State of journalism discussed at Laurier

On March 6, Laurier Brantford hosted a panel discussion about the state of Canadian journalism. The impressive panel was made up of Kathy English, public editor of the Toronto Star; San Grewal, director and founder of The Pointer; and Erin Millar, CEO and co-founder of The Discourse. Professor and co-ordinator of the Digital Media and Journalism program Bruce Gillespie stood in as moderator of the discussion. 

The panel, called “The State of Journalism in Canada”, focused on topics like “fake news,” political bias in reporting and the changing environment of journalism. 

Panelists also discussed the difficulty of getting and keeping readers’ attention, the subscription model and internships. 

While all Laurier Brantford students and faculty were welcome to attend this event, there was a particularly strong turnout among Brantford locals. Attendees ranged from people simply interested in the subject matter to entrepreneurs and journalists eager to learn more from industry professionals. 

“We’re dealing with a couple of crises in journalism,” said English. “One is a trust crisis. Levels of trust in journalism overall and media overall are at all-time lows. And a business model crisis in which news organizations…are cutting back their staff because the advertising revenues have dropped, so coverage of local communities is at risk.” 

Millar commented on the financial struggle as well. “I think we’re seeing a huge disruption of the old models as advertising is going more and more to Google and Facebook. We’re seeing newspapers and broadcasters shut down…It really hurts communities and local democracy.” 

Millar also talked about giving a voice to those who have had to fight to use theirs. 

“I think that there’s a huge opportunity right now in Canada to better serve people’s voices and perspectives that have been left out of media.” 

“I think there is a moral imperative to be doing more diverse media, but really there is also a huge business strategy,” said Millar. 

“If we can just have an ecosystem that’s more reflective, I think that’s really important,” she said. 

Grewal also spoke on the business end of things. “It’s definitely a financially challenging time,” he said. 

However, Grewal remained hopeful about these challenges. “The opportunities that come out of it could be even just as significant”. 

Grewal also talked about the younger generation’s effect on journalism. 

He says “the social media push for pulling the curtain aside” is pushing the industry in the right direction. 

“Journalists and journalism demands transparency from the individuals and institutions that it holds accountable. Now, the public is saying ‘we sort of demand the same of you’,” he said. 

Many believe that journalism and reporting have improved in recent years thanks to growing demand for honesty and ethical reporting techniques. 

“Social [media] has become a bit of a watchdog over traditional media. And anyone who has accountability placed upon them ends up performing better,” said Grewal. 

Millar shared an optimistic outlook on journalism. “I see a lot of hope at this moment but we have a ways to go,” she said. 

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