It is very telling that Chair of Torstar John Honderich is having to recycle a column he wrote in the Toronto Star on January 26, 2018 where he throws a temper tantrum because the federal government wasn’t funding the dysfunctional Canadian newspaper industry.
Once upon a time, Honderich’s decrees would have been considered important.
They aren’t, of course. This is a Fear and Pity Tour.
He doesn’t get it, and if the Chair of a newspaper company doesn’t get it, neither do any of his underlings.
And it explains a lot about why Canadian journalism dropped dead.
On the program, he blames Facebook and Google for taking the bulk of classified ads and not putting that money back in journalism.
Sorry, they won the spoils of that gladiatorial battle, and they can do with that booty whatever they want. Advertisers went to Facebook and Google because they reach a broader audience who were more receptive than they were over at newspapers. Classified ads and their ilk were never naturally decreed to be used for funding journalism; journalism lost those valuable dollars for a reason.
So Google and Facebook owe the newspaper industry nothing.
But then he goes off on the federal government as if the government owes the newspaper industry a dime.
Honderich thinks the partisan non-profit model of some American media outfits is a good thing. Its not: it’s propaganda used to support political ideology because that is going to be the only way you are going to shake down people for pity cash. They are not journalism. They are a modern version of the Partisan Press that had to change its ways because that model doesn’t actually work.
He then talks about getting funding through copyright protection, meaning information becomes less accessible. You are giving facts, and it is bad enough newspapers such as the Star scrape ideas from other outlets and people (and yet he has the nerve to complain that radio shows “rip and read” from newspapers on the program) — and now you want copyright protection for it when journalists are notoriously sloppy when it comes to giving proper credit and attribution of where they got their ideas? The legal fallout would be disastrous.
He wants some of the money the CBC gets, not realizing CBC is a crown corporation, and it is wiser and more strategic for a government to have one broadcaster they can babysit, than spread their cash to more outlets.
Honderich then muses that since Canadian magazine and book publishers get government money, so should journalism outlets, never questioning just how bad is Canadian publishing if it needs government funding for its survival. If you cannot make it a go without constant government funding, your industry does not actually exist. It is fake.
The fact that now not even newspapers can survive without taxpayer money shows you a problem that exploded out of control because we never bothered to find the way to make it pay all on its own.
In other words, if Canada cannot produce quality journalism without a government welfare check, then you do not have journalism, let alone quality journalism. Period.
But the biggest knee-slapper is his suggestion that the government pay for news outlets’ lawyers. There are poor people being harmed as we speak and are in desperate need of good legal council — so you just want to snatch funds away from them? Really? Then you are as tyrannical as the boors you imply you are keeping accountable.
There are more pressing groups, such as First Nations people, who have been waiting far longer than newspapers. Get a number and go to the back of the line, like everyone else.
Yet both his advertising campaign/newspaper column, Honderich makes not a single mention of how those in the Canadian media landscape were at fault in any way, or need to make a single modification to their behaviour. He paints his ilk as noble, faultless, and blameless.
No, Mr. Honderich, that is not true. That is not accurate.
That is not realistic.
You are the Chair of Torstar. The buck stops with you.
It is you who has to make the internal changes to take on the external ones.
If your plan is to keep throwing fits and begging the government for money as you keep on the status quo, you do not understand what being a Chair means.
That is not a plan. Why should the government fund newspapers when your audiences keep falling? Why would they sink taxpayer money into a black hole? What’s in it for them?
Newspapers have bred arrogance within their own rosters. You sniffed haughtily at citizen journalism on the program. Yes, the little people are not as well-trained as your journalists who have no clue how to connect with those people who would rather do it themselves than trust the press.
That distrust did not come from nowhere. It came because journalists perpetually ignored all the signs around them, and then people walked away.
The people do not want newspapers. The government doesn’t need you.
Do you understand you have become beneath both?
Buried. Six feet under.
Journalism is dead. Don’t ask the taxpayers to fund the corpse. They’d rather invest it in the living, not the dead.