I want print journalism in Canada to survive. I want it to flourish. I want papers like the Victoria Times Colonist popping up in cities across the country. The Tyee's Shannon Rupp, a devotee of the Winnipeg Free Press has a few interesting ideas on how we can save and rehabilitate print journalism while there's still time. She begins by citing Andrew Coyne:
“This is not a case of market failure, but industry failure,” Coyne writes, dismissing the publishers who cast themselves as victims of the Internet. “Nothing whatever prevents readers from buying what we are selling. There is only our own proven incompetence at providing a product worth paying for.”
Ms. Rupp doesn't claim to have all the answers but she tosses out four ideas for your consideration. Hint: They're not Paul Godfrey-friendly.
1. Adopt the Canada Council model of peer review. Arts grants are awarded based on juries of artists agreeing which work is worth funding. Newspaper subsidies should be awarded by juries of journalists.
2. Exclude publicly traded newspapers from applying for subsidies. Executives in those companies are legally obligated to put the interests of the investors first. The fact that newspapers are arguing they can’t do good journalism without government largesse tells us that there is no business case to be made for civic reporting. So if they want to continue as publicly traded entities, and give their managers million-dollar paydays, let them figure out how to be profitable on their own.
3. To be eligible for subsidies, management compensation has to be tied to workers’ salaries. So perhaps the first thing this new Canada Council for Journalism should do is work out an executive compensation formula. The senior executives can make no more than, say, five times what the lowest paid employee makes.
4. Require outlets receiving subsidies to adhere to a Code of Ethics and have a board-of-review to hear complaints. If they want to fund reporters with conflicts-of-interest, or unlabelled advertorial, or columnists who plagiarize, that’s their business. But citizens who rejected those newspapers in the marketplace, because of their dodgy ethical standards, shouldn’t have to subsidize them via taxes.