Columns

Don't Drive Ontario Families Out Of Public Education

Save Local News

 
The plight of Guelph's lack of news coverage was a focus last week when local police did not publicize liberal MP's arrest.  Globe columnist @JohnIbbitson even took to twitter to sound off on the dangers of disappearing local news. 

Said much of the same and more when the axe fell on our local paper a few years back ...  

I can’t sleep tonight. The demise of my local paper, the Guelph Mercury, has struck a nerve. I believe I am like many citizens progressing through the stages of loss. My shock and sadness are giving way to anger, but my greatest fear is that we will move to acceptance.

Like most of Guelph, I was not a current subscriber to the print edition. Even though I had contributed to the paper in the past, I cancelled my subscription to the Mercury because printed copies were available at my work. I enjoy the convenience of reading the news on-line and since it is the greener thing to do, I consume most of my news that way. I don’t have an issue with paying for content on-line, but that was never an option for the Mercury.

Yes, this is my effort to justify my actions, but I do feel a genuine sense of guilt. An integral part of the Guelph community is now gone. I feel like a bystander who witnessed a crime in progress, but did nothing to stop it.

It’s easy to make Metroland, the Guelph Mercury's owner, the villain in all this. They dropped a bomb on the town with little warning to the community and more importantly, the Guelph Mercury staff. Shrugging your shoulders and saying it is financially inevitable and untenable, doesn’t cut it. When you are the owner of a public institution that has been around for 149 years, you must act as a loyal steward and do all things necessary to endure. Quit cannibalizing the Merc with an unsolicited Tribune freebie. Tell the public of your need for much greater support. Scale back daily publishing. There are so many options, but none more important than using your own soap box to state your case to the community.

To those who believe this is a sign of the times and what comes with progress, I can buy that argument to a point. Getting half a pound of newsprint dropped on your door step, daily, is doomed.

But do we have to throw the baby out with the bathwater?

Free publications can’t fill the void. The integrity of a news source that gets all its financial support from ads will always be in question. Their allegiance to the mighty ad dollar is priority one, while their service to the public provides only an ancillary benefit.

An informed public is essential for a strong democracy. Without journalists treating ignorance, we might as well live in a mushroom farm.

Tweets and blogs have a place for those seeking opinion, but I don’t want to wade through personal bents and bias when seeking the facts - I want the news!

Can we not have an on-line version with the same reporters and editorial staff?

Perhaps nobody would pay for that, but I believe Metroland has a duty to put this business model to the test in Guelph.

Those who live here, know this town is a little different. I believe it would financially support a quality, digital news source that is supported by the public; one with integrity and staffed by the same award winning personnel from the Mercury. Guelph needs a thriving free press to be vigilant and be the eyes and ears to our city. I’d pay for a new source that performs that civic duty.

Even if you don’t have time to read the local news each day, at least you can take comfort in the knowledge that your few bucks a month are contributing to an institution that serves the public good. When the next scandal happens who will be there to investigate and expose all involved. There is a reason why many of our fictional super heroes worked in a newsroom by day. Journalists are our real super heroes, and we need them more than ever.

The way in which we get our news is changing, but it’s high time we wake up to the fact that getting it for free comes with a cost. The loss of connected, engaged citizens is too high a price for a community to pay.

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