Most Americans have no idea that their local news sources are in trouble. Pew Research found that 7 out of 10 respondents believed their local newspaper was doing “very well or somewhat well financially”. I haven’t found a similar survey in Canada. But it’s likely – or at least possible – that the results would be somewhat similar.
After all, the little papers are packed with ads and flyers, and they’re only a few pages thick! Plus, the same few people write all of the stories. Surely, that must mean they’re making money?
Not even close. Hundreds have been shut down or merged with other papers. Even the London Free Press is mostly a skinny wraparound of the National Post. Newspapers are emitting a death rattle and no one is listening.
It doesn’t help that wannabe-dictator Premier Doug Ford deems journalists irrelevant. I mean really, how dare they challenge his policies and ask him questions?
In Grimsby, a local paper – News Now – is literally a one-man show. Publisher Mike Williscraft does it all. His name is on every story byline. He writes the paper’s editorial. He attends every council meeting, every event and game. There is no News Now without him. There are a couple of sales people, a general manager and graphic artist, but Mike is the paper’s heart. I don’t know him, but he’s got to have a passion for news. I can almost picture him grabbing a bagel and coffee on the run as he heads to yet another meeting, pecking out dozens of stories when he can.
It’s guys like Mike I think about when Doug “Silver Spoon” Ford says journalists don’t matter. Like my friend Scott Taylor who ran Our London until it was shut down along with dozens of others across the country. People who believe in an informed population. Storytellers who think there’s honour in covering the news.
With Sir Orangeskin of Combover in the White House and other self-aggrandizing imitators dotting the globe, I fear for our ability to get info and analysis. If people aren’t aware that small papers are dying, will they care whether journalists go extinct? Politicians speaking directly to the people, with no bullshit detection whatsoever, doesn’t appeal to me as much as does a seasoned journalist giving me context and telling me what it really means.