Canada steps up for journalism

“Canada has shown leadership in securing a future for journalism — but there is more that can be done.”

This year, Canada refused to let journalism fail. In 2021, that decision will show results.

The Canadian government has launched a new program to address the hundreds of journalism jobs being lost, the dozens of news organizations being shuttered, and the obliteration of the old revenue model for journalism. The grants from the Local Journalism Initiative, remarkably, hit news organizations just as the COVID-19 lockdown did last March.

The $11.4 million (CAN) spent funded 213 positions. This saved a lot of jobs and kept journalists reporting in their communities, uncovering news that would have gone unreported. I predict that these far-flung journalists will be a stabilizing force for Canada’s democracy in 2021.

Another big boost to journalism in Canada came this fall as the Canadian Periodical Fund distributed $45 million via “Special Measures for Journalism.” So Canada has shown leadership in securing a future for journalism — but there is more that can be done.

In 2021, publishers will be asking the government to allow media companies to form related foundations that can issue tax receipts for donations. If they’re not successful, millions of philanthropic dollars that would have gone into sustaining both traditional newspapers and new independent media may remain on the sidelines. But if the government allows new journalism foundations to happen, we’ll see a renaissance of excellent reporting funded through philanthropy.

One way or another, I predict that the philanthropic sector in Canada will lean in further to fund journalism in 2021. But will the social media platforms increase their spending on journalism next year?

In 2021, it’s my hope that the leaders inside Facebook and Google will go bigger in their support for the journalism that benefits society. In my dream world, the Google News Initiative will come around to the value of public service journalism: doing massive funding of it around the world, shifting the funding focus away from technological innovation to the stories that can help the planet and people, bringing facts to citizens and empowering them to demand that governments act fast on climate change, equity, and ensuring public safety.

In 2021, new companies will continue to launch and grow, providing a diversity of management, teams, tone, and focus. Some of us in Canada’s independent media universe, which is largely made up of these young and exciting companies, have just come together to form an association called Press Forward. This new association will give innovators and entrepreneurial journalists, digital players, and emerging companies a stronger voice.

Who knows? We may very well find new business opportunities together as we innovate through collaboration.

Speaking of collaborations, Canada has two centers for investigative reporting that will come on even stronger next year: the relatively new Institute for Investigative Journalism at Concordia University and the brand new Investigative Journalism Bureau at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. I predict that 2021 sees some of the best journalism in the country coming out of these centers, which bring together journalists, university researchers, student journalists, and television networks.

As we emerge from the pandemic, our success as publishers will depend more than ever on communication, bigger mailing lists and new subscribers. It will require constantly coming up with ways to keep audiences engaged and always putting readers first. When I was a young journalist at The Tennessean, a sign hung at the far end of the newsroom that read: “Pity the Poor Reader.” Tongue in cheek, but not a bad line as I look into the coming year. As Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein told me recently: “There’s an overload that people are experiencing where they want to turn away. As journalists, we need to respect that and help curate the information that we share.”

That’s so true. It’s more than just finding a big exclusive, or uncovering a scandal, or reporting on the latest weather. It’s being sure our readers stay engaged with their world through our news stories. Especially in these isolating times, a newspaper is like a lighthouse showing the way forward, the dangers ahead as well as solutions. Because of these fast-changing and uncertain times, we need to remain more steady and trustworthy than ever.

Linda Solomon Wood is founder and editor-in-chief of Canada’s National Observer.

This year, Canada refused to let journalism fail. In 2021, that decision will show results.

The Canadian government has launched a new program to address the hundreds of journalism jobs being lost, the dozens of news organizations being shuttered, and the obliteration of the old revenue model for journalism. The grants from the Local Journalism Initiative, remarkably, hit news organizations just as the COVID-19 lockdown did last March.

The $11.4 million (CAN) spent funded 213 positions. This saved a lot of jobs and kept journalists reporting in their communities, uncovering news that would have gone unreported. I predict that these far-flung journalists will be a stabilizing force for Canada’s democracy in 2021.

Another big boost to journalism in Canada came this fall as the Canadian Periodical Fund distributed $45 million via “Special Measures for Journalism.” So Canada has shown leadership in securing a future for journalism — but there is more that can be done.

In 2021, publishers will be asking the government to allow media companies to form related foundations that can issue tax receipts for donations. If they’re not successful, millions of philanthropic dollars that would have gone into sustaining both traditional newspapers and new independent media may remain on the sidelines. But if the government allows new journalism foundations to happen, we’ll see a renaissance of excellent reporting funded through philanthropy.

One way or another, I predict that the philanthropic sector in Canada will lean in further to fund journalism in 2021. But will the social media platforms increase their spending on journalism next year?

In 2021, it’s my hope that the leaders inside Facebook and Google will go bigger in their support for the journalism that benefits society. In my dream world, the Google News Initiative will come around to the value of public service journalism: doing massive funding of it around the world, shifting the funding focus away from technological innovation to the stories that can help the planet and people, bringing facts to citizens and empowering them to demand that governments act fast on climate change, equity, and ensuring public safety.

In 2021, new companies will continue to launch and grow, providing a diversity of management, teams, tone, and focus. Some of us in Canada’s independent media universe, which is largely made up of these young and exciting companies, have just come together to form an association called Press Forward. This new association will give innovators and entrepreneurial journalists, digital players, and emerging companies a stronger voice.

Who knows? We may very well find new business opportunities together as we innovate through collaboration.

Speaking of collaborations, Canada has two centers for investigative reporting that will come on even stronger next year: the relatively new Institute for Investigative Journalism at Concordia University and the brand new Investigative Journalism Bureau at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. I predict that 2021 sees some of the best journalism in the country coming out of these centers, which bring together journalists, university researchers, student journalists, and television networks.

As we emerge from the pandemic, our success as publishers will depend more than ever on communication, bigger mailing lists and new subscribers. It will require constantly coming up with ways to keep audiences engaged and always putting readers first. When I was a young journalist at The Tennessean, a sign hung at the far end of the newsroom that read: “Pity the Poor Reader.” Tongue in cheek, but not a bad line as I look into the coming year. As Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein told me recently: “There’s an overload that people are experiencing where they want to turn away. As journalists, we need to respect that and help curate the information that we share.”

That’s so true. It’s more than just finding a big exclusive, or uncovering a scandal, or reporting on the latest weather. It’s being sure our readers stay engaged with their world through our news stories. Especially in these isolating times, a newspaper is like a lighthouse showing the way forward, the dangers ahead as well as solutions. Because of these fast-changing and uncertain times, we need to remain more steady and trustworthy than ever.

Linda Solomon Wood is founder and editor-in-chief of Canada’s National Observer.

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