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

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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.

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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
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
ZAC QUINLAN – Advocate Media – Winner!

Outstanding Special Section 


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






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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

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Apply now for the CPF Aid to Publishers funding program

November 21, 2016

The 2017-2018 Applicant’s Guide and Application Form for the Aid to Publisherscomponent of the Canada Periodical Fund (CPF) are now available.

Canadian Heritage has made a number of important adjustments to the funding program in order to help the industry in this transformation period. Please review these changes carefully before completing your application.

  • The required minimum of copies sold for magazines and non-daily newspapers has been reduced.
  • For magazines and non-daily newspapers, the minimum required has gone down from 5,000 to 3,500 paid copies.
  • For special categories (Aboriginal, official language minority, ethnocultural and LGBT) magazines and non-daily newspapers, the paid minimum has gone from 2,500 to 2,000 paid copies.
  • The exemption for the criterion to have sold at least 50% of copies through subscription copies, single-copy/newsstand copies and sponsored now applies to all special categories (including non-daily ethnocultural newspapers).
  • The funding formula will provide greater consideration to small sized periodicals. Also, it will take into account periodicals from special categories and periodicals that also exist in digital format.
  • Definitions have been revised for editorial content, newsletter and special issue.
  • New definitions have been included for advertorial content, original content and sponsored content.

Click here to access the Canada Periodical Fund – Aid to Publishers materials.

The deadline to submit your application is Monday, December 19, 2016. Please note that an application postmarked or stamped after the application deadline will not be accepted.

Canadian Heritage has set service standards for the timely delivery of its funding programs and plans to issue a written notification of the funding decision within a 30-week timeline applied as of the program’s deadline.

Should you require additional information, please contact Canadian Heritage at 1-866-811-0055 or via email at

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Canadian Community Newspaper Awards and Great Idea Awards open on December 1

November 21, 2016

Get ready for the 2017 awards season: Newspapers Canada will begin accepting entries for the Canadian Community Newspaper Awards and Great Idea Awardson Thursday, December 1.

The Canadian Community Newspaper Awards celebrate the best in community publishing from across the country, with award categories covering editorial, photography and multimedia work in various circulation classes. The CCNAwards are open to members of the Canadian Community Newspapers Association (CCNA) and to all campus newspapers across the country.

The Great Idea Awards recognize the most creative and innovative examples of newspaper marketing and promotion from newspapers across the country. The goal of this awards program is to showcase as many outstanding promotional initiatives as possible, so we encourage our newspapers to enter up to five times in each category. The Great Idea Awards are open to all members of Newspapers Canada (CNA and CCNA).

Once again, we are pleased to accept digital submissions for certain categories via our online portal powered by Newspaper Toolbox. Submit your entry materials for both competitions on or before Tuesday, January 31, 2017.

For more information, visit the competition websites at the links below, or contact Nicole Bunt, Program Assistant, at

Interested in serving as a judge? Click here for details.

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Community Newspapers Drive Results

November 21, 2016

This new research study, funded by Canadian Heritage, explores engagement with printed community newspapers in Canada as well as the key role they play in the automotive path-to-purchase.

The printed community newspaper is by far the favourite source of local news and information in communities large and small across Canada. Time spent with a community newspaper is virtually unchanged compared to two years ago and not surprisingly, the predominant reason for reading printed community newspapers is local information, including news, editorial, sports, entertainment and events.

Printed newspapers are a key driver in the automotive decision making process. Seven out of ten community newspaper readers report that they read or look at the automotive ads that appear in their printed paper. When it comes to purchasing attitudes, newspapers were found to be most useful for general information, price comparisons and deciding which make of vehicle. In all stages of the path-to-purchase newspapers and their sites were found to be most influential.

Download study materials below by clicking on the appropriate links. For more information contact Kelly Levson, Director of Marketing and Research at

This project was produced with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Periodical Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage. The content of this study represents the opinions of the authors and does not necessarily represent the policies or the views of the Department of Canadian Heritage or the Government of Canada.

Community Newspapers Drive Results – Presentation
Community Newspapers Drive Results – Fact Sheet

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Ron Ennis ‘kept the community in community newspapers’

August 10, 2016

Ron Ennis, Managing Editor with Transcontinental Media’s 14 weekly newspapers in the province for over 20 years, and a journalist for 42 years, passed away in Grand Falls-Windsor.

Known for his dedication to the writing craft, the respect for the role of the community newspaper and his practice of helping budding journalists get their feet wet in the industry, Ennis is being remembered for his contributions.

He was a man who gave back to his community through service on town councils, the Kiwanis Club — in particular the annual music festival in Grand Falls-Windsor — and his church.



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Congratulations to the winners of the 2016 CCNAwards

April 25, 2016

Newspapers Canada is thrilled to reveal the winners of the 2016 Canadian Community Newspaper Awards. This prestigious annual awards program features more than 30 unique categories honouring outstanding editorial, photography, multimedia and overall excellence in community newspaper publishing. The 2016 competition saw 240 publications from coast to coast submit more than 2,400 entries.

Click here to view a complete the 2016 CCNAwards Winners Book


  • The Yukon News in Whitehorse, YT received six first place wins, two second-place wins and two third-place wins for a total of 10 awards overall.
  • The Citizen, in Blyth/Brussels, ON swept their General Excellence class and won first place for Best All-Round Newspaper, Best Editorial Page and Best Front Page.
  • Best Local Cartoon (circulation up to 9999) was awarded to Wyatt Tremblay from The Yukon News, and Best Local Cartoon, circulation 10,000 and over, was awarded to Michael de Adder of the Hill Times.
  • Outstanding Columnist was awarded to Andy Prest of the North Shore News in Vancouver, BC.
  • Journal Servir at CFB St-Jean/Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC was named this year’s Best Canadian Force Base Newspaper.
  • Best Photo Illustration was awarded to the Nanaimo Daily News, Nanaimo, BC for their photo titled “End of an Era”.
  • Outstanding Campus Newspaper went to The Cord, Wilfred Laurier University.

Newspapers Canada would like to thank all of the newspapers, judges and sponsors who participated in the 2016 Canadian Community Newspaper Awards. We are honoured to continue this annual tradition of recognizing outstanding achievements in the community newspaper industry.

If you have any questions about the awards program, please contact Taylor Kormann at

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