I am fortunate at this point in my journalism career to still work in a newsroom, and at a weekly newspaper. Not because of my own ability or inability, but because there still is a newspaper in the community period.
Across the country, newspapers and other media organizations are under financial threat. Ownership by American vulture capitalist funds (Postmedia) or telecommunication conglomerates (Bell/CTV, Global, Rogers) means the meat of an operation – aka news resources – are trimmed so the shareholders may have their plate of fat.
Sadly, media reports of late have been about the journalists who have lost jobs, radio stations that are shuttered, or newspapers that have lost editions or closed altogether. At what point does a daily newspaper which prints fewer than five days a week cease to be called a daily?
Even some of the great pillars of journalism and editorial comment are unsafe from corporate hacks cutting products to make things “better” for readers. The Montreal Gazette recently announced it was ceasing its opinion section for the summer meaning editorial cartoonist legend Terry Mosher (aka Aislin) is on hiatus for the summer. In protest, Aislin posted online a cartoon showing what he thought of the corporate leadership and owners of the Gazoo – a mostly sunk tall-masted ship listing to one side. The words that accompanied the cartoon I cannot reprint. Look online if you are curious and need a laugh.
Or look here:
Journalists from all forms of media are jumping into communications. Some because they are tired of the industry, others because of better pay, hours, and there are jobs. One report from BC showed that communication coordinators and media relations people – most of whom are former journalists – outnumber journalists still working media by a five-to-one ratio.
One industry newsletter I subscribe to pointed out that at least three colleges in Ontario have paused their journalism or broadcasting programs, taking no first year students this year. Those programs will likely shutter or be retooled into communications.
It looks grim for corporate-owned entities, and the promise of the recently passed federal bill C-18, the Online News Act, isn’t going to really help. Social media platforms like Facebook, and search engines line Google, are required to pay for the Canadian news they aggregate (share) to Canadian users of those platforms. Of course, how do you get out of paying for something that you don’t want to pay for? Just don’t use it. If Facebook and Google don’t share Canadian news with Canadian users, those companies don’t have to pay for it. Everyone loses.
For decades, Quebec politicians have been criticized for being protectionist of the French language and culture. In some instances, that criticism is warranted – especially when it goes against fundamental human rights. But the concept of protectionism isn’t all a bad idea.
The risk for Canadian readers of Canadian news is this: if readers use online companies to disseminate what news they read, and those online companies are purposely blocking Canadian news to Canadian readers, what news will be served instead? Most likely it is American news. Democrat vs Republican, abortion rights battles, school shootings on a near daily basis, and what kid fell in a well in Florida this week. The lack of Canadian news should be worrying for everyone involved, just as the lack of Canadian news outlets should be.
Every time a newspaper cuts an edition, lays off staff, turns off a radio station, or shutters an online website, it reduces people’s stories being told. Some communities now are news deserts and more are on the way. Reducing media means reducing accountability as well.
A study published in the Washington Post found that communities without a legitimate news outlet are more likely to have higher municipal government costs, pay higher local taxes, and face more extremes in social issues. Yikes! Who knew a dollar at a newsstand could do so much for your community? I did, but I am biased.
Supporting local newspapers and legitimate media outlets is the best way to ensure you know what is going on in your community, and for supporting community accountability. Again, I am biased here, but I am also right.
NOTE – After this column went to publication, Postmedia and TorStar confirmed merger talks between the two companies. What a bad idea!
Originally printed in the June 28, 2023 print edition of The Morrisburg Leader.