The Internet is almost always part of the tragic narrative. It is killing print newspapers they scribe. Sad news is splashed across the headlines. The loss of the newspaper carrier who tosses your paper onto the front porch early in the morning does not equal the death of news and opinion. Even restructuring newsrooms does not necessarily mean less access to important information.
Media managers are wondering what went wrong. They are asking why journalism doesn't pay any more. If the solutions are hard to discern, they have only to look at the technology they so eagerly embrace. It's the digital technology. It has spread throughout many industries including journalism, like a virus.
At a time when our consumption of the news is at an all-time high, the very institutions at the heart of our news media are in crisis -- and demanding the attention of our political leaders. Postmedia combined newsrooms in Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver in a move that not only saw many talented and dedicated journalists pushed out the door, but also saw distinctive voices quieted.
For the last 30 years or so, Canadians have repeatedly flagged healthcare as the most important national concern and the issue they want their political leaders to prioritize. Surveys and studies and polls and panels -- there have been plenty -- all come up with the same finding: Canadians care about healthcare.
In 2013, one of the most common refrains I heard while selling print ads to small business owners was "We are concentrating on our online advertising". There is no doubt there is, and should be, an upward trend towards owning your online footprint. However, the idea of marketing exclusively online for a brick and mortar business is unwise to say the least. Conversely, an online business should not close their minds to traditional advertising.
In terms of visible minorities, the Globe and Mail is doing no better than its national print-based competitors in providing a forum for ethnic Canadian voices. This diverse demographic is projected to grow to a third of the Canadian population by 2030. Is traditional Canadian media doing anything to include, reflect or address their experiences in the multicultural mosaic, building on the wave of the present and future? The examples are few and far between.
Print journalism is changing fundamentally. Three dramatic events last week make the point: On October 18, Newsweek magazine announced it will become a digital only publication in 2013, ending 80 years in print. Newspapers have failed, so far, to acquire the skill sets required for print journalism in the 21st century.
Slowly, slowly, the dwindling band of journalists who survive all the cuts are being acclimatized to the notion that their job is no longer to serve the people in our democracy -- a tradition proudly built up over the past couple of hundred years, often at great cost -- but to serve their employer. So why don't we, the people, take over -- subsidize our precious democratic journalism ourselves? Here's the plan.
Seems that when you spend an hour watching Canadian TV news stories about politics, you get only about 15 minutes of real information. These scary numbers come from the highly respected charitable Samara Institute today. Samara has spent months doing all the research, the number crunching, and the drawing of conclusions. Will the newsrooms listen? Probably not.
When the Mirror was launched in the mid-1980s, it touted its independence and social purpose. I remember going to benefit concerts and parties organized to help it get off the ground and survive. But it's been shut down, and I fear even an online version wouldn't be able to pay even the most abysmal of salaries, or even reassert itself as a go-to source for young Montreal anglos.
A former CBC colleague-turned-journalism professor very politely questions the ethics of my writing this column for HuffPost. Surely, he suggests delicately, the internet in general -- and aggregators like HuffPost in particular -- are killing traditional mainstream, general-interest journalism. And, in the process, seriously damaging democracy. My reply...?