Skip to content

Keep the presses going

Oct. 1 to 7 slipped quietly past this week without the fanfare that can accompany seven-day-awareness periods such as National Fire Prevention Week, Aboriginal Awareness Week, National Youth Violence Prevention Week or National Women’s or Men’s Health Week.
Oct. 1 to 7 fits somewhere between Random Acts of Kindness Week and National Family Volunteer Week, yet perhaps there has never been a time when more attention should have been paid to National Newspaper Week than our present era of doom, gloom and despair over the newspaper industry.
I confess to feeling no guilt over the use of an idiom to note failing newspapers are to today’s industry as cats and dogs are to rain – much to the chagrin of almost every editor I’ve survived during the past three decades – since first noting the theme Newspapers Matter on numerous publisher-penned articles on the state of what was once the final bastion of freedom of speech.
Oh woe ye masters of the quill; doth such reliance on the familiar reflect the shallowness of thy own creative (ink) well?
Well, actually, yes it does.
Still being bandied about – and rightly so – are the results of a recent Ipsos-Reid poll showing no less than 63 per cent of Canadians are unable to tell the difference between real-news sites and fake news stories!
The first domino fell towards clarity becoming obsolete when an editor or publisher, somewhere now lost to time, decided a story would be well-served by a number of key points being placed next to it in bullet-point format.
As society became the click generation – impatient for instant gratification – headlines and bullet points became more-and-more sensationalized as ‘readers’ scanned the now constantly manipulated formats for the gist of the story, receiving instead the distorted impression best serving the publication or chain’s agenda.
And, lurking in the shadows, learning their lessons well from advertising agencies, spin doctors and said agenda pushing, were the purveyors of fake news, now a gun-for-hire industry within the realm of opinion shaping, scandal creating and reputation destroying.
Oddly enough, 70 per cent of Canadian readers prefer their news from accredited journalists, yet only 20 per cent are willing to pay even a nominal fee for it.
Corporate advertisers – those champions of capitalism, democracy and the Canadian way – increasingly toss their budgets into the sketchy online domain, further doing their bit with about 70 per cent of their moola landing in the pockets of Facebook and Google.
And just to add a little salt to that gaping wound, we even allow them – and protect them by law -- to boldly proclaim free shipping anywhere in Canada with your purchase -- which they further protect with free shipping on replacement or repair when you purchase their ‘global’ warranty -- then refuse to do so once they realize you live in Nunavut.
But, really, can you expect anything more when the federal government supports a national broadcaster to the tune of $1 billion a year, yet it and its provincial and territorial counterparts continue to move their advertising, calls for proposals, etc., away from print media and onto their own websites – ‘cause, you know, people who spend the majority of their day on Facebook or surfing the web make the best hires.
In the end there’s really no difference between what your local newspaper delivers and what you get exclusively in the digital domain, right?
I mean, can you be expected to believe Oct. 1 to 7 was, indeed, National Newspaper Week, and not fake news, for no reason other than you read it in your regional newspaper and not online?
Maybe there is something to these awareness weeks after all!