Soul-searching, hand-wringing and general dread: the mood among many in the field of journalism hasn’t been very positive lately, especially after Postmedia’s nation-wide lay-offs and newsroom consolidations in January. With the highest number of terminated journalists, Edmonton has been one of the hardest hit by these changes. The future of journalism is particularly poignant for our city right now, and is part of the impetus behind an upcoming panel discussion at MacEwan University.
Journalist Interrupted, running from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm this Thursday, May 26, will tackle some of the pressing issues facing journalism today. Moderated by Brian Gorman, assistant professor in Communication Studies at MacEwan University and author of Crash to Paywall: Canadian Newspapers and the Great Disruption, the panel features prominent members of the media: Linda Solomon, CEO of Observer Media Group and editor-in-chief of The National Observer; Kelly Toughill, director of the School of Journalism at University of King’s College, Karen Unland, entrepreneurial journalist and founder of the Seen and Heard in Edmonton blog; and Jorge Barrera, author at Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN).
“I think we’re on the threshold of a transition into a new kind of journalism,” Gorman says. “The question is, what is it going to be?”
The panel will be organized around a set of questions tackling issues related to this central issue, including journalism’s role in culture, society and democracy, funding models for journalism, maintaining local coverage, and increasing diversity of both journalists and content.
“The thing that people have been afraid to do is look beyond what happens when Postmedia dies—or if Postmedia dies—I should be diplomatic,” Gorman says with a chuckle. “To a certain extent, the [newspaper] chains exist to see to it the chains continue to exist, and journalism isn’t really that large a consideration. But I think the concern now is that journalism is going to go down with the ship.
“There are quiet conversations going on all over the place about how do we make sure we still have local news coverage?” Gorman continues. “I think one of the problems with a lot of conversations about journalism is it sort of focuses on the glory stuff—political coverage, the great political pundits. … You’ve got these political wonks running our industry, and they devalue things like fashion and food and arts reporting. Good arts reporting opens up all kinds of metaphysical, social and cultural issues that you don’t deal with anywhere else: the big issues, that our novels and philosophers deal with.”
The overall intention of the panel is to simply host a conversation and see where it ends up. Gorman notes that they are trying to seed the audience with people who are already moving in new directions with journalism, and he hopes that they’ll have enough time to open up the floor to the audience.
“In a post-newspaper world, I think we have to look at—I won’t say the sins committed by daily newspapers, but just the oversights and the areas they haven’t considered important,” he says. “And the fact that they have worked at a remove from their readers and their reader’s interests.
“I don’t think it will make us very popular with the mainstream journalists,” he adds wryly.
Thu, May 26, 7:30 to 9:30 pm (doors at 7 pm)
Journalist Interrupted: Toward a blueprint for a new free press
CN Conference Theatre, MacEwan University, Room 5-142 (105 St Building)
free, but registration encouraged at EventBrite