By Mitchell Thompson
Black Press, the British Columbia-based news company with a near monopoly on Vancouver Island, has launched a free daily after a string of newspaper closures.
The new paper, the Vancouver Island Free Daily, launched Sept. 27 and is being helmed by managing editor Philip Wolf and content editor John McKinley, with Wolf describing it as “more of an aggregation,” of Black Press content across the island. Wolf says these Black Press newsrooms, which all together employ about 50 journalists, provide the daily with complete coverage of island affairs. “(The Daily’s) most striking component is the ability to deliver content to all of the communities in the Vancouver island using all of the newsroom resources that we have,” Wolf said.
Additionally, Wolf said they also include content from their other papers in B.C. to provide a range of local, provincial, national and international coverage. According to a press release about the launch of the Vancouver Island Free Daily posted in the The Nanaimo News Bulletin, this allows Black Press to offer “people from Port Hardy to Sooke their best chance to stay on top of all the news that is important to them on a daily basis — from one convenient source.”
Currently, the daily is available in print, from designated pickup locations, online and on an app. “What excites me is the ability to provide add-ons to readers,” Wolf said. “You can pick up the print copy and that has a lot of good content but then, if you look at the digital side, you also can have instant updates and videos. The only limit to the extra content is our imagination.”
Some, however, are not so sure. Mike Bocking, president of Unifor Local 2000, which represents reporters at Langley Times, Cranbrook Daily Townsman and other B.C Black Press papers says the company has launched free dailies in the province before, with little success. “(Black Press) didn’t invest the resources to make the daily work. It was a wire-copy newspaper with a sprinkling of local news coverage but not very much. They dumped it in commercial centres and the like and it never really worked. So, if that’s the model they’re looking at for Vancouver Island, I’m dubious about how successful it will be.” Bocking said the daily’s success will be more difficult with the industry struggling.
Wolf dismissed many of those concerns“I can’t really compare it to the other papers that closed. This is a new product that is offering Vancouver Island readers news from all of the Vancouver Island community papers,” he said.“That is significantly different from the closed ones because those were community-specific newspapers. It’s a new product and a way to address as many eyeballs as possible in the various different communities.”
“I don’t think it’s valid to compare it to any newspapers in smaller communities or across the country,” he added.
Mitchell Thompson is a third-year journalism student at Ryerson. He is also the ideas co-editor for Folio and a contributor at Disinformation. He has previously written for Rabble, Canadian Dimension, Dissident Voice and others.