Living the daily newspaper fantasy (with a technological twist)

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Just as I was turning 21-years-old, I surprised myself, my family and my peers by getting a job as a daily newspaper reporter in Vancouver BC. Then (and frankly now) I am socially handicapped, and my student newspaper peers on The Ubyssey were certainly not going to recommend me for one of the coveted summer jobs at one of the city’s two daily papers.

But a fortunate job posting at the student employment centre for a part-time “city desk clerk” caught my eyes. It was posted not for journalism-oriented students, but when I showed up at the newsroom the administrative employee hiring for the part-time position said: “You are on the Ubyssey — You have the job.” A few months later, the newspaper offered me a part-time job as a police reporter. My role was to check in with the police and write crime news stories on Friday and Sunday evenings.

Not a bad job, but what if I could actually own and publish a daily newspaper? Such a thought would be far-fetched to say the least, though I realized after my journeys through Africa and later five years as a civil servant writing news releases for the Canadian federal government’s employment department, that I would never be happy working as someone else’s employee.

So I started my newspaper — but it was a monthly publication, not a daily.

That ultimately led to the business today.

Last year, when the Ontario government changed its construction payment and lien legislation, it made a small wording change in its regulations. For years, it required contractors to publish notices in a “construction trade newspaper” when projects were substantially completed to start the construction lien holdback clearing process. The newspaper had to be published daily and focus exclusively on construction-industry related coverage. One publication could do this — and it wasn’t mine.

The new rules allowed the publication to be digital, and then indeed my dreams of becoming a daily newspaper publisher suddenly become much more feasible.

We assembled our small sales, editorial, production and administrative team, and contracted for IT services to build the necessary database infrastructure, and on May 1, we were ready to launch Ontario Construction News.

It started slow, but business has been picking up and less than two months after launch we are running break-even numbers on our operations; with clients telling us they are happy with the service and the monopoly busting savings.

I’m a lucky guy. Nearing my retirement age, I’m able to live a dream that i wouldn’t have thought possible when I was 45 years younger.

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