Two budget announcements in just seven days has made for a lot of chatter amongst British Columbians, but one particular $50-million investment didn’t stir as much opinion as did housing, child and pharmacare funding commitments.
But, it should have.
Ottawa set aside that money over five years to support local journalism in “underserved communities.” Exploring new models and moving away from the broken ones that have slowly driven so many publications into the ground is the goal, as well as moving Canadian newspapers into a position where they are eligible to claim charitable status, thereby making their tax savings a funding kick from the feds.
Sounds great, right? Not so fast.
What is the purpose of a free press, if it is beholden to a government? A journalist’s job is to speak truth to power, but when the power signs your paycheques, there is a real risk to that voice falling silent.
Cleverly, the feds stated the funds are “to be distributed among local media through non-governmental organizations” in order to avoid painting the picture of a state-controlled media.
Critics call the investment a “band-aid solution,” not to mention $50 million is hardly a drop in the bucket to fund an independent newsroom.
It can be difficult for us as Victorians to fully comprehend the dire situation in other Canadian communities when it comes to journalism, especially as we write this from a functioning local newsroom.
But in much of the country, no longer is the death of a print product the only challenge. There are entire community newsrooms being wiped out and larger, national ones barely surviving on skeleton staff that have taken multiple pay cuts to maintain their jobs.
No doubt the challenges around a solution are mounting and the few answers we have concluded are being examined for inadequacy. But, we’re journalists and that’s what we’re trained to do.
So who doesn’t like being taken to task for inadequacies?