Residents of Grandview have read the last edition of their weekly local newspaper, publishing weekly for well over a century.
The Chaloners, owners of the Exponent announced on the front page of the February 28 edition that this would be its last after 117 years in business.
It marks the end of an era in this small Parkland community, when the first paper rolled off the presses March 7, 1901.
The Chaloner family has been involved in the newspaper since 1922 and the business has remained on Main Street since its inception, according to a website devoted to the Exponent’s long history.
“I’m saddened to hear this, said Ken Waddell, president of the Manitoba Community Newspapers Association that represents 49 community newspapers in the province.
“They’re going to miss it.”
The paper’s first editor, J.P. Gilbert wrote in the first paper that “The Exponent shall, beginning with its first number, endeavour to use its modest means and influence for the growth and development of town and district.” And so it did.
The Exponent became a continuous record of progress as the town and surrounding area grew, carrying reports on local business development — Grandview once had a creamery and a flour mill — the arrival of sewer and water and a plan to use a windmill and gasoline engine to operate the system. It followed the development of the timber industry in the nearby Duck Mountains.
In 1901, its first year publishing, it reported how a Grandview-based tinsmith was making 50 sap pails noting, “Grandview is well supplied this spring with choice maple syrup from the sap taken from trees in this district.”
Editorials took umbrage with issues that affected citizens, such as a slow rural postal system. One noted that “mail is posted here on Friday for these points and takes five to seven days to reach destinations within a 15-mile radius.”
The paper weathered its share of difficult years, including the 1930s when annual subscriptions sold for $1 and subscribers often exchanged chickens, eggs or produce to make a purchase.
Charles E. Chaloner took over the editor’s chair when the Second World War was about to break out, while publisher Thomas L. Chaloner enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces in 1941. Many reports in the ’40s were devoted to the war years.
When “those fabulous ’60s arrived,” notes the historical website, “flower children abounded, and at the Exponent office many young people had a chance to experience work at the newspaper.”
Not a trend
Losing the Exponent is a big blow to Grandview and it’s a loss to the MCNA too, said Waddell who owns the Neepawa Press, Neepawa Banner, Rivers Banner and mywestman.ca.
Waddell said he doesn’t believe this is the start of a trend, nor that other small-town papers are in imminent danger of folding, however.
Community newspapers have certainly gone through “a drought” for advertising but it has picked up again in recent times, he said. Many of these businesses are also very lean operations as a result.
“There’s quite a few papers in small towns that only have one person,” he said.
Several papers in southwestern Manitoba publish fewer than 1,200 copies.
The strength of community newspapers is that they are a local publication serving a loyal local readership, Waddell said. Small-town papers carry news stories important to the communities they serve and they get them before other media do.
“We are a media that’s picked up locally and we are a media that’s trusted for the most part,” he said.
In an era of all the fake news found online, the small-town paper of record perseveres because it can’t possibly get away with making up a story.
“Publish so-called fake news in a community newspaper and you’re going to hear about it on the phone that night,” he said.
Often one of the first businesses founded in the boom towns of the pioneer era was the local paper.
The Manitoba Historical Society’s website lists community newspapers as designated Centennial Businesses, noting that these enterprises are among some of the oldest continuously operating businesses in small-town Manitoba.
The Exponent is among 13 in the MHS’s listing, including publications such as the Stonewall Argus and Teulon Times, the Killarney Guide and the Sentinel Courier in Pilot Mound.
The Minnedosa Tribune has been published since March 31, 1883. Various histories proclaim it as the oldest continuously published weekly newspaper in Manitoba.