The Evolution of Journalism and The End of the Newspaper

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

April 28th, 2017



Like a growing number of people these days, I almost never read a newspaper anymore, though I seem to be searching for more information than ever before. Oh sure a couple papers get delivered to the end of my laneway most days. That gives my dog some practice retrieving and allows me to pull off the sudoko. But the rest of the newsprint and advertising material make it to the fire-starter box mostly unscathed.


Guys like this really existed once – and they really wore hats like that.

Like so many, I just don’t have time to read any one paper anymore because I don’t get all I need from a single paper. There are so many potential sources of information of varying quality out there today such that that a single daily no longer does the job. So why pay for fire-starter?

Besides restricting oneself to only one paper, no matter how objective it claims to be, can’t but influence attitudes and beliefs. Editorial slant and policies are just as important as the topic at hand – sometimes more. So if the Toronto Sun and National Post are biased to the right and the Star too far left, does that mean we should all subscribe to the Globe and Mail? It’s not that simple.

The US leading network, Fox News, has long called itself ‘fair and balanced’, when we all know it is anything but. But then MSNBC, its politically polar opposite, is apparently even more opinionated. More opinion and less news – that is the trend today.

Then there are late night talk shows. Former ‘Daily Show’ host, Jon Stewart, used to brag about more people getting their news from his comedy show than the regular networks. Indeed, coupling news with entertainment may be the most effective way to deliver information to the public.

News Telegram last

There was a time when Toronto had three daily newspapers – each having several editions. It was a battle royal until the “Telly” folded.

Thanks to technological evolution it now only takes only a couple of keystrokes to find anything on almost any topic of your choice. And that will eventually bring the traditional news networks and papers to their natural conclusion – and perhaps spin-off some other medium. Sure there will be still be some real news on the internet but you’ll have to search to find what you want among the blogs, opinion columns and fake news stories.

Objectivity is in the mind of the beholder these days, it seems. Otherwise how could so many seemingly intelligent people who look at the same facts come to alternate conclusions. Was the crowd at Trump’s inauguration larger than the one at Obama’s? Did Russia really hack into US political party computers? Are the high costs of electricity in Ontario due to Mike Harris’ deregulation or McGuinty’s green energy?

Trump has coined the term ‘fake news’ though we all know he is the master of all fakers. Truth can be what we want to believe it to be. And the guy who has become the US president, like in the fable about former president Washington, cannot tell a lie.

But the folks who make and run much of the internet are trying to do something about fake news. Google and Wikipedia, and even a United Nations agency, have stepped up to the plate promising to find ways to identify and reduce that problem. Good luck to them.

Milla Pickfield started an internship as a journalist interviewing the Chief of Police. She aced it - wasn't able to do as well at understanding what gets done at Board of Education meetings.

Milla Pickfield started an internship as a journalist interviewing the Chief of Police. She aced it.

Bottom line is that it is everyone for themselves when it comes to information and mis-information. And perhaps the quickest way to authenticate a story is check who else is carrying it. Peer review for professional journals includes the consideration of bibliographic sources, above and beyond the essence of the story itself. So shouldn’t we all be as careful?

And that means it becomes our responsibility, each and every one of us, to exercise vigilance over what we read and what we believe to be true. The old adage that ‘news is what’s in a newspaper’ is no longer valid. It might just be fake reporting or unsupported opinion.

This weekend the Canadian Association of Journalists is holding its annual convention and awards for Canadian journalism in Ottawa. I’ll be there looking for some answers on this topic, but I won’t be holding my breath.

Rivers looking to his leftRay Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington in 1995.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.     Tweet @rayzrivers



Background links:

Newspapers –   Newspapers Dying –  Columnists vs Bloggers –   US Fairness Doctrine

Truth –   Tump’s Truths –   Media Bubble –   Google and Fake News –   Wiki and Fake News

UN Fake News –   Fox vs MSNBC

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2 comments to The evolution of journalism and the end of the printed newspaper.

  • Sheila Ludgate

    I guess I’m a dinosaur, but I like reading real, tactile, printed material – be it newspapers, magazines or books (especially books!). There are two newspapers delivered to our house and I appreciate being able to scan the pages for the articles I want to read. Of course I get information from the internet too, but I find it difficult to read too much on the screen of the laptop, iPad or iPhone – too many flashing/blipping ads trying to get my attention, and it’s hard on the eyes and the concentration… Anyway, for me personally – long live print!

  • The same phenomenon is spreading through the U.S. Print media are drying up, and have been for several years. My only interest in a newspaper has been for the editorials, the letters to the editor, and the comics – all inter-changeable. My wife clips the coupons, which are increasingly available on-line. Journalism took a big hit after months of giving free publicity – for the sake of ratings – to the manic rants of the demented carnival barker now in the White House. Money emerged as a core value, not truth and integrity.