Canada has lost about one-third of its journalists in the past six years alone. If we assume those jobs aren’t coming back, who, if anyone, will perform the work once done by those lost journos?
This is the first in a series of Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy Journalism articles on the topic of Canada’s shrinking news industry by Catherine Wallace, a former managing editor with the Montreal Gazette.From the Toronto Star (“Journalists are vanishing. Who will fill the void?“):
The amount of news doesn’t shrink just because advertising revenue does. The world doesn’t become less complex.
But is a business model the only answer? Or — thinking of the social changes that have come with the digital revolution — is a social model part of the solution?
This is the focus of this year’s Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy, funded by the Atkinson Foundation. What elements of journalism can we find outside the news industry? Who in our communities can sift through data, explain complex issues, look beyond the surface of an event or document? Who can keep enough of an eye on neighbourhoods or councils to serve as an early warning signal of things not working as they should? Who can encourage discussion on key social issues?
Could universities, for example — with their wealth of expertise and a scholarly tradition of research and verification — play a role, shifting some of their efforts to focus on the broader public? Can citizens, as individuals and in interest groups, be effective and sustainable sources of information?
Can newsrooms and non-journalists collaborate in various ways to try to ensure we’re paying attention to the key elements of civic society?
This is what I’ll be reporting on over the next few months: what we mean now when we talk about journalism, and the roles we might play. As part of the fellowship project, I’ll work with some newsrooms, universities, citizens and interest groups on partnership experiments, and I’ll report on those discussions, too.
Would participants like these replace the need for professional journalists? No. Journalists practise a specific craft with specific qualities and standards. They are not only informers, explainers, analysts and investigators; they are storytellers, narrators, creating that first rough draft of history in a way that defines our society.
Some will say that experiments involving non-journalists have been tried in the past, and failed. But everything is different now. The digital revolution is so radical and swift, this year is different from last; today is different from yesterday.