Between Postmedia gutting its newsrooms—combining the Sun chain and each city’s respective daily paper into one newsroom per city, apparently tasked with churning out two different papers at the same time—and the continued crumble of papers nationwide—unrelated to Postmedia, there were announcements of the 141-year-old Nanaimo Daily News‘ closure, and both the award-winning Guelph Mercury and Montréal’s French-language La Presse announced they were ending their print editions—it’s been two drastic, bleak weeks for the national media landscape. Like, nothing-but-stiff-drinks-please-God-why bleak.
It’s not that the need for quality, active and engaged journalism has waned; that’s more alive than ever. People want to engage with their city and country more and more directly, and good journalism is an informed way of doing that. It’s the newspaper business model that’s broken, unable to withstand the loss of revenue that the Internet’s gouged away. (Which has led to the shrinking papers, which has led to cutting quality content, which has led to less relevant papers, which has led to further disconnect from readers and advertisers, which has led to further shrinking, and so on. Nothing-but-stiff-drinks-please-God-why?)
That money isn’t coming back. And so giving other funding models serious pursuit seems to be the only way forward. Ideas are emerging, slowly but surely: The Tyee—BC-based but offering national coverage, operating with the training of traditional journalism but the functions and speed of a blog—is mostly fuelled by investments and bolstered by reader contributions (for disclosure’s sake, I’m one of them, to the tune of $10 a month). It isn’t profitable, but it’s found a way to sustain itself since emerging in 2003. Media-focused newsbreaker website/podcast Canadaland has managed to convince its listeners to collectively send it $12 407.26 (as of writing this) per month. It’s presently expanding to include more voices, as well as an arts and culture show.
Those are admittedly just two fairly small-scale examples. But the throughline connecting them is that readers are still willing to pay for stories, to fund quality coverage, to have that journalistic voice active and present within the place they call home. So as the existing, tired business model limps towards its sunset, it’s time to find other ways of supporting journalism, to start leaning into whatever comes next. V