A Brief Comment by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper, followed by an Urgent Message from News Media Canada, an organization dedicated to saving local newspapers
Posted February 4th, 2021 on Niagara At Large
A Comment from Doug Draper, Niagara At Large –
If you are one of the all-to-few who still check a newspaper stand these days in a convenience store or one of our grocery stores, you may have noticed that today – this February 4th – the front pages of newspapers like The Toronto Star, and more locally in Niagara, The St. Catharines Standard, sit there on the stand with a complete blank front page, save for the newspapers’ mastheads.
The blank front-page is a stark message to us all of what is happening to local newspapers and, quite frankly, what has been happening to them for the past two or three decades as social media venues like Facebook have drawn away countless millions of readers, and as corporate chains have bought up local newspapers and gutted their news-gathering resources for the sake of profit, further making newspapers less capable of performing their vital role as sources of information people need to meaningfully engage in the challenges facing our communities.
I write this as someone with personal interests in this subject.
I was a reporter for two decades at The St. Catharines Standard when it seemed to be at the high water mark of its powers to function as a community watchdog.
That era ended in the late 1990s when the once-independently owned Standard fell into the hands of a corporate chai owned by the notorious Conrad Black, a character recently pardoned by then-U.S. President Donald Trump for crimes he was found guilty of, related to the same Hollinger corporation that took control of The Standard and so many other newspapers across Canada.
After Black and corporate carpetbaggers like him took over all these newspapers, countless thousands of reporters’ jobs, along with beats like the one I had at The Standard, covering the environment full-time , quickly disappeared.
Many journalists were either fired for nefarious reasons or let go, or they simply quit because they were no longer getting the time and resources they needed to do quality work. In my case, I quit, and for the past decade, running this site, Niagara At Large, out of passion, has not made a penny since.
I find myself getting upset when I hear complaints from people in our Niagara area about what reporters are left at papers like St. Cathrines Standard not doing enough coverage on the issues they claim to care about.
My answer to that is; How in hell are they supposed to do that when they have a mere fraction of the resources my generation of journalists had when the newspaper was owned by caring, locally-based families like the Burgoynes.
And how are they supposed to do it when all too many of you out there now expect to get most of your news for free on Facebook, Twitter and Google, and are not prepared to speak up for local newspapers or even shell out a little money to buy one?
This is not a small issue.
Without well-resourced, local news outlets keeping our politicians and others’ feet to the fire, our ability to engage in a well-informed way to the issues facing our communities, and our democracy is in big trouble.
So please read the message below from the group News Media Canada and please take whatever action you can to keep local news alive!
Doug Draper, Niagara At Large
Now Here Is the Message from News Media Canada –
An urgent letter to all Members of Parliament, dated February 3rd, 2021
We have a very serious situation in this country, and we are delighted to hear that Minister of Heritage Steven Guilbeault said on Monday that the government is preparing legislation to force tech giants to fairly compensate content creators.
Google and Facebook, two of the richest companies in history, control the onramp to the internet highway in Canada. They decide what we as a sovereign nation see and don’t see in the news. To make matters worse, they take the news produced by Canadians and don’t pay for it.
Meanwhile, all Canadian news media companies, big and small, are suffering for two reasons:
First, they don’t get paid for their content by Facebook and Google; and second, Facebook and Google take over 80 per cent of all Canadian digital advertising industry revenue. These massive American companies get virtually all of the revenue and don’t pay for content. Movie content doesn’t work that way in Canada. Music content doesn’t work that way. TV show content doesn’t work that way. So why is news content treated differently?
We only have to look south of the border to see what happens when real news companies disappear, and social media platforms distribute divisive, fake news. We need to support healthy, independent, diverse news companies as the backbone of our democracy.
This is urgent. It’s a fact that news companies across Canada are going out of business. COVID-19 is accelerating the decline. Journalism jobs are disappearing. That means real news keeps disappearing and hate and fake news will be all that’s left to distribute. Let’s not let this happen in Canada.
But there is good news. Australia has figured out the solution. They created a law that forces the trillion-dollar monopolies to pay fairly for news content. This costs the taxpayer absolutely nothing.
We encourage all Members of Parliament to move quickly. Canada needs your leadership.
John Hinds, President/CEO, News Media Canada
About News Media Canada – News Media Canada is the voice of the print and digital media industry in Canada.
Created in late 2016 as a product of the agreement by its members to merge the Canadian Newspaper Association (CNA) and the Canadian Community Newspaper Association (CCNA), News Media Canada represents hundreds of trusted titles in every province and territory. Prior to this change, our organization was known as Newspapers Canada.
To Learn More from News Media Canada and the work it is doing to support local newspapers across Canada, click on – https://nmc-mic.ca/
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