Opinion Column

Keeping score on Barrie’s institutions

Bruce Cameron

By Bruce Cameron

Layoffs have recently been announced at CTV Barrie, located on Beacon Road. IAN MCINROY/BARRIE EXAMINER/POSTMEDIA

Layoffs have recently been announced at CTV Barrie, located on Beacon Road. IAN MCINROY/BARRIE EXAMINER/POSTMEDIA

How do you deal with the passing of a local institution?

I guess it depends on how you define one.

Barrie folks who lived downtown during the 1960s would likely call Dorothy (Dolly) Kelly a local institution.

She passed away recently in her 97th year and is fondly remembered as the proprietor of Kelly’s Groceries, an old variety store that stood on the northeast corner of downtown’s H-block. (If that’s Greek to you, just reference Barrie’s main library then look for where Owen and Sophia streets meet up.)

Then there are the buildings that housed the building blocks of the future.

Seven years ago, Prince of Wales school found itself on the Simcoe County District School Board’s unforgiving “prohibitive-to-repair” list. Its bells rang for the last time on June 30, 2011.

Right next door to it, Barrie Central Collegiate (founded in 1843) closed in June 2016.

There was a prolonged, public backlash against both of those these closing, but most school board administrative bulldozers, although never naturally noisy, have a very efficient way of staying on track, getting stuff, uh, done.

The latest institution to shut down can’t really be called an institution. To boot, there’s been no loud protest against its closure. Then again, maybe local TV sports can be called an institution.

In its heyday, CKVR (or, depending on your vintage, The New ‘VR) had a CRTC-granted licence to print money. I grew up about a two-minute walk from the stately home perched atop Teresa Street, owned by the station’s founder, Ralph Snelgrove.

Nice place, especially as a launching point for fearless tobogganing when, depending on the winter, you’d find good air halfway down the hill. High enough to reach for that thick, overhanging maple tree branch.

Since its inception, good old ’VR was what it was, a local voice. There was that weird programming hiccup about 10 years ago when its news department tried to be all things to all people living in Simcoe County and in York Region. It was one of those experiments that, from the get, seemed doomed to fail.

Oh, they tried, but you knew this weird bird would never fly. As if a busy professional in Markham gave a hoot about a pleasant fluff piece concerning just how darned busy Elwood Epps Sporting Goods store would be this coming May 2-4 weekend.

Flipped around, you could just sense someone’s Elmvale eyes glazing over at the latest exciting news from Vaughan city council chambers. A wonky fit and, sure enough, eventually the obvious solution was to go back to what was working fine in the first place.

I have a feeling last week’s news about CTV Barrie’s decision to close down its sports department will be reversed. Actually, the worst news for the station will be if it doesn’t have to reverse that decision.

Why? Well, for starters, it’ll mean there’s no public clamouring for it to do so.

But here’s the thing: a local television station covering local sports is that station’s access to the people living in its very own backyard. Cut off those conversations, close down that spotlight on, for instance, the high-school Athlete of the Week, and you’re basically turning your back on the community you serve.

No local media is safe these in these splintered times. We all have to fight hard for advertising dollars.

CTV Barrie obviously needed to nix costs. But in my opinion, it needs to look at local sports coverage as a smart, worthy investment.

It’s called emotional revenue.

Bruce Cameron is a Barrie freelance writer. 

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