Updated: Apr 22, 2020
It is a heart wrenching decision.
Not once in The Low Down to Hull and Back News’ 47 years of publishing a weekly newspaper have we ever shut down for anything other than a planned Christmas vacation. But never in those 47 years have we undergone a pandemic that has forced almost the entire world to grind to a halt.
The strain of COVID-19 has proven to be too much for this family-run newspaper to bear, both financially and in the simple pragmatics of producing an edition every week. We have lost most of our regular advertising following the business shutdowns, and many on our team have small children at home to care for since the schools closed. Getting this weekly newspaper out into readers’ hands every week is more than a full time job, even at the best of times.
Our team has worked diligently to get the critical information out to readers since the outbreak of COVID-19; we are aware that we are a vital connection to the English minority language community and the Gatineau Hills needs us now more than ever. But we can’t run on fumes.
For this reason, we are shutting down for a three-week period, and look forward to returning mid-May. Like every business affected by COVID-19, we are taking stock and exploring different ways to deliver the news.
We are not alone in our difficult decision. Facing disappearing revenues with continuing high costs of publishing, other newspapers in Quebec are being forced to close permanently or temporarily shut down. The region’s francophone daily, Le Droit, laid off most of its staff and is publishing once per week, and two other weekly papers in Montreal and Hudson have stopped publishing or will soon. As the Quebec Community Newspaper Association’s president Lily Ryan put it: “These shutdowns are a test run for life without local newspapers."
The Government of Quebec has done an excellent job with paid campaigns in local papers that inform readers about many aspects of dealing with COVID-19. MPs of the region have also advertised locally to the great benefit of readers. Those ads are what has kept The Low Down going during this crisis. Our industry is hopeful an Emergency Aid package to publishers will be approved to help local papers, especially in precarious communities such as the minority-language ones across Canada. It will make all the difference to weeklies like the Low Down to keep doing what we do best - be a steady voice for our community.
This decision to pause publication is one that has caused me great personal anguish as publisher and owner who has been involved, even as a kid, in our family-run newspaper since my parents started it in 1973. We are a small, dedicated team that puts our hearts and souls into producing this labour of love every week, and we take our responsibility to keep our readers informed and connected very seriously. We love our community, and we hope you love us enough to come back to our pages when we re-emerge. We will take this time to review our plans and regain our energy with a goal of publishing our next print edition on May 13. In the meantime, we will stay connected and do our best to keep the community informed of ongoing important news and issues on our email newsletter, at www.lowdownonline.com and on our Facebook page – please look for us online.
Stay healthy, stay strong, love your neighbour (from a distance), wash your hands.