After 85 years of Cumming family ownership, the Fort Frances Times was sold to London Publishing last Thursday.
Not much will change at the Times. It will continue to print four days a week and all 30 of its employees are being maintained.
“It's kind of heartwrenching, but it's the best-case scenario,” said Times' production manager Don Cumming who previously owned part of the business.
"We wanted to make sure the staff was intact and looked after; it was our number one reason for dealing with this company.
“They have a reputation for keeping newspapers community-based,” Don added.
London Publishing first started in 2009 and has since acquired 20 newspapers that run independently with readerships from 1,200 to 20,000.
“We're happy that the paper will continue to operate,” Don noted.
“I haven't lost any sleep over this because I'm comfortable with the person taking over and I'm comfortable that all the staff are looked after.”
The Fort Frances Times has been part of the Cumming family since it was purchased by James Alexander Cumming in 1934 with his partner, Roscoe Larson. In the 1970s, Robert and Delsie Cumming purchased the shares.
Previous owners Linda Plumridge and Jim and Don Cumming have worked at the newspaper since the early '60s, starting as carriers. It's been a part of their identity for over 50 years.
“The newspaper has always been a part of our life and our story,” said Jim Cumming.
"My grandfather and his partner committed to business owners and the district that the paper would always be a part of the life and times of the Rainy River District.
“Linda, Don and I have remained true to those commitments that were made over 85 years ago and with that in mind we sought a buyer who would . . . continue to operate the paper in a method that was common to the commitments of our grandfather and father,” Jim remarked.
The Cummings have known Ray Stanton for a decade and have been in talks about selling the newspaper for six years.
Initially when he extended his offer to purchase the Fort Frances Times in 2013, the Cummings were not yet ready to retire. But as time passed, they decided selling the newspaper to London Publishing would be the best way to exit the family business and keep it publishing here in the community.
Jim, who has been the Times' publisher for decades, will be retiring in six weeks, while Don and Linda are under a contract for another year, at which time they will decide whether to join their brother in retirement.
The Cummings have known the owners of London Publishing—Stanton and his wife, Stacie—for a decade.
He has a strong passion for community newspapers, having read the Times cover to cover for the last five years.
Stanton lives on a farm in King City, Ont. where he owns 25 limousin beef cattle and enjoys Kim Jo Bliss's “Moos From the Herd” columns each week.
He's a fishing enthusiast as well and loves seeing all the fishing photos in the paper that run almost every week.
“He's interested in the product and takes pride,” Linda noted.
Stanton is a past president of the Ontario Community Newspaper Association (OCNA) and there's always been a friendly rivalry between the London Publishing-owned Haliburton County Echo and Fort Frances Times at the OCNA awards.
“I got tired of losing to the Times so I had to become involved with the ownership,” he laughed.
Stanton hopes to carry the Times' reputation forward as being one of the best in Ontario.
The Cumming family is grateful to all of the staff who have worked at the Fort Frances Times for their dedication, service, and loyalty through the years and looks forward to watching it flourish for decades to come.
“We also want to thank all of our readers and loyal subscribers,” said Linda.
“Some have been subscribed to the paper for a majority of their lives . . . and we appreciate all those people,” she smiled.