The print edition of the Chronicle Herald will no longer be available to subscribers in some parts of rural Nova Scotia starting Nov. 28.
SaltWire, the media company that owns the newspaper, circulated a letter to subscribers in some rural areas on Monday informing customers they would be switched to a "digital-only subscription."
As of next Monday, the print edition will not be distributed to subscribers in those rural areas. The newspaper will continue to be printed, but Saltwire will be reducing delivery routes due to the declining number of print subscribers in these locations and increasing delivery costs.
"Our mobile apps, SaltWire.com and the e-edition replica newspapers have outpaced the demand for the printed newspaper," the letter to customers said.
The digital subscription offers customers access to all SaltWire publications, including the P.E.I. Guardian, the St. John's Telegram, the Chronicle Herald, and the Cape Breton Post.
SaltWire could not be reached for comment. It's unclear which areas of the province will no longer have access to print editions, or whether other SaltWire-owned newspapers in other parts of Atlantic Canada are also moving to digital only for rural subscribers.
But some current subscribers don't want to switch to the digital version.
Donald Fletcher has had the Chronicle Herald newspaper delivered to his mailbox every morning for about 26 years. He lives in the small Cumberland County community of New Salem, about 40 kilometres west of Parrsboro, N.S.
He was surprised by the letter saying his long-standing print subscription will be switched to digital-only effective Monday.
"It's sad is what it is, far as I'm concerned," he said. "It's something else we're losing."
Fletcher said he will be cancelling his subscription because he won't use the digital copy. He has a tablet, but he finds it too hard to read.
"I like sitting at my kitchen table with the paper and the cat and my coffee and look through it," he said. "But anyway, I guess it's a thing of the past now."
Thelma Redmond of Richmond, Cumberland County, picked up her last delivered copy of the Chronicle Herald on Friday.
The 93-year-old has been reading the Herald her whole life. Her grandfather read it to her when she was growing up in Folly Mountain.
"They didn't have many luxuries back in those days," said Wayne Redmond, Thelma's son. "The only thing they had for entertainment was the Chronicle Herald and they've taken that religiously.
"She just went out and picked up her last newspaper this morning, and she'll read that paper for hours and hours. If she doesn't have a paper, she'll go into the pile of old papers and start reading them again."
Now that his mother has memory problems, she clings to things that are familiar. The paper is the one thing that has been a constant.
"She is really upset," he said.
Wayne says he's had trouble reaching SaltWire customer service since the letter came, but hopes they will set up newspaper drop boxes in a central location for those who are no longer able to get deliveries.
"Why couldn't they have even one of those in every little village that they've abandoned so that people could pick up their paper at a fairly convenient local location," he said.
Dwindling print editions
Newspaper subscribers in Atlantic Canada have steadily been losing their print editions.
In October, SaltWire ended the Monday print edition for all of their daily newspapers in Atlantic Canada.
Last month, the media company cited increasing inflation on print operations and rising fuel costs as some factors in the decision.
The company recently offered voluntary buyout packages to all employees. Five Halifax newsroom staff took it.
April Lindgren is a journalism professor at Toronto Metropolitan University and the lead researcher for the Local News Research Project.
She says SaltWire's switch to digital only for certain rural areas in the province is not surprising.
A combination of plummeting advertising revenue and federal COVID-19 supports drying up has left some media companies looking for ways to cut costs.
"Let's face it, the cancellation of the print edition is a way to save money because it costs money to be out there dropping off copies of newspapers off at people's homes," she said.
While driving long distances to deliver newspapers is an expensive proposition, Lindgren says doing away with print editions leaves long-time customers behind. Older people in rural areas will be hardest hit as newspapers transition to digital-only editions, she said.
"That's problematic because we know that the service is lousy in terms of Internet access," she said.
A report from the Local News Research Project found that 23 local news operations, mostly newspapers, have closed since 2008 in Nova Scotia, and only nine have launched.
"This may be the beginning of an unfortunate trend of cutbacks and potentially even closings of more local news operations down the road," she said.
Though Fletcher has an internet connection at his house in New Salem, he plans on getting his news through the evening television news and the radio.
"I'm done. There'll be no digital in this house, long as I'm here," he said.
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