Considering the Lake Report is Niagara-on-the-Lake's only 100 per cent local news source, with 100 per cent local content, Counc. Betty Disero asked council Monday to meet with representatives of the paper to discuss Town advertising.
Her motion reminded council NOTL (Newark, in 1793) was one of the first places in Canada to have a newspaper, when papers were primarily used to release government notices to the public, and later, when they took on more of a editorial role, the Colonial Advocate became the first independent newspaper in the province to have “significant political impact.”
“I'm sure we all see the importance of supporting and keeping a print paper alive in this town, of all places in Canada,” her motion said.
The Lake Report, Disero's motion said, is owned and operated by Niagara Now Ltd., which is owned 100 per cent by Richard Harley, a lifelong local, who attended Colonel John Butler for elementary school, Niagara District for high school and Niagara College for his journalism degree.
The Lake Report, her motion points out, strives to be eco-friendly — all paper fibres are sourced from quick-growth, sustainable plots of land rather than clear-cutting forests, and the ink is vegetable-based.
The paper is working with the former editorial team of the Niagara Advance, she said, and is striving to become a weekly edition.
The Advance — closed in November following a trade to Metroland, which owns Niagara This Week and the new Niagara-on-the-Lake Advance — also carried the Town's advertising.
Disero's motion specifically mentions the paper could “assist in meeting planning act requrements.”
There was some discussion among councillors that this move is premature — that the Lake Report is new and should be given time to become established before the Town considers advertising in it.
“I think it's a great little paper,” said Coun. Martin Mazza. “I hope they get bigger and better and I think they will. But I think it's a bit premature to be giving them money at this time until they've had the opportunity to be around for at least a year.”
He also suggested waiting to give the next council the opportunity to make that decision in the new year, and said he'd like to see the Town enhance its website, since many people turn to it for information.
In response to a question from Mazza, planning director Craig Larmour explained there is no requirement to advertise in a newspaper under the planning act, with the exception of general Official Plan and zoning bylaws, and the Town currently exceeds the planning act requirements for advertising.
Coun. Paolo Miele also suggested waiting for the next council to decide in 2019, after going through the procurement process for advertising once financial implications are discussed.
But CAO Holly Dowd reminded him Disero's motion was simply to begin discussions, not to make an immediate decision.
Coun. Terry Flynn, responding to Miele's comment about the Lake Report not getting to every home, said with 5,000 copies delivered through the post office, “it's making it into people's hands and into their homes.”
He said he picks up other papers left in driveways in his neighbourhood a week after they're delivered, to put them in his recycling bin.
He suggested the Lake Report could increase the number of papers printed to be delivered through the post office so that it would reach every home.
“From my perspective, we'd get more out of the Lake Report.”
Richard Harley, owner and editor of the Lake Report, said he's already increased the size of the paper to allow for more local news, and has also increased the circulation. While he agrees the paper is young, it's been growing quickly, he said — it is now 20 pages of 100 per cent NOTL news, and 8,000 copies are being delivered through Canada Post, ensuring every home in town receives one.
He's planning an official launch party, he said, and is encouraged by the letters he receives daily from readers who like the paper. His next goal is to make it a weekly edition.
“We want to get there, it just may take some support to do it as quickly as it seems people would like.”
Council approved Disero's motion to begin discussions with representatives of the paper.