By TERRY JENSON, CLARK’S CROSSING GAZETTE EDITOR AND PUBLISHER
Being a community newspaper publisher is not for the faint of heart.
Like people you know who die, one by one the titles disappear. Gone forever. And with them the days of providing information about local issues and people.
But, is the industry really dying?
We hear it more and more frequently from people across the board – readers and advertisers alike. The common statements include “I get all my news online” and “nobody reads the newspaper anymore”.
But, before answering that, consider for a moment that content creation has a cost. Just like democracy has a cost. News doesn’t just happen and get reported for free regardless of the platform it appears in.
Don’t believe it?
If newspapers like this one didn’t regularly attend council meetings in Warman, Martensville or the RM of Corman Park, we would surely hear about it from our readers. If newspapers like this one didn’t send a reporter to cover the high school football game, we would hear about it. If newspapers like this one didn’t interview and write about interesting local people and their accomplishments, we would hear about it.
Who’s reporting on our locally elected councils and school boards, our sports teams, our business community and everything else that happens here if it isn’t us as a newspaper? Time and time again, the only time the CBC or any other electronic media shows up at an event outside a major centre is if it’s a human catastrophe, natural disaster or they see an interesting story that has already run in the local newspaper.
Could people here continue life as they know it without the newspaper? Probably. But, at what cost.
Employing reporters in a newsroom costs money. That money has to come from advertising (unlike the CBC who cash a $700 million cheque annually and use some of that money to leverage even more money by selling advertising). When local advertisers move their money online, it results in losses in every department – including the newsroom.
If people are happy reading a news release from government posted on social media, so be it. But, who will be there to ask the tough questions and ensure our local levels of government are being honest and serving the best interest of its constituents?
Facebook can’t do it. Most times citizens are too busy to attend meetings. Ultimately, newspapers continue to utilize its resources to be the watchdogs of democracy.
The transparency and success of any democracy depends on a printed and published free press. Not a free Facebook. Or a free website. The free press’ mandate is to keep the record straight and let readers decide for themselves based on the facts presented in the stories.
Without a free press in the form of print, the erosion of democracy as we know it will happen without anyone noticing.