The dumbphone?

Although some claim ditching the smartphone for a dumbphone is trending, this simpler way to communicate without nonsense hasn’t breached 1% of the population. Some trend. 

That Monday morning newsflash was accompanied by an Oxford University’s Reuter’s Institute report that almost four in ten people worldwide (sometimes, or often) actively avoid the news. This number has shot up 10% since 2017, when three in ten had already turned their back on news. This hardly is a surprise, but nevertheless is a source of worry – not for our enterprise in particular, but for the overarching news network that keeps Canadians informed.

These articles suggest to us that the great promise of the information highway may be reaching its apex. Just like a favourite dish, sometimes too much of a good thing is simply too much. “Everything in moderation,” the wiser amongst us would suggest, which in terms of consuming information would mean having a refined palate and enjoying morsels rather than gorging.

The ability to back off from such vices is compounded by a point strongly argued by the U.S. Surgeon-General, who is now calling for warning labels on social media platforms. His contention is social media is a contributed factor in the mental health crisis among young people. The same stands in our opinion for adults, consumed with a worrying array of misinformation/disinformation. 

It’s a great time to throttle back.

 Another year in the saddle

Earlier this month we accepted another year as chair of News Media Canada. Although travel is limited, it takes time to handle calls from colleagues across the country, concerned as we are with the state of affairs in the media business.

From single proprietors, to mom-and-pop shops, to medium-sized operations with numerous reporters and corporate entities of national and international relevance – we remain proud of their work and thankful for their friendship. This isn’t an easy business and that point is driven home regularly by publishers large and small trying to navigate a media landscape that seems devoid of definitive answers to what the future holds.

Increasingly, the migration of advertising revenue to other sources and a contemporary ethos that news should be for free has prompted dependence on government and industry payouts from the likes of Google. This isn’t a long-term answer in our estimation. To be clear, newsrooms in receipt of those funds include newspapers, online news providers, radio and television. The most heavily compensated group by far is CBC, which in our opinion has negatively impacted the news ecosystem in this country.

Some organizations have handled the shifting sands of news delivery better than others. It appears, anecdotally at least, that operations with local ownership are still paying the bills and in many markets are doing remarkably well. People will support newspapers as long as that newspaper does its job. 

We believe that, and also believe as the industry rights itself, a shift will occur from faceless corporate ownership to personalities and individuals who reflect the community they serve. In a word, we need a return to accountability. The country needs leadership.

Within that context news organizations need to stand tall and get back to the basics. Solid journalism informs the public and keeps those in charge accountable. Opinion columns, clearly identified as such, drive conversations, helping readers reach their own conclusions. We need to trust readers if they are to trust us.

And we also need to get back to a time of showing no fear and no favour in the face of corruption. After numerous years of effort, Google will finally be paying towards the news ecosystem it has blithely hobbled this past decade. Under C-18, it had to choose a collective to disperse the $100-milllion news fund the Trudeau Liberals forced on them.

Opponents within our industry, mostly digital operators who fought C-18 every step of the way, cobbled together a cast of associates to disperse the funds. The irony is acknowledged in their announcement as Google’s collective of choice: “We also want to acknowledge the hard work and advocacy by organizations including News Media Canada and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters. Google would not be committing $100M annually if not for this advocacy. We’re grateful for your leadership and support.” 

As for the Advertiser, we’ll continue to share the straight goods with our readership. 

An interesting year lies ahead.