Here in Ottawa this week it was announced that the Ottawa Citizen will discontinue its Sunday Edition and layoffs were announced. The Parent company is also making similar adjustments to other newspapers across Canada. This scares me.
We all in the Radio and TV business have undergone massive change in the last ten years because of technology and mass ownership with the pain of layoffs and mergers which have changed the business completely and changed the lives of both the group still in the business and those sadly who were forced out of the business.
The Newspaper business has been slowing going through the same process and now it seems to be speeding up. That is expected but the larger problem is the journalistic side of this process. Newspapers are hugely important to a democratic society whether the average person perceives it or not. The type of journalism newspapers have historically engaged in is the spade work. The tough, long and important work. The investigative reporting that sometimes requires years to get to the bottom of a story. That is very expensive work and the kind of work which has never been matched by the electronic media. In fact the electronic media reads multiple newspapers each day to find stories they want to chase and expand upon. You may get the story first on TV or Radio, but its origin may have been a newspaper story.
Newspaper reporting is what has often kept politics in check. Prime Ministers in check. Big business in check. On a less important scale, it has kept sports in check. Without newspaper reporting would we know about Watergate, Abscam, and in the sports world, Graham James?
The younger generation has become accustomed to getting their news online. Sometimes from online newspapers but too often from other sources. Those other sources often have no journalistic ethics, integrity or accuracy. Too many Internet only users mistake blogs and twitter as actual, true and accurate news.
The decline of the newspaper industry puts all of us at risk of having fewer checks and balances to protect all of us. Without the light the newspaper industry shines on both the good and bad we have less opportunity to cheer hero's and expose villains.
As the newspaper industry transitions more and more to the online world, we all have to hope that the journalistic bar does not drop or we all suffer.
Read a newspaper today. Please.
See you at the rink.