COLUMN: Support democracy by supporting journalism

Central Alberta waves goodbye to the Red Deer Express

Supporting local journalism has never been more important.

Recently, the Lacombe Express’ sister paper — the Red Deer Express —announced that March 27th will be their last publication.

The good news is that newspapers are still being read all across the country and in many communities are the only source of local news. The websites associated with these publications, by extension, are typically the only way for rural and remote communities to get the story of their homes to the wider world.

This reliance on newspapers for quality local journalism means that the closure of any paper is disappointing and that advocates for local news should not only support local journalism with their voices — but with their wallet as well.

Many people see the perceived slowdown of print journalism as a natural result of the rise of social media and, by extension, many people believe that being able to gain information directly from a source removes the need for trained journalists to disseminate information.

This viewpoint is inherently dangerous to our democracy — particularly when it comes to political information.

Here’s the thing, political messaging is a tool used by every single politician and political party in the world. In particularly corrupt regimes, the messaging is simply outright propaganda.

Given this, it is no wonder that the first move of any dictator is to mute the free press in order to control the message of the state.

Newspapers in Canada have not been muted by the state, but some of the current realities of the industry have — unfortunately — resulted in many voices in our society not being heard.

In rural and remote communities, the loss of their only local news sources has resulted in an utter reliance on Twitter, Facebook and other non-local sources to deliver local news. This means that rather than having communities tell their own story — Facebook, Twitter and whatever else is now the master of what is local. Most people can likely see that Silicon Valley has very little interest in the day-to-day happenings at City Halls in Iqaluit or Lacombe.

Essentially, municipal, provincial and federal issues will go unreported and unknown if we as a society don’t put value on a free and independent press.

Ultimately, when it comes to local news, citizens will ultimately decide the fate of the industry.

As a lover of checks on government and power: I hope that other citizens will ultimately decide that quality journalism is something worth supporting.

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