Ri­go­rous jour­na­lism can sa­ve us from fa­ke news …

La Jornada (Canada) - - PORTADA -

Ve­te­ran jour­na­list Ed­ward Greens­pon used this analogy at a re­cent Se­na­te open cau­cus mee­ting held to dis­cuss th­reats to tra­di­tio­nal jour­na­lism in Ca­na­da.

Me­dia pa­ne­lists and se­na­tors from across the country de­ba­ted the cen­tral ques­tion: Should go­vern­ments sup­port ri­go­rous in­de­pen­dent jour­na­lism, be­yond pu­blic broad­cas­ting, in the fa­ce of its eco­no­mic de­cli­ne?

Ray­mon­de Saint-Ger­main

Ima­ge una­vai­la­ble

Tra­di­tio­nal me­dia re­ve­nues are in free­fall, as subs­cri­ber fees dwind­le, pay­walls pro­ve inade­qua­te and ad re­ve­nues mi­gra­te to Goo­gle and Fa­ce­book. Gaps in co­ve­ra­ge are gro­wing in cri­ti­cal areas li­ke lo­cal jour­na­lism (costly) and cour­troom co­ve­ra­ge (ti­me-con­su­ming). In­di­ge­nous com­mu­ni­ties are the har­dest hit, with the least avai­la­ble fun­ding sour­ces and the toug­hest road to train re­por­ters.

“Whi­le the Abo­ri­gi­nal Peo­ple’s Te­le­vi­sion Net­work fills the need for trus­ted com­mu­nity pro­gram­ming, the mains­tream me­dia mis­ses the com­ple­xity and only re­ports on the cri­ses,” said APTN exe­cu­ti­ve di­rec­tor of news and cu­rrent af­fairs Karyn Pu­glie­se.

Most Ca­na­dians agree that a trus­ted me­dia and an in­for­med pu­blic are key to de­mo­cracy. But how far are we wi­lling to go to pro­tect tra­di­tio­nal jour­na­lism? The re­cent fe­de­ral bud­get has set asi­de $50 mi­llion for lo­cal in­de­pen­dent jour­na­lism. Most par­ti­ci­pants in the Se­na­te mee­ting felt this is a wel­co­me first step.

But is it enough?

Art Eg­gle­ton

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Whi­le Ca­na­dians need - and want - ac­cu­ra­te news to ma­ke in­for­med de­ci­sions, “the In­ter­net is full of ma­te­rial that in­ten­tio­nally blurs the li­nes bet­ween news, pro­pa­gan­da, re­search and ad­ver­ti­sing,” said Matt­hew John­son, di­rec­tor of education for Me­diaS­marts, a non-pro­fit di­gi­tal and me­dia li­te­racy cen­tre. “And young peo­ple are ill-pre­pa­red to re­cog­ni­ze it.”

For­tu­na­tely, said John­son, Ca­na­dians rank among the hig­hest in the world when it co­mes to trust of tra­di­tio­nal news outlets.

So how can go­vern­ment na­vi­ga­te this chan­ging lands­ca­pe to crea­te the con­di­tions for vi­go­rous, et­hi­cal jour­na­lism and open, in­for­med de­ba­te? Stron­ger fun­ding for in­de­pen­dent news Most ex­perts agreed that a med­ley of ac­tion is nee­ded, both for fun­ding the supply of and im­pro­ving the de­mand for trus­ted news.

But is Ca­na­da ready to catch up with Eu­ro­pean coun­tries in its pu­blic sup­port for me­dia? It’s a long way to go from our cu­rrent me­dia spen­ding of $29 per per­son per year to Fran­ce’s $73 or Nor­way’s $180.

Whi­le strengt­he­ning our pu­blic broad­cas­ter could only help, what about pri­va­te me­dia outlets? Are any of them ‘too big to fail’ li­ke so­me pla­yers in the fi­nan­cial or au­to­mo­ti­ve in­dustry?

“Go­vern­ments only sa­ve or­ga­ni­za­tions with strong bu­si­ness plans to th­ri­ve be­yond bai­lout,” said Greens­pon, now pre­si­dent and chief exe­cu­ti­ve of­fi­cer of Pu­blic Po­licy Fo­rum and aut­hor of The Shat­te­red Mi­rror. “How many me­dia com­pa­nies can de­mons­tra­te that?”

Al­ter­na­te fun­ding for me­dia rai­ses the age-old ques­tions of free­dom of ex­pres­sion, and the cor­po­ra­te or po­li­ti­cal agenda of fun­ders. “We just need the right po­li­cies to

Jour­na­lists are li­ke fi­re­figh­ters: you may not need them every day, but you want to know they’re the­re to pro­tect you.”

keep the­se fun­ding re­la­tions­hips at arm’s length from edi­to­rial,” said Pas­ca­le St-On­ge, pre­si­dent of Que­bec’s Fé­dé­ra­tion na­tio­na­le des com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Ot­her ideas for arm’s-length sup­port in­clu­ded mo­re tax cre­dits on me­dia pay­rolls, as well as le­vies on web giants for dis­tri­bu­ting Ca­na­dian con­tent.

As outli­ned in the bud­get, ex­plo­ring new mo­dels that enable pri­va­te gi­ving and phi­lanth­ro­pic sup­port could help bols­ter non-pro­fit jour­na­lism and lo­cal news. Na­tio­nal agen­cies li­ke the Ca­na­dian Press could co­lla­bo­ra­te with lo­cal and In­di­ge­nous news or­ga­ni­za­tions to en­su­re trus­ted, pro­fes­sio­nal jour­na­lis­tic stan­dards are prac­ti­sed.

Wi­des­pread me­dia li­te­racy to battle per­sua­sion and bias

Whi­le strengt­he­ning in­de­pen­dent me­dia, we must al­so ca­taly­ze de­mand for it, said Me­diaS­marts’ Matt­hew John­son. “Truth-see­king crea­tes de­mand for truth.”

Education will help peo­ple, es­pe­cially young peo­ple, learn how to spot fa­ke news, aut­hen­ti­ca­te sour­ces, iden­tify emo­tio­nally-char­ged com­mu­ni­ca­tion and read th­rough bias. Me­dia li­te­racy can in­form peo­ple how an al­go­rithm may in­fluen­ce what news - or ad­ver­ti­se­ments - they see and what they don’t.

But per­haps most im­por­tant, me­dia li­te­racy helps us exer­ci­se our right as ci­ti­zens and con­su­mers to de­mand mo­re from the me­dia lands­ca­pe.

Over the co­ming years, Ca­na­dians will be cha­llen­ged to find the best way for­ward. We ho­pe to see a stra­tegy that tou­ches both the supply and de­mand for a trus­ted, in­de­pen­dent and ri­go­rous news me­dia, for de­mo­cracy’s sa­ke.

As re­com­men­ded in The Shat­te­red Mi­rror, one path to ex­plo­re could be crea­ting a Fu­tu­re of Jour­na­lism and De­mo­cracy Fund. This would pro­vi­de fi­nan­cing for di­gi­tal news in­no­va­tion, es­pe­cially in its early sta­ges, and be di­rec­ted at tho­se ope­ra­tors who pro­du­ce ci­vic-fun­ction jour­na­lism at the na­tio­nal, re­gio­nal and lo­cal le­vels. To further pro­mo­te in­de­pen­den­ce, the fund would be at arm’s length from go­vern­ment.

This may pro­ve to be the best path for­ward, pro­vi­ded it can stri­ke a ba­lan­ce bet­ween pro­vi­ding fi­nan­cial sup­port and up­hol­ding the prin­ci­ples of free press and jour­na­lis­tic in­de­pen­den­ce.


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