The Frontenac Gazette (and its sister publication, the Kingston Heritage) ceased publication Monday as corporate media giants Postmedia and Torstar completed a deal to swap newspapers and subsequently close the vast majority of them down.
Staff at The Gazette/Heritage were called to a meeting Monday morning and told they had until noon to clean out their desks.
Torstar, through its Metroland Media wing, traded both papers along with eight community papers in the Ottawa area, the St. Lawrence News, three in the Belleville area and 10 other publications to Postmedia in exchange for eight community publications, seven dailies and two free dailies. Postmedia will continue to publish one of its acquisitions. Torstar will continue to publish four of the dailies.
The Kingston Heritage started publication in 1975. Joe Cembal, who has owned many papers in Central and Eastern Ontario, began the Heritage in response to requests from community leaders in Amherstview after the Whig-Standard had turned them down. Cembal was the publisher but his wife Gail actually ran the paper, serving as general manager until their son Darryl took over in 1988.
In 1991, the Cembals saw a way to produce a rural paper as an add-on market for its Kingston Heritage advertisers and The South Frontenac Gazette was born. In July of 2001, the Gazette expanded into Central and North Frontenac and changed its name to The Frontenac Gazette. It later pulled back from North Frontenac.
In 2009, Performance Printing in Smiths Falls bought the two papers and Darryl Cembal continued as publisher for a short time before moving on. During Performance Printing’s ownership, the Gazette acquired the EMC (which stood for Expanded Market Coverage) title in its masthead.
In 2011, Performance Printing was sold to Metroland and eventually the EMC disappeared from the masthead. Just last January, both the Gazette and Heritage underwent a redesign.
Understandably, Darryl Cembal was saddened to hear of the demise of the publications his family built.
“After 40 years, it’s disheartening that family owned newspapers have gone by the wayside,” Cembal said. “Not only were they owned by a conglomerate, they were closed by a conglomerate.
“For a good news product that’s actually still needed in the community, it’s too bad.
“But it was a corporate decision and it is what it is.”
(Editors note 1 This week's Gazette had been completed and submitted to the printers before the Monday morning meeting, but it is unclear if it was printed and is being distributed. The articles were posted online before the shutdown.)
(Editors note 2. Craig Bakay was a long time employee of the Frontenac Gazette. He worked there until the end of 2016, and subsequently came to work at the Frontenac News.)