By Kathy English for the Toronto Star
What happens if and when there are no news media?
That is the critical question at the heart of an essential public conversation that began in earnest this week with the release of an exhaustive report by Canada’s Public Policy Forum entitled The Shattered Mirror: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital AgeThe Shattered Mirror: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age.
There are so many vital and distressing truths about the role of journalism and the business of media documented in this excellent 110-page report — far more information than I can possibly convey in this space. It is well worth reading for yourself: I expect there will be much public debate in coming months about the report’s findings and its recommendation of a dozen, to my mind, largely sensible, public policy initiatives aimed at ensuring the healthy flow of news and information deemed vital to our Canadian democracy.
As this much-needed public debate ensues, I hope Canadians will consider seriously the public policy principles that form the foundation of this smart report written by PPF president and CEO, and veteran journalist, Ed Greenspon. These are simple values, really: Canada matters, journalists matter, original civic-function news matters, freedom of the press matters, digital innovation matters, financial sustainability matters, diversity of voices matters, platform neutrality matters, a balanced marketplace matters.
Most of all, truth matters.
And clearly, truth is at risk in our 21st-century media ecosystem in which traditional media is hobbled by a broken business model where revenues that long sustained community journalism now largely flow to the U.S.-based behemoths that shirk journalistic responsibility (Facebook, Google, YouTube) and new digital media overall remain “journalistically under-developed.”
“The digital revolution has made for a more open and diverse news ecosystem – and a meaner and less trustworthy one,” states the report, which provides depressing evidence to make clear that “journalism’s economic model has collapsed profoundly and structurally.”