The Guelph Mercury: Demolition by neglect

It was demolition by neglect. Torstar slowly pulled resources away from the Mercury over the years until it resembled your aging granny on life support. When the plug was pulled and granny died, it was very sad, but not unexpected. Sometimes you can see the blow coming from miles away but it still hurts when it hits.

With the passing of the Guelph Daily Mercury we did not witness the death of independent journalism in Guelph. The Mercury hasn’t been an “independent” newspaper since it was sold to Thompson Newspapers 70 years ago. It was always independent of city hall, but Lord Thompson kept a tight grip on everything he owned.

Professional journalism took a big hit this week. We still have the Guelph Tribune coming to our homes twice a week with Guelph news written by very experienced professionals. How long will the Trib last? If the Thursday edition stops being wrapped in a kilo of advertising flyers, will the paper survive? What will happen when the supermarkets and department stores find a new way to tell you what’s on sale this week?

What happened to the Mercury is not significantly different from what happened to Future Shop last March. It was owned by the same company that owns Best Buy. In many communities both stores offered consumers the same products at the same prices, sometimes in the same shopping mall. At the same time, the company was encouraging people to shop on-line.

It is not a stretch to say that Future Shop was created by the digital world and killed by it as well. The Mercury tried getting into bed with the digital elephant through its on-line presence. When the elephant rolled over, the Mercury got crushed.

I will not miss the on-line Mercury. It became a home and forum for some of the most ignorant, thoughtless, and mean-spirited anonymous commentary you would ever want to read. Or avoid reading. None of it would have been permitted in the print edition where letters to the editor were always verified and signed.

The publisher is hiding behind the pretense that they are only ending the print edition, holding out the carrot that an on-line edition will survive. It is nonsense. The on-line digital edition was fed by the newsroom that produced the print edition. They have all been laid off. Does the publisher really have some fantasy that a bunch of citizen journalist keeners will jump in to fill the void?

Citizen journalism is not reliable journalism. A citizen working independently of a pay cheque is not a professional independent journalist.

The crocodile tears coming from the publisher’s office are a wonder to behold. They are never slow to capitalize on a tragedy. It could be the well-known adage of the news business: if it bleeds, it leads. Nothing boosts circulation like a blood stained tragedy.

Thursday’s penultimate edition of the paper contained a couple of inserts. One of them boosted the Waterloo Region Record and showed how little it is different from the Mercury. Anyone who has looked at both papers side by side recently already knows this. If they are given enough time to properly consummate the marriage, the blushing bride will change her name to the Waterloo-Wellington Record.

The other insert thanked me for being a loyal and valued subscriber and offered me the chance to transfer the unused portion of my subscription payment to any of their other papers, the Waterloo Region Record, the Hamilton Spectator, or the mother ship itself, the Toronto Star.

How very capitalist of them. They took away my city’s daily newspaper but want to keep my money.


  1. Thanks Alan! I appreciate your written word here. Professional journalism, has indeed, taken a hit. It has been exploited, taken for granted, and finally cheapened…I would much prefer this pulling of the plug didn’t happen…it hurts! It will hurt our community..more than it will ever hurt the bottom line of Torstar. Will there be a solution to this demise? I know , that come Saturday….I will not look to the other papers for locally homegrown news……or the online Mercury afterbirth…. P.S. I thoroughly enjoyed your other article….”Chats with Charlie”….keep it coming!

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