Editorial: Saving journalism, the search for the Holy Grail

At a time of constant cuts to Canada's media organizations, what is the best avenue to saving the 5th estate.

Canadian journalism received yet another a blow last week when The Toronto Star made the decision to lay off 45 newsroom staff.

According to the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ), this move signifies a death toll for the industry and the time for government action to support public-interest reporting is now.

“These cuts will inevitably compromise the paper’s capacity to cover public issues in Toronto, Ontario and Canada as a whole resulting in less-informed citizens, less-informed consumers and a more ignorant society,” said CAJ President Nick Taylor-Vaisey in a press release.

Let’s not forget that Postmedia consolidated the newsrooms of its major papers across the country in Vancouver, Edmonton and Ottawa, cutting 90 jobs after reporting heavy financial losses over several years.

Coinciding with The Star’s announcement last week was the rant about the decline of print journalism by British comic Jon Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight, that went absolutely viral, in which he points out that TV, online media and “stupid” shows like his completely depend on newspapers, repackaging their work for fast consumption by the masses (see “Journalism: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” on YouTube). For all his satire, Oliver is worried, making the link between print newspapers’ crumbling business model and the free-for-all this will engender for corrupt politicians who will, without the public scrutiny that journalists provide, have nothing to keep them in check.

As digital platforms continue to dominate with nowhere the same profit margins as those realized by the old print empire, the government is pledging to increase CBC’s budget and a panel of MPs is currently studying the crisis. While the value of journalism is universally recognized, somebody has to pay for it, and unless technology comes up with a free market solution then a new public service department Ministry of Journalism might be in order.

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