Amid Quebec journalism struggles, Chateauguay Valley community newspaper relies on volunteers, cafes
As Quebec’s newspapers testify in front of the National Assembly about the challenges facing the province’s journalism outlets, a Chateauguay Valley newspaper is now relying entirely on volunteers to survive.
The Gleaner, a publication that has existed since 1863, was forced to abandon its offices in the town of Huntingdon in 2014. Last year, the paper ceased issuing a print copy.
“We had 20 to 30 people in here per day. It was a community space, a social space where people came when they had an announcement, whether it was a happy one or a sad one,” said Gleaner interim president and editor Sarah Rennie. “That all disappeared overnight and it was almost as if the large corporations thought no one would notice.”
Some residents have banded together to ensure The Gleaner’s survival, saying the paper is too important to the community to let die.
“We got a committee together and formed this non-profit the Chateauguay Valley Community Information Services and we bought the title back for a dollar,” said Rennie.
The group of concerned citizens have since relaunched the newspaper using crowdsourced donations. Thus far, they’ve published two print issues but without a proper newsroom, they’ve been forced to make do out of a nearby café.
“We also meet at other restaurants, at a brewery, at our kitchen tables, outside the local water park splash pad, which worked really well for volunteers with small children,” said The Gleaner volunteer Lorelei Muller.
“The Gleaner has always played an incredibly important role in keeping this community together,” said Rennie. “It’s a vast community, we’re great distances between once municipality and another. It’s a touchstone.”