The internet isn’t interested in getting it right, or correcting errors, or in telling a story that recognizes the importance in the mundane of community living. The internet is a thing. Social media thrives on sensationalism, pulling us into the bottomless pit of scrolling through information. As well, social media provides an opportunity to magnify each individual voice, or fake bot, to the point of deafening noise. With all of that, the user now has the tiresome duty to be wary of everything that is provided to them through a power cord. Newspapers, by their printed nature, create a juried space built on facts, where information is presented for consideration along with the responsibility of being accountable to the reader.
Perhaps it is time for journalists to pack it in. Let governments operate without liability; for police and judicial proceedings to carry on with no representation to the public; for television, radio, and bloggers to bear the weight of investigative reporting. Let art, sports, travel, and literary works remain undiscovered, save for the lucky few who stumbled upon them. Opinions will no longer have an equal voice. This image of a defeatist fearsome future is what keeps journalists and news organizations striving for a balanced business model.
Be reminded that newsprint won’t report how long it took you to finish the crossword, or that you turn to the Automotive section before World or Opinion. It won’t listen in on your conversations, matching keywords to further commodify you, nor will it snoop through your cookies, bookshelves, and closets to collect more data about you to report back to the data masters. All that privacy remains yours with print.
It is up to humanity to take back our requirement for truth from those who would delight in our inability to recognize fact from fiction. (A recent Ipsos-Reid poll, 63% of Canadians were unable to distinguish between real news sites and fake news stories.) To recognize journalism as a keystone species to our democracy and representing our communities.
We, as an industry, have been slow to ask for your support. We are now asking readers who value newspapers to contribute to rebuilding disintegrating newsrooms through news stand sales, subscriptions, and voluntary subscriptions (donations). This has been met with resistance; readers have had the privilege of receiving free news for so long it has become an assumed right.
Another way for readers to support newspapers is by supporting our advertisers and actively tell them the ad in the newspaper worked – which directly affirms the business’ choice to spend valuable marketing dollars to communicate with the readers in the newspaper. A win for the reader, a win for the business and a win for newspapers – and a win for the government; competing online ad platforms based outside of Canada (Google, and Facebook in particular) do not pay taxes. This year, during National Newspaper Week we are asking you to pledge your support in a simple way at www.newspapersmatter.ca.
Like anything malnourished, it will take time to rebuild to full strength, though with renewed reader commitments and reliable advertising, our newsrooms can become vibrant again. It’s time to re-evaluate the desire for flash with the need for truth.
Sarah Holmes, Publisher & Owner
Gabriola Sounder, BC