Black Press seeks creditor protection, local papers’ fate uncertain

Black Press Media owns newspapers across all 3 territories. The company announced Monday that it is filing for protection from its creditors and has reached an agreement to be purchased by a group of investors. It says the company intends to continue to publish ‘impactful local journalism.’ (Natalie Pressman/CBC)

‘Support your local news outlets because you don’t want to lose them,’ former publisher says

The future may be a little uncertain for some northern newspapers, as Black Press Media — which owns several publications in the three territories — is dealing with money troubles.

But some northerners who have worked for the company are hopeful that the northern papers will survive.

Black Press Ltd. — the B.C.-based company that owns 150 publications including seven newspapers across the three territories — announced Monday that it is filing for protection from creditors, and could be sold. The company says it will be restructuring so it can continue to publish local journalism.

Bruce Valpy is a former publisher of Northern News Services Limited (NNSL), which is owned by Black Press and publishes News North, the Yellowknifer, Inuvik Drum, Hay River Hub, Nunavut News and Kivalliq News.

“Support your local news outlets because you don’t want to lose them,” said Valpy.

Valpy was publisher of NNSL when Black Press bought it in 2021 and he says he believes the northern papers are among the company’s most profitable.

“So I think that you know, whoever does take over and whatever rises from the ashes, if anybody’s going to survive, I would hope it was, it would be our newspapers,” Valpy said.

The office of the Yellowknifer newspaper. Black Press Media bought Northern News Services Limited (NNSL) in 2021. NNSL publishes 6 newspapers across the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, including the Yellowknifer. (Natalie Pressman/CBC)

Walt Humphries, whose Yellowknifer column “Tales From the Dump” has been published nearly every week for 30 years, says newspapers are particularly important for northern communities that may not have the same digital capabilities as southern cities. And, he said, a lot of people just like it better.

“You see the papers go over to the seniors’ centre and everybody sits there and reads a copy even though they could get it online … they like the physical newspaper, and then they sit around and discuss the different items and articles,” he said.

“A newspaper is much more than just providing the news, it also promotes that involvement in the community.”

He says a local newspaper also provides a historical record that can’t be replicated by digital alternatives.

Mike Thomas, former publisher of Yukon News, was at the paper when it was sold to Black Press in 2013. He said that sale brought on mixed feelings for staff who weren’t sure how their paper would change.

He said there were times when he argued with his bosses in B.C. about straying from their “cookie-cutter design,” but overall he said it was a successful buyout.

“Black Press allows us to continue to do what we always did with our reporting without a whole lot of influence,” he said.

Walt Humphries is a longtime columnist for NNSL. He says that local newspapers are important for those who don’t have the same access to or familiarity with digital media. (CBC)

He says he doesn’t know what Black Press’s announcement will mean for northern papers but that it would be a shame to lose any of them.

“I really strongly believe that it is so important for communities to have a voice through print media,” he said. “Telling those stories, keeping people informed as well, and governments in check. It would be devastating to see any newspaper in this community to go under.”

Don Jaques is the former publisher of Northern Alberta’s Slave River Journal — later renamed Northern Journal — that closed in 2016.

He said that newspapers cannot survive without government support and he called on the government of the Northwest Territories to support its local papers. He said he intends to write each MLA to tell them to use the papers to get their message out through advertising.

“The implications of that for journalism are significant and the implications of that for having a robust democracy is significant, so it’s just a slippery slope,” he said.

NNSL publisher Mike Bryant declined to comment on the announcement and directed CBC News to Black Press Media’s head office.

In a statement, a Black Press spokesperson said the company has reached an agreement to be purchased by a group of investors, including the American Carpenter Media Group.

The statement said that if the sale does go ahead, the company intends to continue to publish “impactful local journalism.”

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Amid pandemic, amateur radio societies in Northern Canada are seeking new recruits, CBC News

Russia: Russian media pushing “business-as-usual” narrative in Arctic despite sanctions, say media researchers, Eye on the Arctic

Natalie Pressman, CBC News

Natalie Pressman is a reporter with CBC North in Yellowknife. She can be reached at or on Twitter at @natpressman.

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