St. Albert is now a one-newspaper town after last week's closure of Saint City News.
The weekly newspaper published its last issue June 24, ending more than a decade of head-to-head competition with the Gazette. Prior to its launch as Saint City News in 1998, the paper operated for several years as St. Albert This Week. It had begun life as the St. Albert Booster in about 1980.
News of the closure was a shock to Saint City News staffers when they found out two weeks before their last issue, said former editor Glenn Cook.
"A lot of people weren't quite sure how to react to it," he said.
Once the news went public there was an outpouring of support on the social website Twitter.
"That was heartening. It kind of validated all those years and all the hard work we put in," Cook said.
After six years at Saint City News, including three as editor, Cook lists his former co-workers as the highlight of his time there.
"Some of them will be friends long after the memory of this has faded," he said.
Saint City News had a following among residents who felt the Gazette was predictable in its editorial stance, said former Saint City News publisher and columnist Don Sinclair.
"What we tried to do was provide an alternative voice," said Sinclair, who drew many eyeballs to the paper himself with his penchant for stirring up controversy.
"They liked the fact that nobody knew what the heck I was going to do week to week," he said. "To be honest with you, neither did I."
Sinclair credits former publisher Rob LeLacheur for taking Saint City News to its peak in 2005, when it was named best community newspaper in Alberta by the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association.
"It's sad that it's gone," Sinclair said. "It's been a long-time part of the community."
Coun. Cam MacKay was also saddened by the news. He still has a framed copy of a photo that accompanied a story that Saint City News did when he opened his dog day care business.
"I always liked the fact that in St. Albert we had two newspapers. I think it made the Gazette better and it made Saint City better," MacKay said.
"I would read both newspapers cover to cover and it would be a different feel."
Saint City News and its other incarnations had many owners over the years. Last October Vancouver-based Glacier Media Group sold Saint City News to Great West Newspapers. St. Albert-based Great West owns 17 community papers throughout Alberta, including the St. Albert Gazette.
Saint City News was losing money and it was Great West's intention to turn it around, said president and CEO Duff Jamison.
"We would have preferred to keep Saint City News viable. That was our goal. Only when we got to about mid-May did we decide … we're falling far short of our business plan," he said.
The economic downturn forced local advertisers to choose one paper and most chose the Gazette, he said.
"When the economy started to improve, it just didn't come back for [Saint City]," he said.
Despite the ownership arrangement, both St. Albert papers operated independently and continued to compete for advertisers and news, Jamison said.
The closure of its main competition won't change how the Gazette operates, he said.
"We don't intend to change any ad rates or any of those sorts of things," he said.
The Gazette will take on two of Saint City's sales people and has added Cook to its newsroom.
For some, Saint City's closure is a signal that the newspaper business is dying due to online competition, but revenues for community newspapers haven't taken the hit experienced by metro dailies, Jamison said.
"From where we sit as community newspaper publishers, the future looks bright," he said.