Going through some old stuff, I came across a full newspaper from 1981 – a copy of the Tuesday June 30th edition of the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal. Examining it, one is struck by how hefty the paper was in terms of both paper volume as well as article content compared to what is currently being published. Indeed, I put this old copy of the Chronicle-Journal on my dining room table alongside the Monday February 11th, 2019 edition for a comparison (see the photo) and the differences are quite striking.
Newspapers have indeed shrunk. The 1981 version of the Chronicle-Journal was 15 5/8 inches (39.7 cm) wide and 22 5/8 inches (57.5 cm) long while the 2019 version is 11 ½ inches (29.2 cm) wide and 22 5/8 inches (57.5 cm) long. More important is the thickness. The 1981 newspaper consists of two section – each 32 pages long while the 2019 version is in two sections – each 10 pages long. The long and short of it is that the amount of newsprint required has shrunk by over two-thirds. Even more interesting is the fact that until the mid 1990s, Thunder Bay actually had two papers published – a morning edition which was the Chronicle-Journal and an evening edition known as the Times-News.
When what looks at what has happened to the Canadian forest sector over the last fifteen years, one only needs to take what has happened at our own local paper and extrapolate it across North America. Newspapers have been either shrinking in size or simply going out of print completely. There was certainly a lot more advertising in the pages of the 1981 version of the Chronicle-Journal and competition from electronic media and the internet have been important factors in the decline in the demand for newspapers.
Along with changing consumer preferences when it comes to news sources, there have been other shocks to the pulp and paper industry. The recession of 2008-09, international newsprint and pulp competition from lower cost suppliers, a high Canadian dollar, aging capital stock and high electricity prices were all factors which helped decimate the Northwestern Ontario pulp and paper industry in the first decade of the 21st century. Across Canada, employment in logging, pulp and paper and wood dropped by over 40 percent between 2004 and 2014 while the number of paper mills fell from 50 to 30 – also a 40 percent decline.
It is really quite remarkable that newspapers have been able to survive at all given the size of the demand and technology shocks hitting them over the last thirty years. I must admit, that while I have adjusted to the era of e-papers, I do occasionally miss having a more hefty newspaper in hand.