Traditional media is in a panic. Staff layoffs, newsroom closures, amalgamation of ownership are regularly given as signs of the apocalypse. Hand-wringing opinion pieces hint at the need for government to step in to save a dying industry. An industry central to the health of our democracy, identity and good Canadian jobs is said to be on its last breath. To hear tell, Canada is playing Romeo to the media Juliet. It's a catastrophic love story indeed. One can't live without the other.
Yet despite the tragic romance, at my firm, Enterprise Canada, our public relations team still has a robust practice of pushing news stories. Unlike the past, their challenge is to find the best among many vehicles to reach the desired audiences. Sometimes that is the old lover called traditional media. Sometimes the objects are new and ethereal. Predictably, the old lovers can be expected to resent the new targets of affection and lay blame on them for oh so many woes.
Far from being deprived of information, I have more than I can handle.
The Internet is almost always part of the tragic narrative. It is killing print newspapers they scribe. Sad news is splashed across the headlines. Metroland closes the Guelph Mercury print edition. Quebec's Le Devoir abandons paper version. Both, however, are available online. And that is the point, which is being missed in the debate. 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.
Back in the day when dinosaurs roamed the Earth side by side with old school newspaper men (almost always men) we may have had more print options, but we had much less choice and diversity of opinion. Maybe that is the quasi-monopoly that is being mourned. A few good men controlled the message.
I, for one, celebrate no longer being dependent on three or four sources. I have the world on my tablet. Far from being deprived of information, I have more than I can handle. This is even true for very local and neighbourhood issues. Despite the reduction of paper newspapers I can still follow the local crime, entertainment, politics and other scenes through a numbers of portals. BlogTO, Huffington Post, Twitter and, yes, even the online versions of traditional news outlets fill my needs.
Speaking of Twitter and others, I don't miss having to wait until TV newscasts at 6 or 11 to find out what happened in the world. Yes, I am less and less part on their viewership because by the time the national broadcasts air, I have heard and seen it all. Ironically, I can often get the information in real time from the online sources serviced by the traditional broadcasters.
Finally, please don't tell me that I need professional journalists from the traditional news media to distill news and opinion in order to protect my figurative purity. I will take my chances like Romeo and Juliet. A careful reading tells us that they had consummated their relationship as I have with the online world. The traditionalists will point out that the play does not end well for our couple. I will argue like Alfred Lloyd Tennison:
I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
My best protection comes from choice and diversity of opinion notwithstanding the peril. Sure there may be risk, pain and sorrow, but alas!
I don't miss anything about the old school hard copy papers and traditional radio and TV, including hearing about things well after water cooler chatter has started, or having to fetch a newspaper on the front lawn or wondering where it may be, having to call the delivery phone line, cancelling when going away and rescheduling upon my return and hoping that the "vacation hold" system worked. Which, to be fair, it sometimes did. Other times, I returned home to a stack of papers on the stoop informing all that no one was home. Of course, the news contained would be even more untimely than normal, having sat unread for days.
I enjoy being able to get all the news that's fit to post from anywhere in the world I may be. I am still parochial enough to want to know if a pedestrian got hit by a car, even when I am far away where there are no newsstands -- much less ones that sell Canadian newspapers. Viva the Internet!
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