Toronto journalism conference hears how ‘local news’ dwindling in the West

Over 100 journalism researchers, academics, journalists and media activists have discussed how the Western cities are suffering from ‘local news poverty” at an international conference in Toronto.

Md Asiuzzaman
Published : 4 June 2017, 08:19 PM
Updated : 4 June 2017, 08:19 PM

Participants from the US, Europe, Australia and Canada gathered at the at the Ryerson University for a two-day conference to discuss the crucial issues like vanishing local media outlets and its impact on community cohesion.

A municipal councilor from the City of Guelph, 94km from Toronto, came to the conference to tell the story how a 149-year old local newspaper ‘Guelph Mercury’ had its last edition printed in January last year.

“We are still grieving the death. This is a city of 130,000 people but we failed to keep our newspaper alive,” said James Gordon, the councilor who dabbled in journalism at the same newspaper when he was 17. 

“The style of journalism has been changed – there are fewer newsrooms, fewer reporters. It’s very difficult for the traditional media to compete in the new business environment,” he added.

“Reactions of the story are read by more people than the story itself,” he said adding “but speed trumps accuracy in the new media environment.”

Drawing an analogy between the Rockstar and journalist, Gordon said “no one wants to buy CDs and news though everyone like it”.

Around 70 research papers were presented at the parallel sessions at the conference titled “Is no local news bad news? Local journalism and its future.”

April Lindgren, Academic Director of the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre and one of the organisers of the conference, said “these are the challenging times for the local news media in Canada”.

“Local broadcasters and print newsrooms have been hit by cutbacks, consolidations and closures,” she said, adding even many digital-first news sites are struggling to survive.

Similar stories came from other presenters from across the continents.

The participants were worried about the decline of the ‘local news’ but said there was no ‘visible model’ to save these publications.

They believed that local news matters more than ever before ‘in the age of fake news’; it also glues the community.

They also said the youngsters are passionate about the issues but they are not passionate about news.

If the trend continues, there will be more and more government websites that look like ‘news sites’ – and the result will be ill-informed conversations and communities.