On Nov. 27, the two largest newspaper publishers, Postmedia and Torstar, swapped 41 papers. No money was exchanged. 34 papers in southern Ontario, one in Winnipeg and one in Vancouver will be shutdown. Nearly 300 full-time and part-time employees will be affected.

However, it is estimated that each company will save between $5 million to $7 million annually as a result. The companies also state that they will remain committed to local news and are shutting down papers in regions served by multiple publications.

I anticipate more will be shutdown in the future given the precedence set, e.g., how the Peterborough Examiner survived these shutdowns, but competes with Peterborough This Week. While they tend to cover different stories with different angles, the bottom line will take priority. Both are owned by Metroland Media, which is a subsidiary of Torstar.

With the ability to create local monopolies for journalism in cities and towns across the province, the need to be beholden to advertisers to stay afloat and the increase in digital revenue not sufficiently supplementing the decrease in print revenue, these shutdowns are simply more indications of the industry downsizing.

So what do these closures mean for you? Honestly, the majority of publications and sources you may enjoy in Hamilton will be completely fine.

CBC Hamilton will be fine. The Hamilton Spectator, though owned by Metroland Media, should be fine. The Silhouette is in an incredibly fortunate situation compared to the general media landscape thanks to being relatively isolated as one of the only sources for McMaster news, and does not need to run at a budget surplus.

The main problem or conversation that comes as a result, besides how the competition bureau will be reviewing the deal, is what the value of local media should be and how it should be funded.

Hamilton is an interesting example with the variety of publications and funding systems used for each. We just try to make as much money back as possible through advertisements while maintaining editorial autonomy. The Hamilton Spectator continues to experiment with a mix of free and paid content on their website. Some independent media sources like the Inlet are online only with advertising possibilities. The Public Record uses crowdsourcing in a way very few media sources across Canada have put any attention or focus on.

A lot of this, however, relies on you as the reader to put money up to put less emphasis on more corporate funding. It is a lot to ask from anyone, let alone potentially struggling students in university trying to make ends meet.

Whether you support (or have the means to support) local news or not, you should at least know if you want to before the decision is made for you. Local media publications across the province and country will close soon, and you have the power to help support those remaining.

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I’m not sure how relatable this experience is, but during our family’s Sunday morning breakfast ritual I would quite often find my mom poring over the weekly paper’s obituaries. The image of my mom choosing to begin her day learning about the last of someone else’s is both deeply perverse and darkly humorous. To my cynical teenage brain it seemed to be further evidence that my parents were from an entirely different world.

Artist Erika DeFreitas’s own version of this strange scene of morning ritual subversion provides the inspiration for an exhibit entitled “Deaths/Memorials/Births” that’s currently on display at the Centre3 gallery on James Street North.

“I remember asking my mom why she was reading the obituaries section of the newspaper and she said it was because she never knew who she was going to find,” DeFreitas said. “So I thought it was a little creepy and a little weird. But then I started reading the obituaries myself.”

Though DeFreitas was drawn to the obituaries in the same way as her mother, she’s still not really able to understand why. “I don’t know how to explain it. I was just looking for someone, not knowing if they were going to appear or not,” DeFreitas said. “It’s not that I was looking for someone I know to have passed away, but it was just the act of looking for someone.”

Looking for someone in the death notices seems almost morbidly ironic, but it actually makes weirdly perfect sense. People are often defined in death notices almost entirely by their relationships to others – as loving father, devoted wife or adored grandparent, for example. It’s like the people who write death notices are looking to reaffirm and reach out to the relationships in their lives.

“As I was reading, any sort of word that was interesting to me or that resonated me I would write down,” DeFreitas said. “My feelings were attached to certain words. They described how I was feeling when I was reading.” After deciding on a few words, DeFreitas would cut out the obituary but leave the borders of the notice intact. She then reattached the words she had chosen in their original location on the page, creating a series of incredibly evocative almost-poems told using the words of many peoples’ lives.

“After a while the whole thing became very bizarre to me,” DeFreitas said. “The newspaper is something that comes into many homes and many subway floors, but something as personal as an obituary is placed in this object that is then recycled. I guess that’s where I’m a little too sentimental. This is so weird but I remember getting angered that on the other side of the obituary notices would be advertisements. I started to take things personally.”

I too had my own personal experience with DeFreitas work, though in a much smaller way. I didn’t see the exhibit until after its opening during this month’s Art Crawl, but I’m glad that it was after the busy crowds had come and gone. There’s something about the work that invites you to spend time with it, to imagine the stories of people whose lives ended up becoming defined by words like “corrugated” and “typewriter table.” But perhaps more than anything else it made me think about the mortality of our own relationships – how the connections we make fade into a few words when they were once the novel of someone’s life.

“I think that’s something you question your whole life,” DeFreitas said. “When we’re out with friends, we’re always asking, ‘why don’t we do this more often?’”

Deaths/Memorials/Births is currently being shown at Centre3 gallery and will continue until April 13

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