TVO Takes A Look Back at a Once Proudly Independent & Locally Owned St. Catharines Standard

A “Main Street Ontario” segment on The Standard will appear on TVO’s public affairs program ‘The Agenda’, this Wednesday, June 12th at 8:50 p.m.

A News Commentary  by Doug Draper, a former reporter at The St. Catharines Standard, now publisher of Niagara At Large

Posted June 11th, 2019 on Niagara At Large

Henry Burgoyne, a member of the Burgoyne family that founded The St. Catharines Standard in the late 1800s and the best publisher I think a journalist could hope to work for. The Burgoyne family sold the paper in 1996,and, to put it mildy, things were never the same.

Twenty-one years ago this spring, most of the reporters, photographers and copy editors at The St. Catharines Standard, including this journalist, were out on a first ever strike against the new owner of the more than century old newspaper that, for many of us, was not about wages or benefits.

It was about to protect were left of the resources we needed to cover news in the region well, and it was about saving the very heart and soul of the newspaper itself.

In my view the strike was mostly a failure in that successive owners of the paper over the past two decades, beginning with the now former media baron Conrad Black, took a newsroom that once employed more than 40 full-time people and cut it down to less than 10. 

A culling of that magnitude made it  it virtually impossible to give areas of coverage  like education, labour, health care, police and courts, the environment and even municipal governance the every-day-of-the week, every-week-of-the-year the attention they require to let the powers-that-be know that they are being well watched, and to give residents across the region the information they deserve and that they need to more effectively participate in a democracy.

During my’ years as an environment reporter at The St. Catharines Standard. When Conrad Black’s Hollinger corporation took ownership of The Standard and dozen of other daily newspapers across Canada, the environment beat disappeared at most, if not all of them, as newsrooms were hollowed out to fatten s profit margins for Black and his shareholders, and for those who followed.

One of the very few things that our three-week strike in the spring of 1998 did accomplish was the brokering of a decent buy-out package for newsroom staff who had had enough of the way things were going down under the thumb of Black and his willing enablers. About nine or so of us took it, including yours truly.

It was my way of saying, after what was an almost two-decade along stint at The Standard that I was mostly proud of, that I fired Conrad Black before his hit squads fired me. And they most certainly have gotten around to firing me because I could no longer contain my anger at the way they were treating other good people in that newsroom, much less me.

Suffice to say, that all of this part of my career is not what I like looking back at. I would much rather look back at the stories I covered.

So when a nice guy named Michael Berger from a Canadian media company named FiXT POiNT contacted me in 2015 and said his company was putting together a series for TVO called Main Street Ontario and wanted to do a segment on what went down at the St. Catharines Standard and what it meant for the community, I hesitated.

One of the signs left over from our strike in the spring of 1998 – a strike that ultimately did nothing to stop the relentless cutting of news-gathering resources at the newspaper.

I asked myself if I really wanted to relive some of that nightmare before I complied out of respect for Henry Burgoyne, The Standard’s publisher for most of the years I was there, and his family, who produced what I thought was one of the best community newspapers in the country.

I had forgotten all about the interview I had done for this series until I received the following note from Michael Berger this June 10th, informing me that the segment on The Standard will be broadcast on TVO’s show, The Agenda, this coming Wednesday night, June12th, at 8:50 p.m.

Immediately below, you can click on the screen to watch the segment and I will follow that up with Michael Berger’s note and some additional information about the Main Street series –  

Now here is Michael Berger’s June 10th note to me – 

In 2015, FiXT POiNT visited St. Catharines to collect stories for our project, The Tale of a Town <http://www.thetaleofatown.com/>.

One of these stories was an interview of you! Using the stories collected in this project, we’ve produced a TVO TV/Web series highlighting stories from across Ontario called Main Street Ontario <https://www.tvo.org/programs/main-street-ontario>.

We are extremely excited for the launch of our St. Catharines’ episode on The Standard, starring you, this Wednesday June 12th at 8:50pm on TVO’s The Agenda!

This project would not have been possible without your voice, therefore we want to extend our warmest gratitude to you for your contribution. We want you and your family and friends to see the episode, so I’ll be sending you a link to our social media posts this Wednesday! Please share them on your personal page if you can!

Thank you for everything, Michael Berger

A bit more about FiXT POiNT:

To date, we’ve interviewed over 3500 Canadians from every province and territory in almost 200 communities in our story mobiles (mobile recording studio on wheels).

We employee, on average 15 artists, every spring and summer, have aired dozens of audio stories on CBC (Fresh Air, Podcast Playlist, Holiday Programming etc..), edited and posted hundreds of oral histories on our storymap, and most recently were awarded Touring Artist of the Year from Capacoa (Canadian Arts Presenting Association)

To view The Tale of a Town Story Map, click on – www.thetaleofatown.com

For more on the TVO Series, click on  – https://tvo.org/programs/main-street-ontario

For more on FiXT POiNT, click on<http://www.fixtpoint.com>

<http://www.fixtpoint.com> <http://www.facebook.com/fixtpointarts>

NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space following the Bernie Sanders quote below.

A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who also share their first and last names.

For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater bi-national Niagara region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at www.niagaraatlarge.com .

“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders

 

 

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One response to “TVO Takes A Look Back at a Once Proudly Independent & Locally Owned St. Catharines Standard

  1. For over a decade I’ve read Doug Draper’s fine professional work, especially in his creation of Niagara At Large (NAL). He epitomizes the best in reporting and journalism. I especially admire Doug’s attention to Medicare as well as his dedication to the environment. He deserves to be ‘up there’ with the very best.

    Like

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