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The Centretown BUZZ celebrates 25 years of volunteers writing about their community

(Via the Centretown BUZZ)

Ottawa’s most central community paper, The Centretown BUZZ, celebrates its 25th anniversary this month. In its honour, the City of Ottawa has proclaimed October 19 “Centretown BUZZ Day”.

The BUZZ published its first issue in October 1995 and has continued to cover the Centretown neighbourhood (downtown, Ottawa River to the Queensway, Rideau Canal to LRT line 2) ever since. Its one competitor, Carleton University’s Centretown News, folded in 2015.

The BUZZ was founded by community activists who cared about their city. Their founding vision was

  1. To provide a voice for area residents, organizations, and businesses.
  2. To build healthy neighbourhoods in Centretown.
  3. To gain from the diversity in our community.

New development projects, neighbourhood planning, city budgets, transit and cycling were perennially featured. They were also joined by recipe columns, articles on community celebrations, a guide to the best ice-grips for winter walking, coverage of local bands, galleries, and restaurants, and even a local church’s blessing of the animals.

And how did it get its name? According to founding editor Robert Smythe, it was named after his brush cut!

The paper’s columnists could be acerbic. For example, long-time city hall columnist David Gladstone in 2005, “Our City leaders just can’t see to accept that transit is an essential service that must be managed as such. Instead they see it as a convenient vehicle for obtaining federal and Ontario government funding … independent of the service provided to the community.”

Some of The BUZZ’s original volunteers are still writing for the paper. Smythe’s “Skyline” column covers both recent development applications and Centretown’s history. Recent columns include

  • Ottawa’s experience of the 1918 flu pandemic,
  • how the Medical Arts building on Metcalfe Street was undergoing a façadectomy at age 90, and
  • the history of the former bottling works of Coca-Cola Canada on Queen Street.

The paper, which is supported strictly by advertising, is run primarily by volunteers with one part-time managing editor handling ads, layout, and editing. It’s owned by the two community associations in the area: the Centretown Community Association and the Dalhousie Community Association, but is run by an independent board.

A small army of volunteers distributes the paper door to door each month, with each volunteer handling a bundle or two of papers and few blocks of houses and apartment buildings.

This month’s BUZZ hit the streets Thursday, and includes interviews with former editors about their experiences on the paper. Former editor (and now Ottawa city councillor) Glen Gower told The BUZZ, “I think there’s still that big sense of people just wanting to know what’s happening in their community.”

“Community papers are where you’re going to get news that you can’t get anywhere else, " said former editor Kathryn Hunt. “A community paper finds the stuff you need to know as a member of this community and puts it in one place, and then puts it on your doorstep in the morning.”

The current (October 2020) and past issues of The BUZZ are available online at https://centretownbuzz.com.