EDITOR – TODD LIHOU: Radio station cuts hurt, even at this office

Talk about a shocker.

Wednesday’s decision by Corus to axe its news department, sending three people, all of whom I considered friends, to the unemployment line, sucks. There’s no other way to put it.

For the first time in nearly 70 years the local radio station in Cornwall will not have a news division – hardly the endgame owners of CJSS had when it went on the air back in the 1940s.

It was, I am told, a decision based solely on economics. People, apparently, are getting their news from other sources. The internet, we can all safely assume.

I guess it means no one is untouchable, because thecornwalldaily.com was our chief online competition here at Seaway News, and they did a helluva job.

I often spoke with news director Bill Kingston about how our two websites were often duking it out to break news first.

It felt weird to have the radio going at noon today, and hear only the sounds of Huey Lewis and the News, instead of the voices of either Kingston, Jesse Tieman or Kasia Mazun.

The strategy at the station now, according to general manager Mark Dickie, will be to include news broadcasts during the breakfast shows of both 101.9 and 104.5, but that will constitute the bulk of their news presence.

Without anyone actually collecting news, one can safely assume they’ll be using wire copy, and stealing from the rest of us, to report the comings and goings of Cornwall and area.

The thievery is fine with me. Journalism is an exercise in stealing. We constantly check to see what the other guy has, to make sure we aren’t missing anything.

But this speaks to the decline of journalism in small cities. It probably doesn’t mean very much to the guy who stocks the shelves at SCM for $14 an hour, but it should.

Newspapers have been grappling with the decline of the business for years. When I started in this business we had six reporters at the Standard-Freeholder, and five editors.

I think they’re down to something like three and three at the Freeholder today, with whispers of more cuts on the horizon.

Rumour has it there could come a day when the local daily has nothing but reporters in the newsroom. Apparently in Belleville, at The Intelligencer, there are no longer newspaper editors. People in Kingston call the shots in Belleville, and what few reporters  left are working in a rudderless office.

Why should this matter to the guy I mentioned before, who stocks shelves at SCM?

He wants to know why the police had a portion of a city street closed down. He wants to know why his property taxes are increasing. And he wants to know about the little boy around the corner, whose family is organizing a fundraiser because he is battling cancer.

Those types of stories are our bread and butter. And they’re important in small communities like Cornwall.

Do you really think the Ottawa Sun, the Citizen or CTV News are going to send reporters down here for those types of stories?

No way – because they’re suffering too.

I get that companies must remain profitable, shareholders demand a return on their investment and sometimes the revenue isn’t there.

But in this case, Corus got it wrong, and has done Cornwall and the surrounding community a disservice.

That’s not to say this community will go without local news and opinion when it wants it. Our news operation has never been stronger, in fact we have added staff and columnists in the last year.

The stories that matter to you will be faithfully reported at cornwallseawaynews.com, and in our printed product, without hesitation.

But to suggest that today, kinda feels like I’m kicking some friends while they’re down.

I’m going to miss Bill, Jesse and Kasia. And I’m guessing you will too.

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