Muskoka Magazine and What’s Up Muskoka are no more; founding publisher Don Smith saddened by closure

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A familiar blue and white masthead will no longer grace local newsstands. Muskoka Magazine and its sister paper, What’s Up Muskoka, have ceased production after their parent company PostMedia deemed them unprofitable.

“These (decisions) aren’t arrived at without careful consideration,” said Phylisse Gelfand, Vice President, Communications at Postmedia. “They were both relatively low circulation publications, freely distributed locally, and they were expensive to produce. They weren’t profitable and we had to make the decision to shut them down.”

Eleven full-time and 15 part-time employees were affected by the closure, along with numerous freelance writers and photographers who contributed to both publications.

Founding publisher of Muskoka Magazine and What’s Up Muskoka, Don Smith, was saddened by the news.

“I heard from someone in the community who happened to go by the office and saw a sign on the door. I feel quite sad for the staff. They had carried on with many of the traditions that we had started when I began both Muskoka Magazine and What’s Up Muskoka,” said Smith. “They worked very hard at continuing that legacy and building in the community.”

I felt both publications filled a niche in the community and a lot of people looked to them who will no longer have that service. I think that’s particularly sad, too. You need competitive viewpoints in the community, you need to have different perspectives. I may not always agree and I didn’t always agree with what even my own staff wrote, but that’s what the exchange of good ideas is about. I’m disappointed that’s no longer available to the community.
Don Smith, founding publisher of Muskoka Magazine and What’s Up Muskoka

When asked his opinion about the dynamics of small community publications being owned by large corporations, Smith said, “I think that there has to be a real connection at all levels between a publishing organization and the communities that they serve. Particularly on a smaller community level, these corporations need to recognize the importance of being hyperlocal and connected to the community. You will find a number of mediums and publishers that are starting up – Doppler is an example of that – but there are also those in radio like Hunters Bay Radio, and a number of independent print publishers as well. Larger corporations sometimes have a little different mandate. They do bring certain benefits to smaller organizations but when they lose that connection to the community, that’s a problem – centralized production and administration and other services removes that connection to the community.”

Muskoka Magazine was launched by Smith in 2000 and purchased by Osprey Media in 2005. In 2007 Sun Media, a subsidiary of Quebecor Media, acquired Osprey Media. Then in 2014 Quebecor announced the sale of Sun Media to Postmedia, a deal that required approval by the Competition Bureau and ultimately closed in April 2015.

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17 Comments

  1. So sad to hear this! Part of what encouraged me to take a job at MAHC and move my family to Muskoka was sitting in a great local restaurant, eating fantastic pasta (Little Place by the Lights) and leafing thru the great pictures of life in Muskoka ( Muskoka Magazine and What’s Up).

    Thank you to those that contributed for those years and best wishes on your next journey.

  2. Sandy McLennan on

    Bad news. I wish the suddenly unemployed well. Corporate culture quiets the voice of local people some more. I get that a business must be profitable, but as a media consumer I remember the unique character (and characters) of CFBK radio, The Forester the way it used to be. This feels like a bit more slippage. I hope the people who have been writing and reporting can find ways to carry on and bring stories.

  3. Fyonna Vanderwerf on

    Unique publications that capture different angles of Muskoka. Sorry to read of the end of this. Sending good wishes to all those employees. .I will buy each of you a coffee the next time you are at the Sportsplex in Bracebridge.

  4. The last paragraph says it all. After so many corporate takeovers the owners of these publications just saw numbers on a page and had no connection to the reality or any value those numbers represent. If that kind of connection were there, human creativity might put some effort into finding a way to recreate the value in a more profitable way. But, with no human connection and no committment to the lives and the unique lifestyle of the area, there was no energy or creativity or desire to find another solution. This is the problem with big corporate takeovers. I’d be interested to know what the benefits were, at the very beginning, when the local business was sold to Osprey Media. Could you shed some light on this Don Smith? Why did you take that first step?

  5. My sister, Carolyn Bray, loved Muskoka Magazine and it’s owner and I’m so sorry that it will not continue. I still have copies in my home. We’re losing so many magazines and good newspapers and story tellers and it’s an absolute crime. To both Muskoka Magazine and What’s Up Muskoka. You will be missed.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Margo. For my wife Susan and me, Carolyn will always be a special person with a place in our hearts. We share your sadness for the impact this decision has had on the staff and the community.

  6. Definitely a major loss- not only the employment issue, but the local aspect is so very important. It seems like so many of our organizations (hospitals, schools, news outlets) seem to be of the mind set that the only things that matter are the bottom line and all need to be large to be more easily controlled). I began to teach the year that “county” school boards came into being – now is district. Small town hospitals are threatened because it so important that the big one get more money and rural folk can travel. Yes, Huntsville is considered rural and that is one of the reason we got a residential hospice – we couldn’t sustain the ten-bed model proposed by the province – it only got approval because it was a “pilot” project and continues to be strongly supported by the local community (with provincial funding for nursing staff only). Churches have not been unaffected by “growth” as many small, more rural struggle. Is there an answer, solution? I like Doppler on-line, but does it reach enough readers?

  7. I am so sorry to hear this. As the owner of Great North Arrow newspaper, I realize all to well the challenges of print media. Digital media will never replace the feeling of sitting down with a print publication with substance. Great North Arrow has been considering a relaunch due to requests and community support, but print media is challenging and ‘labours of love’ don’t pay the bills. We will miss you, and I wish you all the very best.

  8. Karen Wehrstein on

    After writing for both publications for many years, I’m very saddened. My best wishes to everyone who worked there, and best of luck finding new ways of making a living.

  9. John Rivière-Anderson on

    The stories and fine photography based on local knowledge of the dedicated reporters will be greatly missed by both seasonal and permanent residents of Muskoka. For many years, these publications have been fine ambassadors for our place to visitors as well. The termination is a most unfortunate, not to say misguided corporate decision. Often a corporately subsidised contribution to a district’s evolving culture pays unforeseen, long-range dividends.

  10. I’m not sure why this a surprise to anyone. Print media is a dinosaur; Redundant, environmentally unfriendly and not in real time. These publications should have gone online 2 years ago.

  11. Judith Munroe on

    I lived in Huntsville until I was 18 and Huntsville has always held an important place in my l life. Now, living abroad I received THe Muskoka Magazine subscriptions for a couple of years and still have backed copies with pertinent articles in them. It was a great source of information and a different slant on Muskoka than I had grown up with. It is a pity that it has been lost to the local people and those of us who are farther away. Wishing good luck to those who have found themselves unemployed and to their onward journey.

  12. I was saddened to hear of the demise of two more local publications.
    I began my retirement writing ‘career’ with Muskoka Magazine under Don Smith and with the Huntsville Forester headed up by Elizabeth Rice. Although I later wrote for many publications these two held a special place in my heart. Now both are gone.
    With the closing of MM another real connection to the community has vanished. I feel badly for the staff and I feel for this community. We’ve lost something unique to us that I just don’t think we’ll get back.

    • Dawn Huddlestone on

      Hi Jim,

      I don’t think you’ll be able to purchase back issues now that the office has shut down. I happen to have a slightly dog-eared copy of the April 2015 issue that you are welcome to have. Email me at [email protected] and I can find a way to get it to you.

      Cheers,
      Dawn

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