Journalism still needs to matter
I remember early on in my journalism career, walking towards a school to cover an event and hearing kids on the playground excitedly shouting, “It's the Vanguard lady!”
I often don't feel that same level of enthusiasm about journalism anymore.
There are fewer subscribers and advertisers to our print products. Less revenue dictates the size of products and newsrooms. Both have gotten smaller.
Whereas before businesses would advertise in the local paper, now they rarely do. Most rely on their Facebook pages, websites and other social media to get their messages out.
We too, as a media industry, have relied on social media. Because many people seek their news digitally, we share story links that will show up in their social media news feeds.
Of course, we want them to visit our website, saltwire. com. But using social media is another way to keep people informed by letting them know our stories exist. Obviously, that benefits us too. Enter Bill C-18.
As an explainer on our website says, Bill C-18 is a new Canadian law called the Online News Act. It aims to make tech companies like Google and Meta (Facebook) pay for news shared on their platforms. The bill calls for the tech companies to reach compensation deals with publishers. Many feel the law is important because it helps Canadian journalism.
However, Google and
Meta don't want to pay, even though the tech giants have been making billions from digital advertising, while traditional news media has been struggling.
One reason they don't want to pay is because they have no control over the amount of Canadian news content that gets shared. It's an uncapped entity. In Meta's case, it says isn't the one sharing news content to Facebook; rather it's newsrooms, journalists, the public, organizations, etc.
And so Meta and Google have announced people in Canada will no longer see news links or content from Canadian media on their platforms. People will only see news from non-Canadian sources – think CNN, Fox News, the BBC, etc.
This change is coming very soon and in some cases has already started.
To access local, provincial and national news online, people will have to visit the respective news websites.
To me, it feels like an affront to journalism. Sure, news organizations from outside Canada may report on large stories like flooding or wildfires in Nova Scotia, but will CNN tell residents of southwestern Nova Scotia that their communities are being evacuated? Or that there is a comfort centre at the Sandy Wickens Memorial Arena on Sherose Island in Barrington Passage?
Will the BBC write a story about the passing of Dewey Comeau, a much-beloved Yarmouth icon who brought joy to generations of Yarmouth residents with his smiles and his candy?
There was no Fox News coverage when the Yarmouth Mariners won their league title this year and represented Yarmouth on the national stage; nor about how people like Jodi and Steve Williamson have opened their home to so many billet players over the years it's earned them the nickname ‘The Orphanage.'
And last time we checked, the Washington Post isn't writing about local issues, events, fundraisers, tragedies and celebrations from the tricounties.
That Meta and Google are suggesting these things can simply disappear and don't matter is quite insulting and disheartening.
People on Facebook will have to rely on the posts of others for ‘local news.' The media gets called ‘fake news' thanks to a certain somebody, but as a journalist I often see misinformation being spread on social media.
It just takes one person to get the information wrong but that misinformation gets shared again and again.
Plus, without a media presence on Facebook, it robs our newsrooms of sharing news and community events together.
I'll end by saying I hope people keep reading newspapers. That they keep visiting saltwire.com. There's also a great Saltwire News app you can download that allows you to customize your news feed.
And yes, there is a membership/subscription cost to reading most of our stories online; although if you're a subscriber to any Saltwire products your online membership is already included.
For others, it's currently $20 a year, which is about $1.66 a month. In return, you'll get access to thousands of local, provincial and Canadian news stories every month, and often hundreds every day.
If the big tech giants won't support Canadian journalism, hopefully the rest of us will.