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Nouvelles d’Ici: A Citizen Project Thriving for 3 Years Despite the Media Crisis

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A budget of $85,000 to cover your borough’s news? Well, that’s not what Nouvelles d’Ici operates on.

In fact, it’s significantly more than the total 2022 budget of your nonprofit newspaper, which diligently reports on the news across 3 Montreal boroughs, serving approximately 200,000 people.

$85,000 per borough is the grant Journal Métro, a private enterprise, received from the City of Montreal in 2023. They needed this financial boost to navigate the changes that came with the discontinuation of Publisac distribution back in May. Given Journal Métro’s multiple editions in Montreal, this translated to over a million dollars. This isn’t even accounting for the City’s media-buy for printed or digital advertisements. Unfortunately, this funding extended the operations of this private media company for only a few more months. But it all came to an end by August 11, when their digital publications were also halted. By September 17, their impending bankruptcy was announced in La Presse.

Printing local news in 2023: financially supported by the municipality but deemed too costly.

Despite this impressive and unconventional municipal grant, handed out to a for-profit company in the media sector, the outdated model of Journal Métro, one of the last local newspapers covering borough news in Montreal, ultimately led to their downfall.

Production, printing, distribution – and most importantly, recycling – for local news, which often had a shelf life of just one week, had become an expensive choice for local press. It ran counter to the demands of ecological and sustainable development.

Sustained partly by nostalgia for the pre-digital era, an appreciation for the tangibility of paper, and a resistance to change, this model managed to maintain a semblance of viability, even as local coverage gradually withered away over time.

Boasting of being the sole newspaper reporting on borough news, even when their journalists rarely set foot in Montreal’s southwest boroughs, Journal Métro relinquished the field of local news to Nouvelles d’Ici while still receiving a lion’s share of the municipal advertising budgets allocated for local press. Whether out of habit or for reasons known only to decision-makers, print held its sway.

Nouvelles d’Ici efficiently, professionally, and inexpensively informed over 150,000 people in 2022.

In the meantime, Nouvelles d’Ici, the choice of you and over 153,000 others for staying informed in LaSalle, Lachine, and Verdun last year, adeptly adjusted to cost-effective, professional, and efficient local news coverage. It was a response to the community’s conviction regarding the importance of information for democracy and the growing demand for informative content from readers like you.

It’s thanks to your interest, trust, and active involvement that Nouvelles d’Ici, a citizen project launched amid a pandemic in October 2020, remains the last local newspaper dedicated to publishing news about Montreal’s southwest boroughs. Whether volunteering for a few hours or consistently, residents from LaSalle, Verdun, Lachine, and neighboring areas have come together to rescue local news.

These local heroes secured a grant from the Local Journalism Initiative, a federal program managed by the Association of Canadian Media, Media d’Info Canada. This grant enabled them to hire a full-time journalist, a role that has been filled by Carl Sincennes since February. Carl had previously worked for Journal Métro’s LaSalle edition when Nouvelles d’Ici was launched. His contributions were already celebrated in the very first article published in your newspaper on October 1, 2020.

Citizen involvement preserved a local journalist’s position at a time when many others were disappearing due to Journal Métro’s bankruptcy. Citizen passion also provided the necessary resources to cover essential issues, intriguing initiatives, and community projects in your borough.

Where private enterprises and municipal authorities couldn’t prevent the inevitable, residents of these neighborhoods, such as yourself, achieved the impossible and delivered the improbable: a minimal yet vital source of local information by and for the locals, all entirely free despite relying on only a handful of local partners.

Partners from the community, visionaries who support local advertising, and advocates for local media!

While still relatively few compared to our readership’s scale, these partners – comprising various organizations, a college, legislators, and select businesses – are visionaries who grasp that community life and vibrancy rely on access to local news. Without their support, we couldn’t have covered Nouvelles d’Ici’s expenses for three years. Nor could we have gathered the necessary equity to submit three grant applications to federal and provincial governments in September.

These Partners from the community, as we affectionately call them at Nouvelles d’Ici, wanted to connect with you through their contributions. Simultaneously, they chose to allocate a portion of their advertising budgets to support a 100% local, independent, nonprofit, and eco-friendly newspaper that serves you.

While they could have easily succumbed to the allure of Facebook or Instagram, investing their entire advertising budget there, they chose to invest locally to disseminate their messages. This decision was made before the call to boycott advertising on Meta in response to the blocking of Canadian media. These Partners from the community gambled on local advertising to get their messages across.

For you and for them, Nouvelles d’Ici’s team is putting in considerable effort to ensure some of our articles still navigate the digital censorship web.

Despite the blocking of Canadian media on Facebook, our monthly readership has increased by 11%.

One of our current priorities is ensuring that the thousands who followed us on Facebook don’t completely lose touch with the local news Nouvelles d’Ici delivered to them.

For now, our mission is accomplished. Hundreds of you have recently subscribed to our free Friday newsletter. Far from adversely impacting our readership, this attack by the American tech giant on Canadian media has mobilized residents of the boroughs we cover.

Statistics on Nouvelles d’Ici’s website confirm an 11% increase in monthly readers between July and August, both before and after Facebook’s blocking.

Almost 3 years and numerous projects ahead for Nouvelles d’Ici.

Despite challenges, the pandemic, initial skepticism surrounding our decision to launch a 100% local, independent, nonprofit, and eco-friendly newspaper, financial constraints, and the blockade imposed by American digital giants, Nouvelles d’Ici will celebrate its 3rd birthday on October 1, 2023.

As the last newspaper dedicated to covering news in Montreal’s southwest boroughs, we are brimming with plans for the future. Our top priority, as a volunteer-driven local non-profit organization, is to find the financial means to expand our model and support our mission: informing you about what’s happening in your vicinity while never dictating what to think or do. Additionally, we aim to demonstrate that a community project can succeed where others have faltered.

By reporting on local citizen and community initiatives, our team bears witness to the resilience and diversity of local citizens. The passion and resourcefulness of individuals like you have undoubtedly been the lifeblood of the Nouvelles d’Ici team over the past 3 years.

That’s why we want to express our gratitude to you for reading our content, sharing our articles, encouraging your contacts to subscribe to our free newsletter, and, for some, choosing to support local projects financially or through your active participation.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

This article is an automated translation of a news story published in French. As a non-profit with scarce resources, this is a solution we are currently testing to offer our local news coverage in English.
As a result, the translation might not be perfect, so feel free to write to us if you see any typos we should fix.

Karine Joly
Residing in the Bronx in LaSalle since 2004, Karine co-founded "Nouvelles d'Ici" with a group of citizens in October 2020. She is currently the Editor-in-Chief. Beginning her career as a local journalist in both print and radio in France, she also served as the Managing Editor for the "Cities & Towns" section of a major American dot com in New York. Prior to returning to journalism, Karine started a family and established an online training center for professionals in digital communication.