More Bad News for Dreams of Solid Journalism


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A little over a year ago, I wrote about the importance of supporting and encouraging community papers, even in this electronic era with the ascendance of ambient media.

But today we’ve seen another fail in the possibility of quality community journalism in BC with the announcement of another shakeout in community papers in BC. Black Press just bought out Glacier Media’s 11 papers and they’ll close the 4 that happen to compete with Black papers in Nelson, PR, 100 Mile and Quesnel.

The performance of its remaining publications should get stronger as the economy improves.

via CBC News – Media – 4 B.C. newspapers shutting down.

I’d venture to say that the performance of Black’s 4 papers that suddenly lose competition will get stronger very soon!

So what’s the prognosis?

Ultimately, what I want is a vibrant free press. A group of media outlets that hold society and its leadership accountable.

Though I haven’t caught up yet to this episode of The Wire, I enjoy that this is flying around Twitter right now: “You know what a healthy newsroom is? It’s a magical place where people argue about everything all the time.”

Where there is a monopoly, like the CanWest stranglehold soon to be weakened in Vancouver, there is less chance of effective journalism. And while competition also leads to bad journalism sometimes as everyone tries to be the first, or nearly the first, to report the death of Gordon Lightfoot while he happened to be getting his teeth cleaned, I’d rather see some healthy competition as the good outweighs the bad, at least in my universe.

But I also read today that The Canadian Press is going to cease to be a non-profit cooperative purveyor of news as 3 media groups are going to now run it as a for-profit business.

And I’m left with some real sadness about the potential for community political dialogue. When community papers now weigh less than the fliers in the middle, it’s time to wonder if quality online outlets can go to press and put a paper in people’s hands. Certainly a place like San Francisco is a geographically tight and politically vibrant enough community for San Francisco Public Press to try creating a hardcopy edition.

In the end, I turn everyone once again to George Monbiot’s advice to aspiring writers: Choose Life! The 6 years of this site certainly wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for this fantastic perspective on writing, politics, integrity and improving society. I only hope we can live up to a solid ideal, an ideal that Monbiot wrote about even before the explosion of blog-platform journalism and editorialism.

Because I know it just got harder today in BC and Canada for all of us to enjoy the ideal of a quality press.

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Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Post-partisan eco-socialist. at Politics, Re-Spun
Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, professor, speaker, consultant, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. He has various English and Political Science degrees and has been writing political, social and economic editorials since November 2002. Stephen is in Twitter, Miro and iTunes, and the email thing, and at his website, dgiVista.org.

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One thought on “More Bad News for Dreams of Solid Journalism”

  1. http://www.nelsondailynews.com/article/20100705/NELSON0304/307059968/the-end

    …is the start of the end of the Nelson Daily News.

    Well, I don’t agree with this: “When we were delivered the sad news, we were told a daily paper in a community the size of Nelson is no longer sustainable. They don’t let me touch the financial part of this business — and for good reason — so I will have to trust the money guys.”

    The truth, though, is that “sustainable” is an intentionally fuzzy word, an arbitrary thing based on ROI goals for a media conglomerate. That the corporate owner’s financial goals are separate from the daily operation of the paper is a sign of a large systemic problem in the “business” of media in the world, perhaps a larger problem than the crisis in newspapers itself.

    And that’s no “good reason”.

    And my advice for Nelson? Start your own paper. Start it off as a 4-page weekly and invite the community to partake in any way they can: financially, elbow grease, opinions [including things like a healthy debate on whether the IHA has been good to Nelson or not].

    My family goes all the way back in the West Kootenays. Don’t let Glacier and Black tell your community about how its business model priorities are more important than your community.

    Need some inspiration? See http://cupe.ca/strikes/Dispute_at_the_iJour and pay particular attention to things starting April 24, 2007 as locked out workers ran their own paper for over a year!

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