Canadian newspapers facing an uphill struggle
Nobody put me up to this column on the plight of newspapers in Canada today. And, of course I make my fortune writing for this one every week.
But the state they are in concerns me very much. It must concern everyone.
The daily newspaper has been around for almost 200 years, the lifeblood of a community. It is a proud carrier of news and information, creating a well-informed and involved body of citizens, who speak and organize and influence public opinion and policy.
The story of Canadian newspapers is a fascinating one. It involved heroes and still does, today.
The printing press was invented 500 years ago. Newspapers started as gazettes, printed and controlled by governments in the early 1800’s. Then editors began campaigns to assert independence and make room for political opinion of all stripes, largely, at that time, about our moving to responsible government from colonial status.
For Peterborough, it all started in 1847. That’s a lot of years of service. We had the glory days of Robertson Davies, famous novelist, who wrote editorials limited to 3 paragraphs. He led from 1942-1955, and was followed by Ralph Hancox, who went on to edit Readers’ Digest, and whose daughter Linda now teaches at Adam Scott Collegiate.
An earlier Examiner logo was designed by an award-winning artist, the late David Bierk.
Then came the time national chains began to acquire community newspapers. The problem of concentration reared its head. The Examiner was sold to the Thomson chain in the 1960s, then later to Hollinger, Osprey Media and Sun Media. It is now owned by Postmedia Corp.
I like the quiet thump as my Examiner lands on my balcony. I now pay online three months at a time for $55, and add a good tip for the carrier.
A confession; I can’t understand why so many of my Peterborough friends do not receive the print edition and pay this modest amount.
They insist that they go online. But it ain’t the same as a sit-down with the paper and a cup of coffee.
I pick up at random an Examiner, February 6. I learn about city council topics. I read about a great idea, not paving driveways. I look with relief at the obits. No one I know today. I admire the Polar Plungers. I read my horoscope, always the possibility of romance. And the pictures. Cliff Skarstedt is a genius.
What can help? Readers who understand the dilemmas and will pay regularly for its work, for one. Maybe government support. CBC gets some. This is democracy we are talking about. The closing of tax loopholes is another, so that advertisers choose Canadian media in which to advertise, not American ones.
In an important new report called The Shattered Mirror: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age, veteran journo Ed Greenspon expresses some simple truths (not alternative facts). The Toronto Star commented:
“Canada matters, journalists matter, original civic news matters, freedom of the press matters, digital innovation matters, diversity of voices matters and financial sustainability matters”.
We must value and strengthen the local press.