Earlier this month, News Media Canada asked the federal government to create a $350-million fund to support the newspaper industry.
Considered the voice of the print and digital media industry, News Media Canada was created last year through a merger of the Canadian Newspaper Association and the Canadian Community Newspapers Association. The proposed funding would enable a rebate on journalism salaries and expenses, as well as on innovation investment in the future of journalism.
While many people think that government shouldn’t support the newspaper industry, the more I learn about my field, the more I am convinced that it should.
Last month I attended a program by the Fraser Institute called ‘economics for journalists.’ The professors challenged us to think about what makes a country succeed. They did that by presenting population numbers and the amount of natural resources of several countries, without mentioning their names, and asking us to guess if these countries were rich or poor.
To our surprise, many of the countries with vast natural resources were incredibly poor while some countries with insignificant resources were extremely rich.
The point that the professors were trying to make was that what makes a country succeed is not the amount of natural resources that it has, but the institutions that are in place that ensure that these natural resources, as well as technology and labour skills, are used effectively and responsibly. These institutions would include a trustworthy law system and a stable political system.
Well, I believe journalism is a vital part of these institutions as it holds them accountable. Without journalism, we may have never heard of many corruption scandals and other crimes that have changed the course of our history.
Sure, we now have the Internet and social media, but as we’ve all seen, not everything we read online is true (and I am not talking about Donald Trump calling CNN ‘fake news’). So it’s important that we have access to news websites and print publications that we can rely on; without that, it all becomes rumour.
Without ethical journalism, institutions go unchecked and democracy is at stake. We need journalism more than we realize, and right now, journalism needs help.
While small community newspapers are still strong (mostly because they service an older demographic that prefers print publications), newsrooms in larger centres have been struggling for several years. Newsroom layoffs have become a regular occurrence.
Nobody has figured out a solution yet on how to save the print industry, or how to earn enough money online. Time is running out, and this industry is too precious to die.
I don’t know what the best way would be for government to approach this issue, but I do know that government needs to approach it head on, for its own sake and for the sake of society.