Sherbrooke mobilizing to keep regional newspapers alive

Sherbrooke's major institutions are working together to make sure their regional newspapers don't disappear.

An oversight committee, put in place by former mayor Jean Perrault, will be monitoring the possible sale of the six daily daily newspapers owned by Groupe Capitales Média (GCM).

Committee members want to make sure potential buyers will continue to publish regional news out of the Eastern Townships.

GCM applied for protection from creditors last week, pushing the Quebec government to step in with an emergency $5 million bridge loan.

Until a new owner comes forward, it is uncertain what will happen with GCM's publications, including La Tribune, which covers the Sherbrooke, Drummondville and surrounding areas.

Former Mayor Jean Perrault, Mayor Steve Lussier, the Université de Sherbrooke, Bishop's University and well as the Chamber of Commerce, among others, issued a joint statement on Friday to assert the importance of regional news coverage.

"What interests me is to know what is happening in our schools, in our city, and that I can only get from local dailies," said Perrault.

Mayor from 1994 to 2008, Perrault said local coverage shaped the development of the region by keeping the spotlight on issues that other media outlets wouldn't be covering.

"It's important to have a local paper to reflect what is happening here."

Impact on local English paper

If La Tribune were to disappear, the future of the region's only daily English newspaper, the Record, could also be threatened, said Perrault, because La Tribune distributes the paper, first published in 1897.

"We have an incredible asset to be able to raise our kids in English and French, from grade school to University," he said.

"If we lose our English and French dailies, it will be a hard blow."

Louis-Philippe Bourdeau/Radio-Canada

Michael Goldbloom, the principal and vice-chancellor of Bishop's University, said the two dailies were "vital" for the city.

"A region that loses its local paper loses a lot of its soul," said Goldbloom, who also worked as a journalist, and was appointed chair of the board of CBC/Radio-Canada.

Bishop's and the other organizations involved in the Committee will be working to develop new partnerships to provide financial support to La Tribune, Perrault explained, perhaps opening the door on new models of advertising and revenue sources.

Mayor Steve Lussier will also be participating in the upcoming parliamentary commission on the future of media in Quebec, which began Monday.