The first week of October is National Newspaper Week. It also marks the launch of a new campaign to rally Canadians’ support for newspaper journalism—and the in-depth, credible, independent reporting that newspapers provide. The campaign, dubbed #NowMoreThanEver, invites Canadians to show their support for the news media industry at the newly launched newspapersmatter.ca.
“The role of newspapers has never been so crucial,” said Bob Cox, chair of the board of directors of News Media Canada, the national association that represents Canadian newspapers. “Every day, newspapers work to bring Canadians from coast to coast to coast real, trusted, truthful news—which is as vital to democracy as clean air, safe streets, good schools and public health.”
Recent research conducted last year found that 63 per cent of Canadians were unable to distinguish between legitimate news websites and fake news stories, and 65 per cent of Canadians are worried that false information or fake news is being used as a weapon. But, Canadians still have a large appetite for news.
“Newspapers do not have a readership problem,” said Cox, who points to recent research that shows that 8 in 10 Canadians—and 85 per cent of millennials—still read a newspaper every week.
As part of this initiative, the Morning Star spoke with several stakeholders within the Vernon community about the importance of journalism, the significant work journalists do to better their community and the increasing need for trustworthy, reliable, factual news in the wake of social media, fake news and the post-truth era.
Journalism is an important mechanism to keep those in charge held accountable. This is often easily illustrated through politics.
“Any kind of journalism within the community is very important. When I moved to this community, I actually became attached to the Morning Star,” said Vernon Mayor Akbal Mund. “I remember cutting out stories from the paper to exemplify lessons to his children. Sometimes kids don’t like to listen but it’s great when you can cut out a story and point to it and let them learn it through someone else.”
David Broadhurst, head coach of the Okanagan Whitecaps Academy Centre and technical director for the Youth Okanagan Soccer Association, also said he’s seen the positive aspects of having a local paper — especially through the coverage of youth sports.
“For us as an association, the players love to see their names and pictures in the local paper. We try to make a big deal of it as well,” said Broadhurst. “It’s enjoyable to read positive stories about yourself in the local newspaper and I enjoy that and I’m sure the players enjoy that too.”
Dione Chambers is the General Manager at the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce. She said that she believes it’s important for people to get their news from reliable sources, enabling people the ability to make informed decisions — something she said she often sees through her work.
“The Chamber of Commerce has been a longtime customer of the newspaper and it’s definitely somewhere where we go to get our information and do some research on policy that we might be working towards. It’s important for the Chamber of Commerce to have resources like the newspaper to fact check and to use as a good resource for policy that we’re working towards,” she said. “It’s also important that, as consumers, we utilize our traditional sources of media both as an advertising mechanism so that we understand the businesses within the community so we see what’s new, what’s going on, what’s happening. Newspapers have been very innovative with the changing times and it’s important that consumers continue to use them as a resource.”
Kevin Poole, Manager of Economic Development and Tourism agreed.
“A newspaper for us is still a key point so all of our legislation matters that we need to get out through community newspapers to inform the public of public hearings we’re having, opportunities for input and hearings and all of those things that need to go out through the paper,” said Poole. “But we also use the paper as an opportunity to communicate with the public. We have social media that we look to for other resources but we still look to the paper to get information out. We rely on the media to get that news out to the public to make informed decisions.
With many community newspapers closing or restructuring nationwide, locally owned or run businesses or charities often feel the effects.
“You can see it with us because the United Way is local,” said Linda Yule, Executive Director for the United Way North Okanagan Columbia Shuswap. “It raises funds locally and invests locally and so it’s so important to have local media outlets that are in tune with us and they know us personally and know that we’re doing a really good job. They manage to get that message out for us because we’re a tiny group and we can’t speak to every individual person so we need them to spread the word for us.”
Mayor Akbal Mund summed it up nicely: “In the age of information, and with social media, there’s no standard. Where with journalism, there is a standard — especially for the people who write it. Certain politicians made it almost acceptable for people to lie and say whatever they want and accept it but when you’re writing in a newspaper or on an online news media [outlet] you’re telling the truth and a lot of it is true even though “fake news” always seems to be written everywhere, but it isn’t because the journalists themselves hold themselves to a higher standard and they’re not there to write stories that are wrong. They tell the truth and I think it’s hard for people to believe that at times but I do believe that it’s important that we have these media outlets because social media is not a place you want to go to read news. It’s a great tool when you want to connect with friends or promote events but for discussion of anything, politics included, it’s not a very good avenue to education of what’s going on in the world.”
After speaking with our community leaders, it’s clear: journalism matters.
Walter Lippmann once said, “The health of society relies on the quality of information it receives.” We can see this even more today.
This National Newspaper Week, Canadians are asked to simply sign a pledge of support at newspapersmatter.ca and send a message—to Canadian businesses, advertisers, to all levels of government, to newspaper journalists and all Canadians—that newspapers matter, now more than ever. The campaign includes print and digital ads running in newspapers across the country and is extending into social media, with a call-to-action that invites newspaper readers to share a photo of themselves with their favourite paper on their social channels—using #NewspapersMatter and #NowMoreThanEver.
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