To overcome hurdles to media access, we need to embrace publicly funded journalism

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Facebook and Google have become the gatekeepers of our newsfeeds. But this is only part of a much larger problem. Access to unbiased journalism is vital, but so is funding that journalism. Going forward, we need to embrace publicly funded media to protect free, accessible journalism.

A recent National Post article describes how companies like Facebook and Google impact our news coverage. When The Wall Street Journal refused Google’s “first click free” policy, its traffic dropped 44 per cent. This shows how these companies control our platforms, negatively impacting the way we access media—especially when physical newspapers have diminished in popularity.

However, Google and Facebook are only part of the problem.

Many newspapers, like The New York Times and The Washington Post, are publicly traded. This means, to some extent, that they’re motivated by profit; what and how they publish will thereby impact its stock, for better or worse.

Journalism wasn’t always this way. The Journal, for example, is published by the AMS and partly funded through student fees—however, we have a bylaw guaranteeing our editorial autonomy. This structure more closely resembles how journalism is meant to function: serving the people, without outside influence.

Part of the problem is that reliance on subscriptions and paywalls is a dying art, particularly for small, local outlets. Readers today are unwilling to pay for their news, leaving many publications to seek advertisers or be bought out by corporations. Then again, not everyone can afford to pay for their news coverage, and those individuals deserve access to journalism like anyone else.

What we need is more publicly funded journalism, like CBC and PBS. These publications are funded by the government but maintain their editorial autonomy.

Canadians deserve a free press they can access regardless of their financial situations and without fear of receiving biased media. Instead of irrationally fearing media funded by the government, we need to lean into it.

We should also reconsider the way schools teach media literacy. Giving students the tools to weed out unreliable sources is important, but understanding how journalism is funded and what that means is equally important in creating industry-transparency.

There’s no need to fear publicly funded media. Facebook and Google might, at times, control our access to media, but that’s only one side of the issue. On the other, we have newspapers becoming more and more reliant on profit.

That’s an issue. When it comes to Canadian media, providing the people with unfettered, unbiased news should always come first. Publicly funded media is how we do that.

—Journal Editorial Board

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