the Kingstonist as I enjoy local news. Kingstonians have been lacking in such since the Heritage vanished a few years ago. At that time friends agreed that we had lost a valuable news outlet and did not understand why. This above article now outlines what has occurred and shows how once again Goliath has done the dirty work. Please keep going Kingstonist.

  • May 20, 2021 at 1:47 pm
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    I support the Kingstonist and am very happy with the content and hard work all of you have dedicated to Kingston.

  • May 21, 2021 at 11:47 am
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    I have supported you almost from the start. What a shame and a disgrace that Post Media refers to the Kingston Whig Standard as a community only newspaper. This is a quote from an email response when I questioned why I could not access online content – and was a full daily subscriber to print -“Our community newspapers do not include Online access. Kingston Whig Standard is considered as community newspaper, and it focus on Toronto and around centric articles”. So if it is a community newspaper – why focus on Toronto? I then told me “Congratulations you purchased a fine, well-respected publication and have ground into a worthless piece of paper.” Keep up the good work!

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