Posted by Peter Roaf on Jun 23, 2020
Delta Optimist circulates every week 17,000 newspapers in South Delta. The online version of the newspaper reaches 400,000 to 500,000 views a month. Among the community newspapers in Canada, the Optimist has 1,300 voluntary subscriptions, at $50 per year, from people who want to support the newspaper, which is among the highest in Canada among community newspapers.
Matt Blair, Publisher and General Manager of the Delta Optimist, who replaced Rotarian Dave Hamilton on his retirement in the past several months, spoke to Ladner Rotary about the value of community news in trying times.

Community newspapers, like the Delta Optimist, are accountable to the local community where the editorial and advertising staff are known and can be contacted easily, unlike broadcast media which are not community based, more remote and not run by people known in the community.
Social media as a source of information for a lot of people carries a lot of opinion and “fake news” unintentionally or deliberately, but the community newspaper is a business which is responsible for what is published by trained journalists who research and check facts and have a reputation to live up to. With over 100 years of collective experience, the Delta Optimist news team can investigate, validate and expand on news trickling down to the community, weeding out what is fake and reporting what is relevant.
While the public trust level for TV news is 54%, that for community newspapers is 73%. Once again, in contrast with the remote nature of TV, there is interaction of 91% with local residents of a community, through circulation and contact with the newspapers.
TV and radio news requires a higher level of broad relevance across a large geographic area, community newspapers break stories at the community level and they can continue to follow news when required when the broadcast media have moved on to other news.
Community newspapers are community-driven. They support local initiatives, donate advertising space, not possible to the same extent in broadcasting and social media, and sponsor causes in the community.
Readers of community newspapers, such as the Delta Optimist, sometimes have a certain level of expectation to tell stories sent to the newsroom because it is considered some sort of essential service. The community newspaper is a business. It relies on advertising. During the COVID-19 pandemic, advertising sales have dropped by as much 45% at one point, locally and nationally. Volunteer subscribers are helping offset that loss.
The Delta Optimist needs to keep its traditional base, but serve, and appeal to, younger audiences, using the newspaper, website and social media. As younger business owners use social media more, revenue from advertising is not coming into the community as it once did.
Matt Blair, who comes from a family three generations in the publishing sector, has a background of art director, marketing strategist and thought leader latterly in the community news industry. He came to the Delta Optimist as Publisher and General Manager from his role as Publisher of the Tri-City News. Matt leads the Optimist team, supporting staff and specializing in creating relevant multimedia advertising campaigns, embracing Google, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social networks. Matt has won national recognition with over 35 design and marketing awards.