Your newspapers are doing well

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Anyone in the Pontiac hearing last week’s news of the shut-down of 36
community newspapers in Ontario might – finally – be glad to be living here,
with our two independent and good community newspapers, the Journal and the Equity.

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Anyone in the Pontiac hearing last week’s news of the shut-down of 36
community newspapers in Ontario might – finally – be glad to be living here,
with our two independent and good community newspapers, the Journal and the Equity.
Cobourg and Orillia have lost once-thriving newspapers. Orillia is twice the
population of the Pontiac, and Cobourg has about 6,000 more people than
do we. Yet we support two excellent papers. Obviously the reason for
the shut-downs is not losing money but that they were not earning their
corporate owners enough.
This is not the result of on-line competition; it’s due to ownership by corporations too big to be concerned with local towns.  Even the decline in big-daily readership is due as much to corporate mismanagement as to changing habits and internet news sources. For years, the conglomerates squeezed their dailies, cut staff, relied on canned news and national and international stories, rather than digging up local news and following local interests. Few commentators mention corporate mismanagement as a cause for print media’s troubles. 
Big successful newspapers like the Chicago Tribune failed thanks to the manipulations of investment houses which bought ownership. One of the chains announcing Ontario’s closures, Postmedia, is effectively owned by a New York City investment house. Anyone surprised these boardrooms were uninterested in Orillia? Postmedia also owns the Ottawa Citizen and the Sun. Compared to this, internet advertising drain is only one problem.
Many newspapers are doing well, especially community papers. The New York Times, the Guardian, even Mexico’s La Jornada are also doing very well. Newspapers themselves are not “sunset media” as our governments have decided.
Here’s the second shoe to drop: government use of local media to reach
constituents. This includes municipal public notices, provincial notices of new laws, and federal campaigns and cross-country consultations. All levels of government have connected with their citizens – taxpayers – via media popular with the target audience, us local folks.
This second smack-down comes from our very government – public notices often represent a third of newspapers’ revenue, so when they’re shifted to California, as the Trudeau Liberals have decided, that’s a substantial hit to the
local folks.  Trudeau argues that Google-Facebook reach
millions. In a form that readers will notice — and remember? A public notice about pipeline hearings on our phones . . . next to family videos?
That’s effective communication?
What other motive could motivate our governments?  The answer emerged in the last US election, flooded by fake news and disinformation campaigns. Without
traditional media’s traceable objectivity, and a professionalism with fact-checking and multiple proof-reading, watch for even more disinformation, fake news. 
So, how convenient! Politicians are now freed from answering questions from trained reporters.
They merely flood the media-scape with their own versions and selfies — more effective than any dictatorships’ control of media. Flooding sows confusion; confusion disarms a population.
Why was democracy to require a “fourth estate”, a free press?  Free elections need an educated population – educated with information about the world and the effects of political decisions. That free press has been shattered by corporate
profit-squeeze, and by politicians themselves who happily cut the legs off the institution which was keeping them honest. Who’ll do that now,  Facebook?
Trudeau’s Heritage Canada minister this summer nixed any idea of keeping democracy’s fourth estate viable. We saw the result in Orillia. Stay tuned for more. But not in the Pontiac. We support our papers; we shop with their advertisers. We want local, real news on our kitchen tables.