The Brandon Sun is the only daily paper and has been around in one form or another since 1882. It's an old Thompson paper, like the Winnipeg Free Press, and the two were bought together in 2001 by the FP Newspapers Income Fund. Circulation (according to FP): 14,000 per day.
It's the broadsheet "newspaper of record" for the region and keeps its content entirely behind a subscription wall - including obits and classifieds.
The Wheat City Journal is a free, weekly community paper that started in 2002. It was bought by Glacier Ventures, publisher of the Western Producer and other western papers, in 2004. Circulation (according to the Journal): 20,000 per week.
It's a tabloid, feel good newspaper focusing most of it's attention on volunteer groups, school sports, interviews with locals and the like.
On Saturday February 21st 2009 The Sun ran an editorial entitled “Local media diversity under threat”. It started off with:
"Several local media organizations now appear to be struggling under the weight of new economic and technological realities. Given their existing business models, it’s unclear whether they will be able to survive"
and outlined events around CTV's announcement that it's selling off Brandon's CKX TV. As you'd expect in an editorial, it didn't specifically quote people but it paraphrased and attributed statements to the CKX station manager, the CTV GlobeMedia release, and provided numbers and dates where needed.
After a eulogy for its not-quite-yet-dead TV friend, the editorial was used to make an interesting back-door beg at the advertisers of their newsprint rival, the Journal, by writing:
"The latest edition is the thinnest we’ve seen, weighing in at just 16 pages. This is likely a result of the fact that the Journal appears to be rapidly shedding employees.... The Journal is also moving its offices out of The Town Centre at the end of the month and into its distribution centre — another sign of cost-cutting and shrinking business operations."
I say "back door" because there are no quotes or paraphrased statements from anyone involved with the Journal. No numbers or dates from media releases or previous stories. Just a lot of "likely", "appears to" etc. Lucky for readers - and potential advertisers - the Sun says though the Journal isn't alone in hitting "hard times", (in fact, papers across the continent are feeling the same thing, don't you know), the "...Brandon Sun, however, remains relatively strong from a business point of view".
Today, the Journal struck back with Wheat City Journal’s demise is in poor taste and clearly misguided and it came up on the eBrandon forums (Newpaper Wars).
The Journal article said that moving their offices into the same building as their distribution centre is to "better co-ordinate activities" and to "keep our advertising rates low". It part of a move that will, later this year, see a change to new press facilities to allow for four colour printing on each page.
Since the Sun opened the door on parent company matters, the Journal gushed back that 2008 was Glacier's best year ever - though from the chart below it appears that neither parent company should be doing a happy dance.
The Journal was also able to toss back a rumour grenade of it's own by speculating about what happens when the current agreement to print the Globe and Mail ends in 2010. (So far all contracts have been renewed except for the region currently printed by the Brandon Sun).
Speaking of presses, what the Sun doesn't remind us in its editorial is that FP Canadian Newspapers Limited Partnership is expected to close the printing plant in Brandon next year and move all those jobs and benefits to Winnipeg.It was interesting to see a venerable daily taking the low road by floating a rumour about a free weekly, of all things. Granted, decades back papers did duke it out with each other but usually papers of similar size and based on editorial positions as seen in this Tribune flurry from May 1942:
In modern times, though, reporting and editorials have 'professionalized' at major daily papers. The same standards and responsibilities are expected whether you are reporting on friends or foes - even competing businesses (can you imagine inserting a local car dealer or restaurant in place of "the Journal" ? Theres no way that would make it to print !). In Winnipeg, where both dailies have had their share of woes in recent months, they kept the reporting on each other at a professional level. Will that continue into the future, though ?
Brandon's battle of the newspapers might be a canary in the coal mine.
As circulation and advertising dollars continue to decline could the desperation for the remaining revenue and readership make things like floating rumours about your competitors in editorials fair game ? Does it stop at other newspapers or websites and other services deemed as competition ? What about advertisers or events that choose to advertise only with a competitor with their limited ad dollars ?
It will be interesting to see if this becomes more the norm and spreads to larger centres. It will also be interesting to see if this backfires on the Brandon Sun.