Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Can I Believe the News Today?

It's hard times for the good old newspaper. Fewer and fewer people are picking them up off the stands, not enough for them to continue in old patterns without making up the money lost in cancelled subscriptions that aren't coming back. It's been ages since I, personally, read a physical daily newspaper--not since the Toronto Sun back in 2000, and that was only because its tabloid format fit conveniently on the counter behind the cash register of the gas station I worked in at the time. I would imagine that most people of my age group have a similar experience.

The march of the paywalls across the online mediascape has been slow but indefatigable. Yesterday, they took more ground when the Postmedia Network announced the raising of paywalls on four of its newspapers: the Vancouver Sun, the National Post, the Ottawa Citizen, and the Province. Fairly straightforward, that. I don't read any of those newspapers on a regular basis, but only visit them from time to time, and they're welcome to institute this policy if they feel it's what's needed to keep them publishing. They do offer the whole "ten free articles per month" like the New York Times does, and really, that's fine.

What's not fine is what the raising of these paywalls served as a reminder of--namely, that the Vancouver Sun and the Province, the two largest daily newspapers in British Columbia, are both owned by the same company. I mean, it's not exactly as if it's a secret; hell, you'll find both of their head offices in the same skyscraper, even if that's not the sort of thing people dwell on. But it leaves towering implications for the established state of journalism in Vancouver.

I wonder if that band in the middle separates Province territory from Sun territory.

When I first moved here, what surprised me the most was that there was no equivalent of the Toronto Star, an unabashedly left-wing paper that looked at causes with a liberal bent; consider the stereotype of Vancouver as a bunch of granola-chewing, pot-smoking hippies if you have difficulty understanding why I'd expected to find something. Sure, there's the Georgia Straight, but as a free weekly dependent on advertising revenue, there's a limit to how much news it can tackle. In contrast, the Province and the Sun hit the streets every day.

That wouldn't be an issue if there was at least some independence. Back in Toronto, the land of four daily newspapers, each are owned by a different media conglomerate. The coverage of an event you find in the Star will differ markedly from what you'd find in the Toronto Sun; just look at any given story regarding Rob Ford for evidence of that. Instead, in Vancouver we have the Postmedia newspaper, and... the Postmedia newspaper. Sure, there are differences... the Sun is right-wing and the Province is even more right-wing. But it's not exactly the wide-open field that I'd imagined I would find here.

I'd ask who allowed this to happen, who permitted British Columbia's major print mediascape to become dominated by a single company, but that's a stupid question. This government doesn't care about those kinds of permissions. The concentration of journalistic outlets into fewer and fewer hands is no problem for them. Balanced, measured coverage based on multiple viewpoints? Who needs it! There's money to be made here, ladeez and germs.

No comments:

Post a Comment