Editor describes the path from Packet & Times to OrilliaMatters


“Out of misery came opportunity,” says Dave Dawson about the closure of Packet and the launch of OrilliaMatters

Recently, the History Committee of the Orillia Museum of Art and History (OMAH) welcomed Dave Dawson, former editor of the Orillia Package & Times and currently OrilliaMatters Community editor, as guest speaker.

His lecture Evolution: The death of the package leads to the birth of the digital newspaper led us through the demise of the Orillia Package & Times and the birth and success of the online newspaper OrilliaMatterswhich started where the package stopped providing news and local information to our community.

Dave Osborne, who serves as editor for the OMAH History Speaker Series, commented on Dave's talk: “Dave Dawson covered the history of newspapers in Orillia from their beginnings to the present day. He talked about the fluctuations and changes in the industry that caused the face of the company to change over time, often influenced by the owner of the newspaper. Dave's inside knowledge and insight into the newspaper business in Orillia is second to none.”

Journalism was in Dave's blood from a young age. Journalism was his life. package Over the years, Dave has held many different roles: sports editor, night editor, assignment editor and local editor.

“You only miss what you have when it’s gone.” – Dave Dawson

It was a black day in Orillia when the Package & Times — after 147 years of loyal service — closed its doors in November 2017. Employees learned the news via social media. No final issue. No goodbye. No thank you. Our community was angry and frustrated, wondering how to find out what was happening on the ground.

Dave explained that the package had a history of ethical journalism with owners like Charles Hale. package was the lifeblood of the community. It was a living community resource. The package It provided jobs, sponsored sports teams, championed important causes and mobilized the population. It held the powerful to account. Its job was to report on everything that mattered.

“If it is not in the packageit didn't happen.” – Dave Dawson

Then the package was taken over by corporations whose only mission over the years was to squeeze every cent out of the newspaper. This is an industry rooted in tradition and unwilling to change and evolve with new challenges. This was ultimately the death sentence for the packageWith the shutdown of the printing presses, the relocation of the newspaper printing works to Vaughan, the sale of the building on Colborne Street, the move to a shopping centre and the continual reduction of staff, the fate of the future was set.

“Out of misery came opportunity.” – Dave Dawson

In less than two months, editor Dave Dawson has a team of package Employees to restore the lifeline of the community. OrilliaMatters was born. Its DNA was digital and its founding employees were former package Employees. OrilliaMatters grew exponentially and became an industry leader, attracting a film crew from Google's New York office to document the team's success.

“The founding and development of OrilliaMatters as one of the most successful online community publications in Canada today was very interesting, including their current publication policies and how the general operation is run today.” – Dave Osborne

A completely different way of working and a commitment to gathering news is the recipe for success for Village Media. Dave explained that the ability to work with great people from the package to the new format is a testament to the flexibility of their content management system and the value of their central support staff in Sault Ste. Marie. It has led to exponential growth for Village Media.

Dave’s lecture is an important archival document of the history and fate of our beloved newspaper and the good news that OrilliaMatters. We thank Dave for his informative and passionate presentation that set the record straight. We are fortunate to have Dave as an advocate for our community.

If you missed Dave's excellent talk, click this link to watch the YouTube recording of OMAH's talk.


September 18: Dr. Chris Decker – A History of the Orillia Opera House.

— Submitted by Mary Ann Grant