TORONTO – The Ontario Community Newspapers Association (OCNA) represents roughly 240 member newspapers across the province and this past April, Manitoulin Publishing’s owner and Expositor publisher Alicia McCutcheon took up the reins as president, after serving the year before as vice-president.
Founded in 1950 and based in Toronto, the OCNA is a non-profit industry association comprising roughly 240 member newspapers located throughout the province that is dedicated to keeping those local newspapers as healthy and vibrant as The Expositor.
“It’s a great honour and a privilege to serve as president of the OCNA, but it’s definitely daunting, too,” Ms. McCutcheon admits. “This is a time of great change in the newspaper industry and thoughts on what constitutes a newspaper are changing as we continue to take greater strides into the digital realm.”
Ms. McCutcheon notes that this topic is a particularly divisive one in the newspaper industry as some traditional newspapers have been forced to cease print operations during the pandemic and move to online only as a cost savings measure, while many publishers believe OCNA members must have a print edition to qualify as a ‘newspaper.’ “This is a tough conversation we as an organization have to face,” she said.
Newspaper publishers across the province, both independents and corporate, require print advertising to keep the bottom line. “Advertising from all levels of government is incredibly important and should be recognized for the value it has,” the president continued. “Newspapers are the only medium in which people buy the product to gain access to the ads as well as the journalistic content. Especially in rural areas such as ours, newspapers work to spread the message, be it in print or online.”
Ms. McCutcheon said she was happy to see the provincial government recognize this fact during the pandemic and hopes to continue that trend moving forward. One of the OCNA’s many tasks is to lobby the province on behalf of its member newspapers.
She pointed out that while OCNA is comprised of approximately 240 community newspapers, almost half of which are independently-owned, like The Manitoulin Expositor.
“Our member newspapers reach over 4 million readers each week,” Ms. McCutcheon shared. “That’s an awesome feat and one we are incredibly proud of.”
On top of her new role as president, Ms. McCutcheon also chairs the independent newspaper publisher group of the OCNA as well as other sub-committees and is also a board member of the Canadian Newspapers Reciprocal Insurance Exchange, which provides libel insurance to newspapers, magazines, trade publications, journals and websites nationwide. And, of course, she’s a long-time member of the Little Current Lions Club.
“I like to be busy,” she laughed.
The pandemic restrictions make it difficult for the new president to get out to meet her fellow publishers across the province, but she hopes to touch base with as many as she can during her term. “And I also encourage publishers to reach out to me with any thoughts, questions or concerns they might have.”
“This is a time of great change for our industry and we are all in it together,” she continued. “Newspapers are their communities’ greatest cheerleaders, but we often forget to toot our own horn. I’m here to remind everyone to do that. We’re pretty important members of our communities and these hard-working papers deserve a pat on the back for the critical work they do.”
Ms. McCutcheon can be reached by calling 705-368-2744 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org.