Editorial: Now more than ever, newspapers matter

Newspapers are not dead. They are evolving to fit their audience’s consumption preferences. And many of us still prefer the genuine honesty that the ink on paper your community publication provides.

Media pundits have predicted the demise of print media, specifically the newspaper, since the advent of the Internet went mainstream in the early part of the 21st Century. As more people tied into the world wide web, blogs and websites became a substantial source of entertainment on an inexpensive, digital platform that could supply an infinite amount of information at the push of a button.

Then the era of social media began, spreading across the globe like an unstoppable pandemic. Tying one’s self into MySpace, then Facebook, then Twitter, was hip, particularly for the sector of society just grasping the concept of the Internet and all it could do; the Baby Boomers. And as these people stepped into the digital age, the limelight went away from ink and newsprint.

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Although some traditional newspapers have not survived – and all are in constant transformation to deal with this drastic change in the way North Americans consume their information – one thing remains constant. A majority of Canadians are still getting their local news from trained, experienced sources; journalists with a solid background in knowing what can and cannot be said in the public realm based on an extensive investigative and analytical set of skills.

People still regard local newspapers as the arbiters of important information. Yes, most readers float about online, reading a post about their friend’s last delicious desert or a ranting Tweet about a neighbour’s loud dog, but when it comes time to learn about the substantive world around them – their firsthand experience in the wider community – nine of ten Canadians rely on local, professional news sources.

This is an important point to consider. A social media post is not fact-checked, challenged or edited before disseminated, potentially spreading rumour, innuendo and misinformation that destroys the fabric of that communal experience. It rips at the foundation of community by pitting one against another without valid consideration of both sides of any particular issue or argument. Plus, those in power are not held to account should they behave in a corrupt, self-serving manner. It is far easier to push aside rambling Facebook tirades.

A well-investigated news article, however, is backed by a committed group of professionals whose sole objective is to inform based on information that is as close to the truth as can be ascertained before deadline. Media agencies who have failed to continue following this principle – and many in this industry have – are committing a sin outlined by English politician Richard Cobden in the mid-19th Century: “A newspaper should be the maximum of information, and the minimum of comment.”

In this new age of information immediacy and sensationalism, newspapers have had to change, but they are far from dead. In the very least, their standards of practice are held to high regard, both on paper and online, which is extremely important considering how many entities are trying to mislead or motivate their audience into voting for this or buying that. An Ipsos-Reid poll has suggested that 63 per cent of Canadians cannot determine what sites provide real news and what sources are disseminating fake news. That’s a troubling statistic.

Nevertheless, as we near the end of this century’s second decade, most of us have finally realized that new information distribution technologies are not always trustworthy, allowing the old methods of finding, writing and telling the news to live on.

Newspapers are not dead. They are evolving to fit their audience’s consumption preferences.

And many of us still prefer the genuine honesty that the ink on paper your community publication provides. Should you agree, help us send a message to businesses, government and journalists across Canada that newspapers matter.

Now more than ever.

Pledge your support at www.newspapersmatter.ca.

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