By Charlie Senack
For 20 years, hundreds of Kitchissippi Times issues have made their way through the gold coloured boxes which can be found throughout the neighbourhood.
The newspaper printed its first issue in October 2003 after local journalist Mark Sutcliffe wanted to fill a void in community news.
Two decades later, our original mission statement is still going strong: “To serve as a community leader by maintaining a strong, vibrant and specifically local information forum for the people of Kitchissippi, by providing strong and useful content about local issues, events, and people.”
The newspaper was formed at a time when community journalism was competitive in Ottawa, before platforms like Facebook and Twitter (now called X) changed the media landscape.
Sutcliffe said it was a small operation which was primarily run through his living room.
“We were a very small team and it was a very small business, and for the longest time we didn’t even have an office,” he said. “When we first started, I was a photographer who took a lot of the pictures for the paper. I did some writing, I worked with some of the businesses [and] I did the finances.”
Sutcliffe’s mom, Florence Ng-Yelim, would also help with the invoicing.
Donna Neil, who was KT’s associate publisher and chief marketing officer, said it was like a family-run business.
When the newspaper boxes were acquired, Neil said they weren’t quite ready to be put on street corners yet. Her sister spent hours cleaning them, scraping off the old stickers, and putting on new ones.
“The very first issue… we did an overprint. Friends and family spread out across the neighbourhood and handed out copies,” Neil said.
The first issue of KT included an eight page spread on Newswest, a volunteer-run publication, founded in 1978. Their organization was facing climbing debt at the time, and joined forces with Kitchissippi Times as a way to survive.
Having a “paper in a paper” was a controversial move with the Newswest board being divided over the proposal. Even so, they voted 170 to 46 in support of merging, labeling the partnership as a “second chance” in the first joint issue.
“The board said that a failure to find volunteers to contribute to and distribute the paper would lead to its eventual demise,” wrote Natalie Hanson in the October 2003 Newswest section. “Under the agreement, Newswest will be guaranteed at least eight pages of editorial content in the Kitchissippi Times, which will grow in tandem with the new paper.”
As part of the agreement, Newswest remained an independent entity. They retained editorial control of content, its name, its board and its accounts receivable. KT assumed Newswest’s debt which it paid back over a set schedule, and was also in charge of selling ads for both sections.
The partnership came to an end in January 2019.
“The paper is getting smaller, the median age of volunteers is getting older – and a lot of us just can’t do the running around anymore,” said then Newswest editor Tim Thibeault. “It’s a tradition that began, but as time has changed, so have traditions.”
Over the past 20 years, the Kitchissippi Times has evolved as well. Editors and writers have come and gone, sections and columns have been added or removed, and the publication has shifted from printing 26 issues a year to 10.
When the newspaper was founded, 37,000 people lived in Kitchissippi ward. Today, that number is over 43,000. Our distribution area is even larger when you count parts of Bay and Somerset wards where the paper also has a strong presence.
At a time when community news is struggling to stay alive, KT continues to be strong. It’s thanks to the team, advertisers, and most of all, the readers.
Here’s to another 20 years of informing Kitchissippi residents!