Are governments targeting the media?

Added: Thu, 03/16/2017 - 12:35pm
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I’ve worked with newspapers for over 20 years and have seen many changes. When I began in 1996 we were still doing paste-up of the pages onto “flats” and
racing to meet a bus that would deliver them to the printer.  Sending files digitally was a huge and positive change. A recent change, though, is the mistaken
yet common idea that print-media (real-media) is dying. Nothing could be further from the truth, particularly for a rural community, such as Pontiac’s.  
Community newspapers are thriving in terms of readership; they are at the heart of our communities. Our offices are called every day about local events that readers want covered. We send reporters to cover municipal and MRC meetings so the
public is well informed about the issues affecting their lives; we cover fundraisers, fishing derbies, art and cultural events, school events – you name it! This is the
life-blood of our communities; this is what real-media does.
Yet, despite this crucial community role, and despite our strengths of solid news coverage, fact-checking, sales efforts, community involvement and employing local people, we are threatened by the misconception that social media (media light!) can replace what we do. And now we are threatened by the very governments which should be supporting our work in the interests of transparency and democracy.
Here’s one example: in 2009 and 2010, the federal government spent $218,687
to announce their programs in Quebec’s English-Language newspapers – 8.5% of their cross-Canada budget for minority language newspapers which totaled $2,583,058. 
In 2014-2015, the Harper government cut that spending to only $10,000. Last year? In 2016, Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal government spent zero dollars communicating via Quebec’s minority-language newspapers.
Here’s another: in 2010 – 2011 the Federal government ran a huge multi-media campaign for public health, when the H1N1 flu virus threatened. Due in part to the campaign the ravages of that flu season were greatly lessened. This year?  Who has seen an ad encouraging people to get a flu shot? Certainly not from Health Canada…and yet, this has been one of the worst years for influenza infections.
So, where is our federal advertising budget going? To Silicon Valley, California – Facebook and Google. And it’s tax-free!
The same for our provincial government—yes, they want to have photo
ops and real-media coverage of their announcements. But when it comes to
supporting the real-media, they choose to spend their money elsewhere. It’s more than just flu shots that are at stake here.
Do you know about Quebec’s Bill 122, the latest attack on newspapers by a government? This bill would eliminate the current requirement to post public notices in local real-media so all can see them; instead, the public is to be kept
in the dark under the guise of giving more automony to municipalities and “saving money”. Claude Gagnon of Groupe Capitales Médias remarked, on Bill 122, “The population expects full transparency from its public authorities, and newspapers play a leading role. Public notices from municipalities are among the tools used by citizens to know how their tax dollars are spent. Making public notices more difficult to find is an attack on transparency and democracy. “ 
Bill 122 is really about governments wanting to control the message themselves—their interpretations only, with no awkward media questions. But if
citizens are not informed, they cannot make clear choices about their government’s decisions. 
Using social media harms the bottom line of all newspapers, which in turn
harms the staffing and quality of journalism, ultimately harming the functioning of
our democracy.
It may be fun to post a photo of a grandchild or pet parrot, but who goes to Facebook to find out about government policies and programs? Journalists are trained to research—to get a balanced story. Last year’s American election shows the damage done by fake news, all thanks to social media! We need a healthy and independent press, real-media not social (light) media where anything
can be posted without authentication.
All of us need to urge our MP and MNA to work to keep the lines of communications open. Speak up! We need to encourage all government agencies to use
real-media, their communities’ newspapers, to guarantee that every important message reaches us.

Lynne Lavery
General Manager
Journal du Pontiac