News

Canadians want government advertising in newspapers

October 4, 2017

More than seven out of Canadians want to see advertising for government programs and services in newspapers, based on a survey of more than 2,400 Canadians in December 2016. In smaller markets across the country (under 100,000 population) six in ten adults believe their local community newspaper is the most appropriate medium for government ads.

Contrast this with the shrinking advertising expenditures that the federal government allocates to the third largest advertising medium in Canada (based on advertising industry data on net advertising volumes in 2016). In 2015/2016 the federal government spent less than 6% of all advertising dollars in daily and community newspapers, compared to 27% in 2009/2010.

Keep reading »

OP-ED: Journalism matters more than ever. We need help to save it

September 29, 2017

On Sept. 1, an agency of the Canadian government directed nearly $100-million to support local television news. Suddenly, more local television reporters are working stories on more broadcasts across Canada.

But why just television? Why not newspapers or digital-only publications? It’s the reporting of news that’s important, not the platform on which it resides.

The answer is purely bureaucratic. Television is regulated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which collects a levy on the revenues of cable and satellite distributors and then redirects the funds into producing content deemed to serve the public good, such as television news. Other parts of the Government of Canada, supported by the same taxpayers, have so far resisted measures to bolster an industry that plays an essential role in our democracy, one that’s even explicitly written into the Charter of Rights.

The situation is bad and getting worse. More and more newspaper jobs are disappearing—at least one in three since 2010 by our count—and newspaper closings in more than 200 federal ridings have loosened the social glue news provides to communities. These reporter-intensive organizations are the tributaries for much of the news about democratic institutions generated in Canada, both in print and online. Digital news start-ups in Canada, with a few exceptions, so far have been unable to fill the growing deficit in reporting capacity.

Please adjust the dial. There’s something wrong with this picture. This isn’t a good time to allow the weakening of news organizations. We are seeing in the United States the critical role newspaper companies, particularly The New York Times and The Washington Post, are playing in keeping the public informed of deep stresses in their democracy. The classic relationship between whistle-blowers and reporters can’t work if the latter become an endangered species.

In Canada, the threat is more acute because the market is smaller. Canadian daily newspapers have seen more than half their ad revenues—about $1.5-billion—bleed away over the past decade, most of it going to Google and Facebook, which together served up more than eight out of 10 digital ads in Canada last year. Unfortunately, they don’t invest in generating news.

Meanwhile, as the sources of verifiable news dry up, fake news—designed to disorient and disillusion the public—proliferates. Making something up or simply distorting facts costs a fraction of real reporting. Whether for commercial, partisan, ideological or geopolitical reasons, it represents a direct assault on our democracy. Again, there’s something wrong with this picture.

In many places, calling the mayor the day after council meetings for an account of what happened constitutes coverage of city hall. Even in provincial capitals, some governments go uncovered in between legislative sessions and fewer specialists work the corridors of power in Ottawa.

From a public-policy point of view, this raises vexing questions. Nobody wants to give governments leverage over the reporters meant to hold them to account. That said, the CBC is both publicly funded and independent, so it’s not an impossible task.

We see two problems that cry out for attention: getting more reporters on the ground and financing innovation so that news producers can keep up with ever-evolving consumption habits.

Last April, on the heels of The Shattered Mirror report on news, democracy and truth in Canada, the Public Policy Forum brought together about 40 news organizations and unions to propose solutions that would support employment of reporters and investment in innovation without sacrificing media independence or shutting out new competitors. Out of this process came a proposal to add a new component to the well-established Canadian Periodical Fund, one that would support journalism of a civic, or democratic enhancing, nature.

This new Canadian Journalism Fund would feature a pre-programmed formula to cover 30 per cent of the costs of reporting, creating an incentive to hire rather than fire reporters, and, critically, denying governments the discretion to play favourites. We have established a definition for who qualifies and an appeals process independent of government. As well, companies would be forbidden from diverting the funds to dividends, bonuses and debt payments. There are those who rightly worry any government involvement would compromise a free press. But a broke press isn’t much of a free press. Others contend it’s best to wait for news organizations to go bankrupt and then pick up the pieces. But once in bankruptcy court, it is the debt holders and not the public interest that is served, as we saw in 2010 when Postmedia emerged out of bankruptcy court with bondholders as owners and an unbearable burden of debt.

Some say the companies seeking assistance are doomed in any case. That may be true, but established news companies and start-ups should be given five years to prove they can make a go of it. The alternative of more and more fake news and less and less reported news is antithetical to the precepts of a healthy democracy.


Bob Cox is chairman of News Media Canada and publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press; Jerry Dias is national president of Unifor; Edward Greenspon is president of the Public Policy Forum.

Keep reading »

News Media Canada releases 2017 Freedom of Information Audit

September 29, 2017

News Media Canada released its 2017 National Freedom of Information Audit report earlier today, September 27, 2017. The release of this year’s report comes during Right to Know Week, and represents a key pillar of our organization’s ongoing commitment to Freedom of Information issues within the wider scope of national public affairs.

The 2017 audit reviews the performance of Canadian governments (federal, national, provincial, local) and numerous other public institutions with respect to their access to information regimes. As such, it provides the public with the opportunity to see the degree to which our governments are in compliance with their own FOI legislation, as well as facilitating comparisons among jurisdictions.

“The audit represents an important tool for asserting the public’s right to access government information,” says John Hinds, president and CEO of News Media Canada. “The results of this audit show that we’ve still got a long way to go before we really have a culture of openness and accountability around government data.”

As in previous years, the 2017 FOI audit was done in collaboration with Fred Vallance-Jones, associate professor of journalism at the University of King’s College, in Halifax. To obtain the data for the audit, a team of researchers requested the same information from the federal and provincial government, as well as a selection of municipalities across the country.

“I’ve been doing this study since 2008 and I keep hoping for the day when everyone gets an A and I can call it a day,” says Vallance-Jones. “Sadly, some are getting worse, and particularly troublesome is the worsening performance by the federal government.”

The 2017 FOI Audit report is available online here. Previous editions of the FOI Audit can be found here.

Keep reading »

2017 National Newspaper Week: October 1-7, 2017

September 29, 2017

Every year, during the first full week in October, newspapers across North America celebrate National Newspaper Week to acknowledge the men and women who work tirelessly to bring the news to their communities. Carrier Appreciation Day is also celebrated on the Saturday of this week to recognize the efforts of newspaper carriers young and old who make a vital contribution to the industry.

The theme of this year’s event is “Real Newspapers … Real News!” News Media Canada is pleased to provide a series of print and digital ads, as well as other resources. We encourage members to download and publish these materials during this week-long celebration and promote the enduring strength of the newspaper industry.

Download Now

 


Keep reading »

Act Now and Save News: Canadian Journalism Fund lobby kit now available

July 27, 2017

News Media Canada has created a special ‘members only’ lobby kit available on our website.

In this kit, members will find a package which contains:

  1. A checklist on how to set up your meeting
  2. A background document on the state of the industry and how the Canadian Journalism Fund came into being
  3. Frequently asked questions & answers
  4. A fact sheet that explains the Canadian Journalism Fund and how this idea came into development
  5. A briefing note that you can leave with your Member of Parliament after your meeting

Click here to access these documents (member login required).

Additional copies of these documents, as well as a library of other documents and op-eds about the Canadian Journalism Fund, can be found on our website here.

We request that you contact your local federal Member of Parliament to set up a meeting as soon as possible to discuss how they will act to help save Canadian news. We have provided a checklist with all the necessary steps to guide you through this process.

We hope you will share photos with us of your meeting with your local MP. We ask that you include @NewsMediaCanada and use the hashtag #SaveNews.

Keep reading »

Community journalism in the era of fake news

July 26, 2017

In a challenging environment with fewer resources, greater vulnerabilities and increasing attacks from politicians and the politically motivated, how should news organizations respond? One editor-publisher’s approach — a calm, respectful but strong defense of journalism and its essential role in democracy — seems to work.

Brian Hunt, editor and publisher of the Walla Walla (Wash.) Union-Bulletin, circ. 16,000, gave a speech at the local library and boiled it down to a 2,400-word column in the May 7 edition, headlined “Community journalism in the era of fake news.”

Hunt begins by explaining that fake news “is as old as communication itself. . . . What is newer historically are the advertiser-driven platforms and technologies that now enable information to accelerate and expand without regard to any formal vetting or verification.”

With technology and consumer data held by Google, Facebook and other advertising-driven platforms, “Truth matters less today than reach,” Hunt says. “The content that wraps around these ads doesn’t need to be true, it just needs to be able to entice us to click. And we really click, motivated in part by our very human desire to improve ourselves and to belong to something. . . . They know what persuades us as individuals and they can easily help us sort ourselves into very small groups of like-minded groups. What could go wrong?”

A tribal and divisive politics, for one thing. “I don’t want to paint social media as the enemy of truth,” Hunt says. “It’s not — though a business model focused exclusively on serving ads based on our likes does present challenges in terms of what is true and what is merely effective. . . . We all gravitate to information that feels like it fits our perspective. It’s human nature. Fake news stories — like spam emails that preceded them — work because they can cheaply exploit known human behavior.”

Hunt gives a short history of journalism and explains, “As journalists, we are trained in critical thinking. In looking at all sides of an issue. In separating our personal feelings from the work of telling true and balanced stories that enable readers to make up their own minds. The rise of objective journalism had a dramatic impact on the news media – and in our world. The advent of the advertiser-funded internet particularly, and the scale at which broadcast news outlets proliferated and extended themselves, is a new wild west of information dissemination. So how do we navigate the vast amounts of information we encounter to ensure that what we read and what we share are true?”

Hunt recommends the “Stop, Search, Subscribe” motto of the News Media Alliance, formerly the Newspaper Association of America, but acknowledges, “What is true or false may not be as enticing as “our desire to believe in something shared.”

He gives examples: “The president of the United States declares the press the enemy of the people. In our valley, we drive by billboards that vilify our reporters and editors. Fake news accusations are now common for stories that don’t suit a particular audience, true or not. We’re increasingly intolerant about information we don’t like, for sides of the argument that disagree with our side. For community newspapers such as the U-B, this loss of collective understanding and tolerance threatens the very sense of a shared and diverse community.”
After Donald Trump was elected, “I began hearing from readers who seemed confused about what was published as a news story and what was published as a personal opinion column or an editorial — definitions that newspapers have relied on for decades are suddenly not widely understood,” Hunt says. “This became a small wave of complaints that national political coverage in the U-B did not match reader expectations — they knew things we didn’t include, and they often disbelieved what we did include.”

Hunt gives examples of the extreme without being judgmental: “I’ve been challenged on why we include people of color in our newspaper. I’ve heard from readers who question why, when two-thirds of our region voted for Trump, the U-B would ever publish anything remotely critical of his presidency. I learn things in these conversations. Most notably, the people I speak with are not unaccomplished, not unintelligent, not uncaring. We know these people. You know these people. Fake news and the isolated intolerance that can feed it gets to us all.”

Such challenges to newspapers “threaten to eat away at the core of what makes us communities,” Hunt says. “Strong communities support good community newspapers, and strong community newspapers support good communities. That’s the best way I know to show how much we depend upon each other. How much benefit we can together achieve. For that, I hope you are all subscribers, that you encourage others to be subscribers. And that you continue to challenge us to be the best community newspaper we can be.”

So, how did Hunt’s column go over?

In an email to The Rural Blog, he said reaction “has, for the most part, been positive/understanding, with a fair amount of surprise around the idea that the bitterness and intolerance of our national politics does indeed have real local impact.” He also said, “I have to believe many rural papers are in the same boat.”

There is evidence the column had a positive impact, Hunt said: “a dramatic slow-down in complaints/stops based on the perception that we’re too liberal. . . . Stories that are perceived to reflect on Trump as a person seem to generate the most outcry. The policy actions, health care debate, etc. have not.”

Hunt’s column indicates that he knows and respects his readers. He mentioned Trump, but he did it factually, and he avoided attacking any politician, faction or institution. He explained journalism’s role in democracy and community, and subscribers’ increasingly important role in the news business. Every newspaper’s audience is different, but Hunt provides a good example for other editors and publishers.

Al Cross edited and managed rural weekly newspapers before spending 26 years at The (Louisville) Courier-Journal and serving as president of the Society of Professional Journalists. Since 2004 he has been director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based at the University of Kentucky. See www.RuralJournalism.org.

Keep reading »

Library combats ‘fake news’

July 25, 2017

While journalists have long battled the spread of “fake news,” another group dedicated to facts and reliable information — librarians — is also taking aim at this growing disinformation trend.

Worthington Libraries (Worthington, Ohio) recently hosted two events aimed at helping the public identify reliable news sources. The library system also created a useful infographic to help people evaluate sources of information and learn which sources might not be trustworthy.

Coleman Mahler, an adult services librarian with Worthington Libraries, said one reason the library is focusing on fake news is because of the digital divide in the country and the rising popularity of “echo chambers,” places online or on social media where people go to have their views validated or listened to. Mahler said trying to help people find trusted news sources and learn how to evaluate those sources isn’t a partisan issue because everyone benefits from accurate information.

Editor’s Note: Newspapers should consider talking with local libraries about hosting similar programs. In addition, a PDF of the “Don’t Fall for Fake News” infographic can be downloaded here.

Keep reading »

2017 Better Newspapers Competition Winners

June 8, 2017

Newspapers Atlantic announced the winners and standing finalists for the 2017 Better Newspapers Competition on June 3rd, as we celebrated the best of community journalism in Atlantic Canada with a kitchen party ceilidh at The Old Triangle.

Congratulations to all the finalists!

Outstanding Feature Photo

WENDY ELLIOTT – Valley Journal Advertiser – Winner!
MICHAEL LEE – LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin
BARB RAYNER – St. Stephen Saint Croix Courier Weekend

Outstanding News Photo

ANITA BENEDICT – Enfield Weekly Press – Winner!
HEATHER MOORE – Montague Eastern Graphic
BARB RAYNER – St. Stephen Saint Croix Courier

Outstanding Photo Essay 

KEITH CORCORAN – LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin
HEATHER MOORE AND CHARLOTTE MACAULAY – Montague Eastern Graphic – Winner!
JONATHAN PARSONS – Clarenville Packet

Outstanding Sports Photo 

MICHAEL LEE – LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin
JENNIFER VARDY LITTLE – Annapolis Valley Register – Winner!
BRITTANY WENTZELL – LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin

Outstanding Editorial 

KATHY BOCKUS – St. Stephen Saint Croix Courier – Winner!
EVAN BOWER – LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin
BARBARA DEAN-SIMMONS – Clarenville Packet

Outstanding Feature Story

TINA COMEAU – Tri-County Vanguard
DANETTE DOOLEY – Lewisporte Pilot
PAUL MACNEILL – Montague Eastern Graphic – Winner!

Outstanding Investigative Story 

ANTHONY DOIRON – Acadie Nouvelle
MICHAEL LEE – LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin
JONATHAN PARSONS – Clarenville Packet – Winner!

Outstanding News Story

TINA COMEAU – Tri-County Vanguard
APRIL MACDONALD – Inverness Oran – Winner!
JONATHAN PARSONS – Clarenville Packet

Outstanding Resources Story

TINA COMEAU – Tri-County Vanguard – Winner!
JONATHAN RILEY – Tri-County Vanguard
STAFF – Valley Journal-Advertiser

Outstanding Sports Story 

EVAN BOWER – LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin
SEBASTIAN LACHANCE – Acadie Nouvelle
JONATHAN PARSONS – Clarenville Packet – Winner!

Outstanding Advertising Campaign

NICOLE FAWCETT & DAVE SCHAFFNER – Port Hawkesbury Reporter – Winner!
MICHELE WHITE – Enfield Weekly Press

Outstanding New Revenue Idea

MARC-ANDRÉ CORMIER – Acadie Nouvelle – Winner!
SHARON RILEY – Montague Eastern Graphic.
STAFF – St. Stephen Saint Croix Courier

Outstanding Ad – Class 1

ANDREW BROOKS – Victoria Standard
NICOLE FAWCETT & DAVE SHAFFNER – Port Hawkesbury Reporter – Winner!
LYNDSEY THOMPSON – St. Stephen Saint Croix Courier

Outstanding Ad – Class 2

HELEN DALTON – Truro Hub Now – Winner!
GAIL FLAHERTY – St. Stephen Saint Croix Courier
SHARON RILEY – Montague Eastern Graphic

Outstanding Page Design

TANYA BARRY – LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin
ANDREW BROOKS – Victoria Standard
STAFF – Montague Eastern Graphic – Winner!

Outstanding Online Innovation

GAÉTAN CHIASSON – Acadie Nouvelle.
NICOLE FAWCETT – Port Hawkesbury Reporter – Winner!
LARRY POWELL – Annapolis Valley Register

Outstanding Circulation Promotion

VÉRONIK BRAZEAU – Acadie Nouvelle
STAFF – Inverness Oran – Winner!

Outstanding Community Engagement

MAURICE REES – Bass River Shoreline Journal
SHARON RILEY – Montague Eastern Graphic
STAFF – LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin – Winner!

Outstanding Brand Builder

VÉRONIK BRAZZEAU – Acadie Nouvelle
JASON HATCHER & ANDREW BROOKS – The Victoria Standard
ZAC QUINLAN – Advocate Media – Winner!

Outstanding Special Section 

GANDER BEACON
PORT HAWKESBURY REPORTER – Winner!
TRI-COUNTY VANGUARD

Outstanding Cartoon

MADISON GREENING – Victoria Standard
JASON FREEMAN – Annapolis Valley Register
JOSH KAISER – Victoria Standard – Winner!

Outstanding Local Columnist

TINA COMEAU – Tri-County Vanguard
CÉLESTE GODIN – Acadie Nouvelle – Winner!
HERB PEPPARD – Truro Hub Now

GENERAL EXCELLENCE CLASS 1

CLARENVILLE PACKET – Winner!
GANDER BEACON
PORT HAWKESBURY REPORTER

GENERAL EXCELLENCE CLASS 2

INVERNESS ORAN
LIGHTHOUSENOW PROGRESS BULLETIN – Winner!
TRI-COUNTY VANGUARD

 

Keep reading »

2017 BNC Call for Entries

December 14, 2016

Newspapers Atlantic is pleased to announce the launch of the 2017 Better Newspapers Competition. We invite all of our members in good standing to submit entries for this annual competition. The awards celebrate excellence in community media across Atlantic Canada.

Newspapers Atlantic members have until Friday, January 27th, 2017 to submit their best work for the 2016 Better Newspapers Competition.

Download the 2017 BNC criteria in PDF format

Nominate a colleague for a Quill Recognition Award

Keep reading »