NEW BUSI­NESS MOD­ELS DON’T CHANGE VAL­UES OF JOUR­NAL­ISTS

StarMetro Edmonton - - BIG OPINIONS - Kathy English

For as long as I have been a jour­nal­ist — 40 years — I have lis­tened to crit­i­cism about jour­nal­ism just about any­where I go. In­evitably, crit­ics would hurl what they re­garded as the ul­ti­mate charge against the work I have been so pas­sion­ate about: “Well, you just want to sell pa­pers!”

No, no, no, I would then tell them. News­room jour­nal­ists don’t re­ally think about sell­ing pa­pers. That is not the mo­ti­va­tion of jour­nal­ists. Rather, we ob­sess about how many read­ers will pay at­ten­tion to our work, the im­pact of our sto­ries and mak­ing a dif­fer­ence — get­ting ac­tion that mat­ters — through our re­port­ing and com­men­tary. We long told those crit­ics that sell­ing pa­pers was the busi­ness of the cir­cu­la­tion de­part­ments.

But no one can deny that jour­nal­ists and news or­ga­ni­za­tions op­er­ate in a new era now. And while the mis­sion of jour­nal­ism mat­ters more than ever to jour­nal­ists and cit­i­zens, it is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly clear that jour­nal­ists no longer have the lux­ury of ig­nor­ing the facts about how our work is funded.

In­creas­ingly, jour­nal­ists must help our read­ers un­der­stand that trusted qual­ity jour­nal­ism is not free. That’s why you will now see jour­nal­ists from the Star and other news or­ga­ni­za­tions tak­ing to so­cial me­dia to ex­plain why they be­lieve it mat­ters and even ask you to sub­scribe to help fund sim­i­lar jour­nal­ism. News or­ga­ni­za­tions now en­cour­age their em­ploy­ees — in­clud­ing jour­nal­ists — to do what they can to en­cour­age needed sub­scrip­tions. Ar­ti­cles on the Star’s web­site now end with a mes­sage ask­ing read­ers to sup­port the Star’s jour­nal­ism with a sub­scrip­tion to Star Dig­i­tal Ac­cess.

Star Ed­i­tor Irene Gen­tle well un­der­stands it has be­come vi­tal that jour­nal­ists ex­plain their work and why it mat­ters: “With ques­tions about trust, and the in­dus­try move to­ward sub­scrip­tions, we need to talk about that. The care, time and cost of good jour­nal­ism, the ded­i­ca­tion of re­porters to get­ting it right, and the im­pact it has is worth talk­ing about. How can peo­ple know all that if we don’t show them?”

Re­port­ing that mat­ters to cit­i­zens and democ­racy costs money and the ad­ver­tis­ing bud­gets that long funded re­port­ing across Canada has been dec­i­mated by dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion. More than 75 per cent of ad dol­lars go to Face­book and Google.

THE IM­PACT IT HAS IS WORTH TALK­ING ABOUT

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO FILE PHOTO

The Toronto Star re­mains ded­i­cated to qual­ity jour­nal­ism, but un­der­stands the chang­ing news land­scape means it’s more of a busi­ness than ever, pub­lic ed­i­tor Kathy English writes.

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