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 The Star runs long stories, both local and wire (an outdated term from the past for provincial, national and world news), when it should be running shorter stories and more of them.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.