Ask a newsagent in Moncton, N.B., about that new local newspaper—ZoomNB, a free monthly dedicated to reporting good news only—and you may hear a funny story: someone dropped a stack of the papers off, then someone entirely different came and picked them all up, and no one’s seen it since. Daniel Mlodecki, ZoomNB’s publisher, agrees he’s heard tell of it—that someone’s conducting some sort of black-plumbing operation against him—but dismisses the yarn as “a little rumour.”
Whatever the case, running a newspaper in New Brunswick is hard work: Brunswick News, owned by the province’s Irving family, holds all its English dailies and most of the weeklies, a situation that prompted a Senate inquiry into media concentration there. Two years ago, the publisher of the Carleton Free Press, a Woodstock, N.B., indie, filed a Competition Bureau complaint accusing Brunswick News of selling ads at predatory prices; the bureau didn’t pursue it and the Free Press closed months later.
Both Mlodecki, 32, and his father Victor once worked for Brunswick News. When Mlodecki fils lost his job—he says his wrongful dismissal suit should go to trial soon—he bought a Moncton pub. “A bar’s fun,” he adds, “but it doesn’t really fill the days.” So he launched ZoomNB, a photo-heavy, copy-light tabloid geared toward good news (“Canada Day is a blast in Moncton, Dieppe, and Riverview,” is one recent headline).
Is it any sort of threat to the Irvings? Not really. “It’s not a newspaper,” says Kim Kierans, a journalism prof at the University of King’s College in Halifax. “They’re relying on advertisers, and the enticement is seeing pictures of your friends, your neighbours, your kids, your aunties.” Still, Mlodecki says it was never about that, anyway: “It’s not like a revenge thing.”