Newspapers Should Survive on Their Own

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A while back, the federal government said it was open to granting charitable status to media companies, which would allow them to receive tax-deductible donations to support investigative and public-interest journalism.
But a couple of questions came immediately to mind: Would anybody give? Why would they?
If a business can’t support itself in the marketplace, it fails. Why should it be any different with newspapers. It charges for its product too. And I say this as a person who was involved with newspapers, in a real love-affair sense, for more than 60 years.
Some of the top media organizations in the country have called on the federal government to actually provide subsidies for those in the newspaper business. Opponents of this move say if newspapers took government money they would no longer be able to hold government accountable. To that claim I point to the CBC and say hogwash.
It has uncovered excesses in government and informed the public yet it is on the government dole to the tune of more than $1 billion a year. When the Conservatives were in power under Stephen Harper, CBC funding was cut by $115 million. When Justin Trudeau and his Liberals took over in 2015, they restored the cuts.  Personally I believe the CBC should be sold to private enterprise to make its way in the marketplace and I have said so on other occasions.
That is why I cannot countenance any government subsidy for newspapers. I believe the advent of digital news outlets and social media had a lot to do with the decline of newspapers but I also believe a lot of it can be laid at the feet of the aging executives at the top of such news organizations, especially when it comes to their handling of the smaller papers within their groups.
They have made no effort to provide a product that people would buy; all they have done is cut, cut, cut. The Sault Star is a prime example.
It once had 150 employees; it now has 17. It no longer even has an editor, just three general reporters and one sports reporter. To me a paper without an editor is like a row boat without oars. The Star runs long stories, both local and wire (an outdated term from the past for provincial, national and world news), when it should be running shorter stories and more of them. And the concentration should be on local news coverage.
I believe those remaining in the newsroom, Elaine Della-Mattia, Brian Kelly, Jeff Ougler  and Peter Ruicci do fine work but the numbers, four reporters covering a city of 75,000, are against them.
The federal government seems to think granting charitable status to media companies would enable them provide investigative and public-interest journalism.
What a crock.
The money, if any arrives, would be used to help the company survive, not provide news coverage, especially investigative projects which eat up time and resources. You haven’t seen any investigative work done in the Sault in years and you aren’t going to see any done in the future either. It just isn’t in the cards.
The paper recently cut publication on Mondays and I don’t see that as being the last cut. I think somewhere along the line Postmedia, which owns it, will have to bite the bullet and cut back to three editions a week that it will give away.
Think about it.
A sales person couldn’t have a better tool with which to approach advertisers than being able to offer them entry to virtually every home in the city. Rather than have to split their advertising dollars as is the case now, advertisers could get it all in one place because The Star is also online. If such a change were to be made, I probably would suggest going tabloid, as Sault This Week once did so successfully.
When The Star announced it would be eliminating its Monday edition, it also announced that there would be no change in the subscription price. I don’t think anyone should get upset about this. This has been taking place in grocery stores for years. What once sold as a litre for many items now sells as something less in size but not in price. They think they are fooling us, and they might for a while. But eventually we catch on.
 I want to see newspapers survive, but I believe they have to do it on their own, not with government help.
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Doug Millroy
After 61 years in the news business, 41 of them associated with The Sault Star as editor, Doug continues to share his passion for writing as a columnist since retirement.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Doug : Your comment about no Monday paper does not satisfy those who subscribed for one full year—6 Papers a week excluding holidays, It is not the same as reducing the volume of a product and selling the reduced product for the same price because the Consumer has the right to buy it or not buy it. A yearly subscriber who gets less product does not have that option short of cutting off their subscription after the year is up. The Sault star should either recompense their yearly subscriber or extend the length of their subscription for free to compensate the subscribers lost who was not given a choice.

  2. If you’re looking for a license to print money just form a new Political Party.

    In this case I’m thinking the “Investigative Journalism Party of Canada (IJPC)”, whose Mandate is to dig deep, and report fairly and voluminously.

    All one motivated citizen, like an under-employed journalist, has to do is get 250 signatures, Register with Elections Canada (click on the MAB above), and run one(1) Candidate in each General Election.

    That’s it.

    Then people who donate to the IJPC will get 75% of their donation back at income tax time, whether or not they’re working, giving TONS OF MONEY for the Party to “dig deeply and report voluminously” in between elections.

    Plus the Party will have a National Platform at election time to remind all voters of all of the dirt and the good that’s happened in between General Elections.

    Democracy in action!

    Power to the Journalists!!

    Sincerely,
    MAB

  3. My beef with the local Star is that they have very little to put in the paper so they use huge print and supply pictures that take up half a page. I see it as FILLER SINCE THEY HAVE TO FILL THE PAGE SOMEHOW. Online sites are quickly replacing the print versions. I also notice that many people are opting to NOT place death notices in the paper as they know they will be read online and at no charge.
    Investigative reporting in small cities like ours is a thing of the past…they do not have the workers nor the funds. I still enjoy reading a paper but when the SHOPPERS DRUG STORE advertising section is as big or bigger than the Star it may be time to reconsider.

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