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Canada: Life after newsprint

By Blake LambertCorrespondent / April 21, 2009

Blaise Pinsent, a 22-year employee of AbitibiBowater's paper mill in Grand Falls-Windsor, Canada, delivered a company plaque showing the mill’s prestigious clients – including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Guardian – to the local heritage society.

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NEWFOUNDLAND, CANADA – Without newspapers, this town of roughly 13,500 people might never have existed. Fearing war in Europe, the Harmsworth family of Britain, publishers of The Daily Mail and The Daily Mirror, required a source of newsprint.

The company selected this site, with its forests of black spruce, hydroelectric capacity, and nearby deep-water port, for its pulp and paper mill. From October 1909 until last month the mill supplied newsprint to some of the world’s leading daily newspapers. But AbitibiBowater of Montreal, the owner, said the operations were its costliest in North America and decided to shut them down on March 28. Now gone are 750 jobs from Grand Falls-Windsor, about 270 miles from the provincial capital, St. John’s.

The dwindling newsprint market resonates deeply here. Before the mill closed, Blaise Pinsent, a 22-year employee, delivered a company plaque showing the mill’s prestigious clients – including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Guardian – to the local heritage society.

Mr. Pinsent, a human resources adviser, was fortunate enough to receive a transfer to AbitibiBowater’s operations in northwestern Ontario. But it is a cruel blessing for a man whose passion is Grand Falls-Windsor. “People don’t just lose jobs, communities lose people,” Pinsent says of corporate shutdowns, expressing hope that the town can overcome the mill’s shutdown.

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