July 25, 2016

You shouldn't always believe what you hear or read in the news. Even journalists - especially journalists - know that.

Yet, since the formation of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers in 1965, you could count on a work stoppage every few years. In fact, there have been 20 strikes, rotating strikes, lockouts and other ways that the mail has ground to a halt over those 51 years.

So, when Canada Post said it was going to lockout its workers on Friday, July 8, who were we to doubt it, even though the union had said it didn't want a strike?

During my 29 years as editor, we had been through four major work stoppages at the post office. This would be the fifth. Somehow, we had always managed to get the newspaper through to a significant portion of our readers.


We had an issue of the Western Catholic Reporter scheduled to go to press July 5 and into the mail the following day. Few, if any, of our readers would receive the paper on the Thursday. Once the lockout began, how long it would be before the mail started moving again?

So Lorraine Turchansky, the archdiocese's communications director, and I developed a plan. We would print only the digital edition of the paper and take down the paywall so that anyone could access it. We would use every digital means at our disposal as well as announcements at Sunday Masses to make our readers aware how they could still read the WCR.


We would extend the subscriptions of our print subscribers by the number of issues that we couldn't mail. Then, when the work stoppage was over, the next print edition would have all the local stories written during that period as well as some national and international news.

It sounded like a good plan.

Then, after our press time, Canada Post softened slightly. It announced that the lockout wouldn't begin until Monday. Okay. That didn't undermine what we were doing.

However, when Sunday rolled around, the post office's heart melted like Scrooge's on Christmas morning. There would be no lockout. Not now; not anytime in the foreseeable future.

Our ingenious plans had been for naught, undermined by another postal cat-and-mouse game.

Well, not completely for naught. We did learn one thing; at most, only 10 per cent of our print subscribers bothered to read any of the digital edition. As well, the number of visitors to our website was up, but not by a lot.


With an older readership similar to that of other Catholic papers - median age of roughly 60 - an online newspaper is not a serious option. Give 'em an old-fashioned print publication that they can hold in their hands.

Forget Twitter. Forget Facebook. Even forget email. If you want them to read it, you had better put it into their hands so they can put their feet up while sitting back in their armchair.

The post office wins again.