02/04/2016 11:00 EST | Updated 02/04/2017 05:12 EST

3 Ways You Misunderstand Journalism


It's not often that journalists talk about themselves. As much as we convince readers on a daily basis that the subjects of our stories matter, we failed to convince you that we matter.

It comes as no surprise then, that much of the mudslinging in recent weeks in response to reporters speaking out about the massive layoffs are based on a misunderstanding of what we actually do and why.

Here are three core themes.

1. If you wanted my support, you shouldn't have endorsed the ____ party.

Journalists are not owners. Owners are rarely journalists. It's baffling that the employer-employee divide, a given in other industries, is ignored when people perceive the news.

Editorial's interest to inform the public and the owner's demand for profit are often completely at odds with each other. The problem is, one has the upper hand.

The symptoms of this discord manifest themselves in countless ways - clickbait, Kim Kardashian-style fluff pieces, inaccuracies, unpaid contributors, permalancers, editor resignations, bizarre political endorsements, layoffs, and even deteriorating mental health for journalists. As the public, who do you blame?

In a recent podcast, Canadaland explored the notion: What if the slow collapse of Postmedia was always the plan meant to generate income for its vulture fund owners? Is the idea that management is in it for themselves and not for journalism really that unfathomable?

You, the public, are right to be offended.

Mistakes are more common today because copyeditors have all been laid off. The quality of reporting in general has gone down because reporters must write more stories per day. There is less hard-hitting reporting -- the kind that we would rather do, I can assure you -- because we are afraid of losing our jobs. There is more cheap consumable content because management demands views.

Even endorsements, at least the type we're seeing, so unapologetically at odds with both political merit and public opinion is unprecedented and a result of an owner's partisan ties.

You, the public, are right to be offended.

Whatever your personal experience with journalists and our work, know that we are trying. Those of us who have jobs are in a constant mental state of toeing the line, made up of serving the public, not offending management, and putting food on the table. No wonder our own interests -- job security, mental and physical health -- take a backseat.

These aren't excuses -- the onus is and should always be on reporters to do better -- but your anger should be directed at those who deserve it.

2. Social media will replace journalists soon.

Social media will replace journalists the way microwaves will replace cooks.

Everyone owns a microwave, and rehashed leftovers, cheap TV dinners, or the odd brilliant creative recipe are quick, easy. But your favourite Tumblr or Twitter account will never have the nuance, complexity, depth and consistency of real journalism when it is allowed to exist. Just as a microwave aids a cook in his or her work, so does social media for a journalist.

Today there are too many examples of strangers being misidentified as creeps, pedophiles, bombers, terrorists, because of unrestrained, unverified content being shared and, most dangerously, believed on social media.

Journalism isn't perfect, and skepticism (not cynicism) is healthy. But when people believe social media as fact, people die.

Good journalism applies research and critical thinking. This takes time, funding, and independence in equal measure. Nothing will replace it.

3. Why should I pay? I'm glad to see (insert publication name) go.

It's mind boggling when people make demands of journalists that they refuse to support with a single dime. Don't trust Monsanto-funded scientific research? Then help fund a different study yourself.

As journalists, we would love to be immune to corporate interests. But our will is strained daily because our livelihood often has to rely on private, not public money.

Boycotting amalgamated outlets to hurt owners is only sound on paper. Their salaries and bonuses will be paid as is the corporate culture in North America. Journalists, employees and the public interest will continue to suffer at the front lines if small independent papers are allowed to completely die off.

As one Toronto Star columnist said, our citizenship comes with the responsibility of keeping each other honest. Journalists are the people you hire to do this work for you. Every publication that folds, however "slanted" because it doesn't align with your view and therefore is deserving of death, is one less set of eyes on the world. There are those who will benefit from this obscurity. It will not be you.

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