SOURCE: TORONTO STAR
This being National Newspaper Week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided to send out a tweet extolling the value of newspapers to our democracy.
“In an ever-changing world with an ever-changing media landscape, our local newspapers play a vital role in protecting our democracy,” he wrote. “We salute the papers — big and small — working to keep us informed.”
It is reassuring to know the role of Canadian newspapers is appreciated. For many, myself included, the feeling is deeply inbred that our democracy is only as strong as the strength and vitality of our newspapers.
Yet in the past decade, at least 137 community and local newspapers have folded or ceased publication. This, in turn, has led to the creation of “news deserts” where some communities are left with no news outlet at all. Many others are struggling desperately to stay afloat.
To deal with this, the Trudeau government in its February budget committed to spend $50 million to support local journalism. It also promised new charitable models to aid “professional, non-profit journalism.” And third, it promised to reexamine its advertising budget which is almost exclusively digital, virtually excluding all print newspapers.
One should not forget Ottawa had commissioned two studies on the plight of the industry, both of which came out with a long list of recommendations. The vast majority of these were rejected.
So what has happened since?
A little talk, but absolutely no definitive action.
Take the $50 million to be spent over five years. The plan was for the funds to go to “independent, non-governmental organizations” to support journalism in under-served communities.
But it seems the government can’t decide who that would be. One or two exploratory talks have been held but there has yet to be even a request for proposals. Maybe next year, we are told.
On the new philanthropic models, there was a committee struck to study the issue. When might something be forthcoming? Probably next year.
The advertising issue is the most frustrating. Last year Ottawa spent about $36 million on advertising, virtually all of it dedicated to digital advertising.
Since about three-quarters of all digital advertising is owned by either Google or Facebook, that means millions of Canadian taxpayer dollars are going straight to the two American tech giants.
What’s worse, a House of Commons committee studying the issue last year concluded that Ottawa’s strategy had resulted in a “misalignment” of the reality that many Canadians still rely on traditional media. It urged more spending be directed to “TV, radio and print media.”
Again, there’s been talk.
But last month’s federal cannabis campaign had absolutely no print media.
We are now told this issue has been placed on the mandate letter of the new heritage minister.
Put together, there has been a lot of talk and no action.
You can also throw in the copyright issue where newspapers have long argued they should receive a licensing fee when articles are posted or distributed by aggregators (read Facebook and Google).
The European Community passed a law doing precisely this last week. And Australia and the United Kingdom are considering the same.
In Canada, it is not even on any agenda.
Meanwhile, media companies, including Torstar, continue with new strategies to compete in this new digital environment. Many are moving to paywalls, which could well benefit from special tax treatment from Ottawa.
So prime minister, we appreciate your kind sentiments.
But, on balance, I think we’d prefer some real action on these files.
And in case you missed it, I’ve listed below all those papers that have disappeared.
Duncan, B.C. — Cowichan News Leader Pictorial Daily
Abbotsford, B.C. — The Fraser Valley Daily
Amherst, N.S. — Amherst Daily News
Calgary, Alta. — 24 Hours Calgary
Edmonton, Alta. — 24 Hours Edmonton
Victoria, B.C. — Victoria News Daily
Campbell River, B.C. — Comox Valley/Campbell River Daily
Kamloops, B.C. — The Kamloops Daily News
Dawson Creek, B.C. — Dawson Creek Daily News
London, Ont. — Metro London
Regina, Sask. — Metro Regina
Saskatoon, Sask. — Metro Saskatoon
Surrey, B.C. — Peace Arch News Daily
Vernon, B.C. — The Morning Star Daily
Port Alberni, B.C. — Alberni Valley Times
Nanaimo, B.C. — Nanaimo Daily News
Guelph, Ont. — Guelph Mercury
Vancouver, B.C. — 24 Hours Vancouver
Winnipeg, Man. — Metro Winnipeg
Barrie, Ont. — The Barrie Examiner
Cobourg, Ont. — NorthumberlandToday.com
Orillia, Ont. — The Packet & Times
Ottawa, Ont. — Metro Ottawa
Toronto, Ont. — 24 Hours Toronto
Moose Jaw, Sask. — Moose Jaw Times-Herald
Kenora, Ont. — The Holidayer
Merritt, B.C. — Merritt Herald Weekender
Toronto, Ont. — tonight Newspaper
100 Mile House, B.C. — Cariboo Connector
Kapuskasing, Ont. — Horizon
London, Ont. — London Community News
Huntingdon, Ont. — The Gleaner
Salaberry de Valleyfield, Que. — Le Soleil de Salaberry-de-Valleyfield
Campbellford, Ont. — Trent Hills Independent
Stirling/Northeast, Ont. — Central Hastings News
Campbellton, N.B. — L’Aviron
Mont-Joli, Que. — L’Information de Mont-Joli
Manitouwadge, Ont. — The Echo
Grenfell, Sask. — The Grenfell Sun
Broadview, Sask. — The Broadview Express
Cape Breton, N.S. — Cape Breton Star
Yorkton, Sask. — The News Review
Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows — Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows Times
Redvers, Sask. — Redvers Optimist
Fergus-Elora, Ont. — News Express
Fort McMurray, Alta. — Connect
Chilliwack, B.C. — Chilliwack Times
Ottawa, Ont. — L’Express d’Ottawa
Timmins, Ont. — Les Nouvelles
Carnduff, Sask. — Gazette Post News
Oxbow, Sask. — The Oxbow Herald
Rosthern, Sask. — The Saskatchewan Valley News
Cape Breton, N.S. — Cape Breton Community Post
Toronto, Ont. — Bloor West Villager
Toronto, Ont. — Parkdale-Liberty Villager
Drumheller, Alta. — Inside Drumheller
Bengough, Sask. — Deep South Star
Coronach, Sask. — Triangle News
Radville, Sask. — Radville Star
Grandview & Gilbert Plains, Man. — Exponent
Arthur, Ont. — Arthur Enterprise News
Harriston, Ont. — Minto Express
Mount Forest, Ont. — Mount Forest Confederate
Salmon Arm, B.C. — Lakeshore News
Surrey/North Delta/White Rock, B.C. — The Now
Fort Simpson, N.W.T. — Deh Cho Drum
Courtenay, B.C. — Comox Valley Echo
Gull Lake, Sask. — The Advance
Invermere, B.C. — The Valley Echo
Terrace/Kitimat/Prince Rupert, B.C. — Northern Connector
Sparwood, B.C. — Elk Valley Herald
Port Stanley, Ont. — Lake Erie Beacon
Whitewood, Sask. — Whitewood Herald
Lévis, Que. — Le Peuple Lévis
Kapuskasing, Ont. — The Weekender
Saint-Jérôme, Que. — Le Mirabel
Neepawa, Man. — Neepawa Press
Saguenay, Que. — Le Courrier de Saguenay
Sorel/Tracy, Que. — La Voix
Moose Jaw, Sask. — Rural Roots South
Bradford, Ont. — Bradford West Gwillimbury Times
Brantford, Ont. — Brant News
Collingwood, Ont. — Enterprise-Bulletin
Fonthill, Ont. — Pelham News
Fort Erie, Ont. — Fort Erie Times
Innisfil, Ont. — Innisfil Examiner
Meaford, Ont. — Meaford Express
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. — Niagara Advance
Norfolk, Ont. — Norfolk News
Port Colborne, Ont. — In Port News
St. Marys, Ont. — Journal Argus
St. Marys, Ont. — Journal Argus Weekender
St. Thomas/Elgin, Ont. — Weekly News
Thorold, Ont. — Thorold Niagara News
Vancouver, B.C. — WestEnder
Lumsden, Sask. — Waterfront Press Regional
Montreal, Que. — La Presse
Hornepayne, Ont. — Jackfish Journal
White City, Sask. — White City Star
Belleville, Ont. — Belleville News
Brockville, Ont. — St. Lawrence News
Frontenac County, Ont. — Frontenac Gazette
Kanata, Ont. — Kanata Kourier-Standard
Kingston, Ont. — Kingston Heritage
Nepean/Barrhaven, Ont. — Nepean/Barrhaven News
Orleans, Ont. — Orleans News
Ottawa, Ont. — Ottawa East News
Ottawa, Ont. — Ottawa West News
Ottawa, Ont. — Ottawa South News
Quinte West, Ont. — Quinte West News
Stirling, Ont. — Central Hastings/Trent Hills News
Stittsville, Ont. — Stittsville News
Stratford, Ont. — Stratford Gazette
West Carleton, Ont. — West Carleton Review
Macklin, Sask. — Macklin Mirror
London, Ont. — Our London
Exeter, Ont. — Times-Advocate
Grand Bend/Zurich, Ont. — Lakeshore Advance
Whistler, B.C. — Question
Toronto, Ont. — Beach-Riverdale Mirror
York, Ont. — York Guardian
Tisdale, Sask. — Parkland Review
Grimshaw, Alta. — The Mile Zero News
Manning, Alta. — The Banner Post
Dryden, Ont. — Dryden Observer
Leamington, Ont. — Southpoint Sun
Red Lake, Ont. — Northern Sun News
Wheatley, Ont. — Journal
Ingersoll, Ont. — Ingersoll Times
Kapuskasing, Ont. — Northern Times
Norwich, Ont. — Gazette
Petrolia and Central Lambton County — Petrolia Topic
Strathmore, Alta. — Strathmore Standard
Kirkland Lake, Ont. — Northern News
Pembroke, Ont. — The Daily Observer
Portage La Prairie, Man. — The Graphic
Camrose, Alta. — Camrose Canadian
John Honderich is the chair of Torstar, the Toronto Star’s parent company.
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