Opinion: Newspapers matter

Margaret Hasein

Publisher, Biggar Independent, SK

It was a typical summer night, sitting around the campfire at the lake. Friends and family, lots of laughter, toasting marshmallows, partaking in a few beverages.

“Why is it that I can find out on Facebook who is changing the colour of their hair, what they are serving for supper or if the laundry has been done that day? But… I cannot find out why the RCMP gathered north of town looking for a missing body.”

This, folks, is the plain and simple truth about why journalism matters. Because the facts and the truth are ferreted out by credible journalists whose writings fill the pages of community newspapers and national dailies.

No one reads newspapers anymore, you say. Wrong! Nine in 10 Canadians read content that was originally generated from a newspaper each week.

Canadians turn to newspaper information on a number of issues. It could be the details of a government program, or updates on NAFTA talks, or what the stock market is doing.

In the case of a community newspaper, readers seek out information on town council happenings or school events, or delight in seeing a picture of their children on the front page.

Journalists not only gather the news, they also confirm the sources and double check the facts.

In a world where information is instantaneous, it is surprising that 63 per cent of Canadians are unable to distinguish between legitimate news websites and fake news stories. Another important reason why newspaper journalism matters, now more than ever.

There is a cost to newspaper journalism. These news gatherers like to be paid, as does everyone who works for a living. The owners of the news outlets, whether a national corporate or the independent owner, have bills to pay. One of the largest forms of revenue is advertising sales.

Unfortunately, the mistaken belief that everyone can be reached through social media has caused advertisers to abandon newspapers. Many studies find that ads in newspapers are the most trusted of all. Newspapers do not share your data either.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said, “Newspapers cannot be defined by the second word – paper. They’ve got to be defined by the first word – news.”

News is important, at the national level and at the local level. Journalism matters because democracy matters. It is what defines us as people who are fortunate to live in a free country. Newspapers matter because their credible journalists provide the facts and the truth that we deserve.

National Newspaper Week will be celebrated the first week of October with this year’s theme: Newspapers Matter: Now More Than Ever. At this time Canadians are being asked to show their support for the industry.

Send a message to governments, to Canadian business, to journalists that newspapers matter.

Pledge your support at Newspapersmatter.ca.

Read more: Community leaders agree local newspapers matter

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