With the rise of digital media, print-first newspapers have very quickly become unprofitable. However, it’s important to remember a small local paper’s primary function isn’t to make money; it’s to put a microscope on a specific community and hold local officials accountable.
On Monday, Torstar Corp. and Postmedia Network Inc. announced nearly 300 jobs will be lost in the closures of over 30 local newspapers across the country. As a result, the federal government has been put under pressure to find a way to save the newspaper industry.
Even though some are calling for aid from Ottawa in the wake of the closures, government funding can’t be a long-term solution. The Canada Periodical Fund allocates $75 million a year, some of which is invested in supporting local media across the country. The Canada Periodical Fund wouldn’t be needed to provide a one-time bailout. Keeping the industry afloat would mean long-term monetary support; something unsustainable for the Canada Periodical Fund to do alone.
There’s something to be said for having newspapers make the transition to fully digital platforms. Putting news in print is an expense many news organizations can no longer afford. As people continue to rely more on online news sources, print readership has experienced a steady decline. There can’t be any reluctance amongst newspapers to move towards a digital focus if they’re to survive in the digital age.
That being said, a lot of revenue for smaller newspapers comes from print subscriptions and print ads. Print media has its advantages for those in remote communities or the elderly. For some people in Canada, reading a physical newspaper is the only way they get news.
Until every person in Canada relies solely on online news, there will continue to be a need for tangible, printed newspapers. Even if print media were to disappear, the problem of how to best keep small news organizations afloat will still need to be dealt with.
Big national newspapers like The National Post, The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail are going to survive and adapt because they have the corporate backing and resources to do it. In comparison, small local news organizations are anything but safe right now.
It’s one thing to argue print media is obsolete, but quite another to allow smaller community papers to be snuffed out completely.
— Journal Editorial Board
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