The final meeting of our orientation took place on Friday afternoon, September 23rd, when we hosted Executive Director of the Ontario Community Newspapers Association (OCNA), Anne Lannan. Interestingly, the OCNA is part of the oldest trade association in Canada, and represents more than 300 community newspapers across Ontario. The Association includes everything from large regional papers that reach hundreds of thousands of readers, such as Niagara This Week, to small one-person operations, such as The Jackfish, which has 302 subscribers in remote Hornpayne in Northern Ontario. The OCNA’s total weekly circulation of over 7.2 million exemplifies the continued need and appetite for local news and community information in a world in which major urban dailies struggle to survive. As long as a community news publication has a newsworthy front page, contains less than 70% advertising, agrees to a readership audit, and includes an editorial page for public discussion of local issues, then it is welcome to join the OCNA.
The Association acts as the hub for any stakeholder that wants to connect with community newspapers and offers 13 different small-member service programs. It allows governments, companies and non-profit organizations to target specific areas and community newspapers throughout Ontario with press releases or public service announcements; arranges “Conference Call Editorial Boards” between provincial politicians or political parties and OCNA members to facilitate efficient and interactive discussions of major issues; and, through its Ad-Reach program, helps clients build a comprehensive marketing strategy to reach a large and discriminating audience. The meeting with Ms. Lannan was a refreshing reminder of the importance of local news in a world of 24-hour cable TV and large corporate-owned online dailies. The interns were thankful for the opportunity to meet with Anne and for the OCNA’s generous sponsorship of OLIP.