January 18, 2021

Ghost documents underscore the loss of credible journalism in Canadian communities

In the erosion of local news, a sad word has come to describe newspapers that have been reduced to a shadow of a significant presence in a community’s life – “ghost newspapers.”

Because, by the time the lights finally go out nicely, these documents are a shell. Consecutive cuts have reduced the number of journalists, which means local coverage valued by readers is low.

This, in my mind, helps to explain why the destruction of local news – so important to the healthy, democratic functioning of communities – takes place without the outcry and concern of readers or civic leaders who demand such profound loss.

“A lot of losses have already occurred when the first round of layoffs took place 10 years ago, and then every year after that, people don’t realize what they are missing out on,” said April Lindgren, a newspaper professor at Ryerson. University.

“Then when it closes, everyone shrinks because no one remembers what it was like when there was strong reporting at the local level,” he told me.

Lindgren has found the loss of the media in Canada Local News Research Project.

Since 2008, 367 local news outlets in 259 markets have closed, more than 147 outlets, half of which are online, opening in 108 communities. (The Toronto star’s parent company, Torstar, has not been spared economic pressures and has closed documents.)

The epidemic has exacerbated the crisis. After it struck, 38 news organizations in Canada were shut down. A dozen newspapers cut the print editions daily. Hundreds of journalists lost their jobs. Some of that loss was offset by the launch of 18 new local news organizations.

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Each passing year plunges more and more Canadians into darkness about local events, losing accurate, reliable information about social events.

That is, there is no major oversight role over companies. No coverage of sports or social events. There are no issues with the town hall, which would block residents’ knowledge of municipal decisions.

“For example, if you do not find that a four – way highway is going to be built at the end of your street or road until heavy equipment is shown, it’s hard to resist or have any input into that debate or debate,” Lindgren said. “It’s a broader issue of the local press that unites people.”

The misinformation and lies that fill the public space when credible news fades are equally worrying.

“The lack of timely, reliable, independently produced news creates a space for gossip and innovation and misunderstandings about who is in your community and everything in your community,” Lindgren said.

This trend is not unique to Canada. Since 2004, the United States has lost a quarter of its local newspapers – a total of 2,100 – and more than half of all newspaper journalists, Study “News Deserts and Ghost Newspapers: Will Local News Survive?”

The loss “has significant political, social and economic impact on our democracy and our community,” wrote Penelope Muse Abernathy, a professor at the Hasman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

It is noteworthy that the new deserts – places where the media has disappeared – are contributing to “cultural, economic and political divisions.”

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“A strong local press builds trust in democratic institutions, and it builds strong communities,” it said.

This study examines whether local news is fading, or whether the newspaper’s civic work is being reviewed and whether there is a commitment to support its renewal.

At the height of the crisis there is a revenue model for media organizations. Google and Facebook control more than 75 percent of digital advertising revenue and use their market power to dictate “unreasonable” terms, according to newspaper publishers. Both companies deny those fees and claim that their sites provide access to editorial content.

In October, News Media Canada, which represents newspapers including the Toronto Star, called for a new regulatory regime that would allow both companies to negotiate with media companies to compensate for the content.

“The Canadian and global news industry is facing these backlash practices, and as a result market conditions threaten access to credible news,” the organization said. Report In issue.

Lindgren says the media needs to build support in communities when creating new sources of revenue. This includes helping people understand how news works, the costs of creating it, the value to a community, and the consequences of its disappearance.

“Doing this in a way that serves the communities here, creating a space for dialogue and greater compromise, allows people to get to know each other, hold power accountable, provide reliable, timely, independently produced information, and fill the space where rumor and innovation and personal interest seem to jump with great concern.” He said.

In the sense of the season, leave a thought for the ghosts of past newspapers. We need to act before many more join their ranks.

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