The Port Hawkesbury Scotia Sun – A demise long before modern day upheaval in print media.
That paper’s demise a quarter century ago planted the seeds for the now two-year-old self-owned online publication, The Macdonald Notebook.
It’s been 25 years this month since R.B. Cameron Jr. killed of the once scrappy and popular Scotia Sun news weekly in Port Hawkesbury.
In March 1994, Cameron, owner of Cameron Publications, provided a (robust – not!) two week severance package to eight staffers at the Scotia Sun, which began publishing in the gritty and hardscrabble town of Port Hawkesbury in 1967, the Centennial Year for Canada.
Back in 1969, then political don Allan J. MacEachen said Port Hawkesbury was poised to become Nova Scotia’s third city, with industry in the area then including a Gulf Oil refinery, a heavy water plant, and a pulp and paper mill. But Port Hawkesbury also had its fair share of fly-by-nighters in the early 1990s when money from Brian Mulroney’s ACOA was easy to be had.
A town with ups and downs, booms and busts, for decades Port Hawkesbury had two scrappy news weeklies covering the Strait region. By comparison, the university town of Antigonish—the academic capital of the Strait—had only the meek and mild weekly, The Casket, which avoided tough and aggressive news coverage.
Weekly journalists at the two Port Hawkesbury papers in the early 1990s sometimes went on to provincial jobs with the then hiring Halifax Herald or the now defunct Halifax Daily New, and others, like Jo-Anne MacDonald, a former Port Hawkesbury Reporter editor, went on first to the Daily News, and then to the National Post in Toronto.
The Scotia Sun was too far from Cameron Publications company’s sister newspapers in the Annapolis Valley and, so despite making money, the newspaper was sold to Advocate Media of Pictou, owner of the Port Hawkesbury Reporter.
R.B. Cameron Jr would later go on to sell his newspaper chain, and today is not involved in the media business.
But, three of the eight Scotia Sun staffers, are still involved in the media business.
Scotia Sun editor John DeMings, whose long career included editing daily and weekly newspapers as well as regional magazines, is now copy editor for my online endeavour, The Macdonald Notebook.
Scotia Sun sales agent Inez MacNeil is now sales agent with The Casket, now owned by the Halifax Herald.
And yours truly, the single news reporter at the Scotia Sun from 1992-1994, now owns the two-year-old The Macdonald Notebook.
My long held dream of eventually becoming a media entrepreneur has its roots after the demise of the Scotia Sun in 1994. I was 26 years old then, when I spoke publicly of starting my own news weekly in Port Hawkesbury.
Now 25 years later, my media company is a reality, and in Year Two of self-owned publishing.
Here is a news article from CP, on March 9, 1994, telling the story of the demise of the Port Hawkesbury Scotia Sun news weekly:
SCOTIA SUN TO STOP PUBLISHING
PORT HAWKESBURY (CP) – The Scotia Sun, a weekly newspaper that began publishing in 1967, is being sold and closed.
Cameron Publications announced Tuesday it is selling the Port Hawkesbury paper to a rival weekly the Port Hawkesbury Reporter, a subsidiary of the Pictou Advocate.
The purchase price wasn’t revealed.
Seven of the Sun’s eight employees were told Monday they would lose their jobs at the end of the month. The newspaper will print its final edition March 29.
“We’ve had literally over 100 calls from people who are really sympathetic about this,” said Inez MacNeil, the newspaper’s sales manager and a 10-year employee.
MacNeil said she was the only employee offered a transfer to another paper in the Cameron chain.
The affected Sun employees include an editor, two reporters, two salespeople, a receptionist and a truck driver. Each worker has been offered a two-week severance package.
Sun journalist Andrew Macdonald said staffers haven’t discounted a suggestion they form a co-operative and produce their own newspaper.
“It’s a good idea,” he said. “I think there’s room for a paper in Port Hawkesbury that is aggressive and community-minded.”
Rick Cluett, the Reporter’s publisher, said the weekly wouldn’t take advantage of being the only newspaper left in town.
“We’re not going to be jamming up rates,” he said. “There’s no way we would do that. That’s not the way we operate.”