2016 has been a bad year for Canadian media so far. Newspapers in particular.
As of January 25, 626 journalism-related jobs have been cut (or announced that they would be cut), according to the Ryerson review of Journalism’s math.
While not all of these are “journalists,” all of these jobs have something to do with the industry. And many of them were made at newspapers (Postmedia cutting 90 jobs, Toronto Star laying off 13, plus the loss of the print editions of the Guelph Mercury and Nanaimo Daily News cutting their print editions).
After the Postmedia mass layoffs (which many on Twitter called a dark day in Canadian journalism), there were calls from journalists across the country to save our newspapers.
I don’t think we should be saving newspapers. In fact, I don’t think anything needs “saving.” Journalism is still alive and well in many formats. Newspapers just aren’t the bread and butter for journalism that they used to be.
Newspapers are a way to deliver the news, but they’re not the only way. It’s not the Internet’s fault, either. Not entirely, anyway. The decline of newspapers likely began back when other mediums, like radio and television, began to pop up.
But we blame the Internet. Or CEOs of media companies who get bonuses paid out as they continue to lay off employees. Young journalists decry the industry that they so desperately want into as jobs are getting scarcer and job security no longer exists. Seasoned journalists and people like me are leaving the industry voluntarily.
Journalism is alive and well. It’s just changing from newspapers to other things.
In a column in the Globe and Mail, Marsha Lederman talks about the value of the mainstream media and the investigative reporting that has uncovered political corruption, the Jian Ghomeshi scandal and more. But her version of the mainstream media and its scoops is limited to newspapers. Newspapers did these things. Without newspapers,”Rob Ford might still be considered some kind of hero and brother Doug Ford could be Toronto’s mayor; Jian Ghomeshi could still be hosting Q (not q); Bev Oda might at this very moment be sipping overpriced, taxpayer-funded orange juice.”
Maybe. But maybe someone else would have told that story. Someone in another medium, like broadcast TV or, as was the case with Ghomeshi, online. (The Star reported on the scandal and technically broke the story, but Canadaland’s Jesse Brown had the scoop first. He worked with the Star on the story.)
I am a newspaper girl. I fell in love with newspapers the first day I walked into the newsroom of the Hamilton Spectator when I was just 17. I remember walking out of my interview that day thinking that I could see myself doing that for the rest of my life. And for a long time, I could.
When the Internet really started to proliferate, I made the move to digital. I still loved the print product, but I wanted to help newspapers succeed in the digital space. I thought then, and still think now, that there is great promise for newspapers in the digital space.
But as advertisers walk away from newspapers, and consumers don’t pay actual value for the product, newspapers will continue to lay people off. They will continue to close. We will continue to mourn their demise.
However, the Internet offers a new place for journalism to flourish. Yes, making money is hard in the digital space, but getting a story out there has never been easier. There are online only publications, like Buzzfeed, or media companies with a crossover like Vice, which is online and has a broadcast component. There are Kindle Singles, or other places to self-publish short investigative pieces, like Paula Todd did with Karla Homolka a few years back.
So while we are sad to see jobs continue to be lost in our industry, let’s remember that journalism is still something that is alive. Journalism will continue to flourish, even if newspapers continue to fade away.