Cana­dian news­pa­pers fac­ing an up­hill strug­gle

The Peterborough Examiner - - OPINION - rgan­ley2016@gmail.comx ROSE­MARY GANLEY

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.

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