Transcript: Ontario Hubs: Local News Losses | Dec 01, 2017

Nam sits in the studio with a guest. She’s in her forties, with above the shoulder curly brown hair and wears glasses, a black shirt and a gray blazer.

A caption reads "Ontario hubs: Local news losses."

Nam says AND NOW FOR OUR WEEKLY
ONTARIO HUBS UPDATE.
WE'RE TAKING A LOOK AT SOME
TOUGH TIMES IN THE LOCAL NEWS
BUSINESS.
FOR THAT, CAN WE WELCOME:
JOHN MILLER, PROFESSOR EMERITUS
AT RYERSON SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM.
WELCOME.
IT'S NICE TO MEET YOU, JOHN.

John is in his sixties, with short wavy gray hair and a beard and wears glasses, a white shirt and a brown blazer.

John says THANK YOU.
THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

Nam says THIS WEEK, SOME BAD
NEWS.
34 ONTARIO NEWSPAPERS CLOSED
THEIR DOORS. WHAT HAPPENED?

The caption changes to "Ontario hubs: local news losses. A dark day for journalism."

The caption changes to "John Miller. Ryerson University."

John says WELL, I'VE BEEN INVOLVED IN
NEWSPAPERS FOR 50 YEARS, AND
THIS IS THE MOST CRUEL, CYNICAL,
UNEXPECTED... NOT UNEXPECTED
THAT THE PAPERS ARE IN TROUBLE,
BUT UNEXPECTED THAT THE SCOPE OF
34 PAPERS VIRTUALLY BEING SIGNED
OUT OF EXISTENCE THE SAME DAY,
THAT'S NEVER HAPPENED IN
CANADIAN HISTORY BEFORE.

The TVO web page shows an article with the title "Are community newspapers doomed? By John Miller."

Nam says YOU SAY IT'S CRUEL.
WHY?

John says BECAUSE THOSE COMMUNITIES
HAVE SUPPORTED PAPERS, NOT ALL
OF THEM DAILIES, COMMUNITY
PAPERS, WHERE THERE'S NO OTHER
FORMS OF NEWS FOR CENTURIES AND
A HALF IN SOME CASES.
I LIVE NEAR PORT HOPE AND
COBOURG.
COBOURG HAS HAD A NEWSPAPER
SINCE THE 1830s AND PORT HOPE
HAS HAD A DAILY SINCE 1878.
THEY ARE NOW GONE, AND ALL THE
PEOPLE WHO WORKED THERE AND KNEW
ABOUT THE COMMUNITY ARE OUT OF
JOBS.

Nam says SO WHAT HAPPENED,
EXACTLY?
BECAUSE SOME PEOPLE ARE SAYING,
SO WHAT?

John says YEAH.
THE FIRST PART OF YOUR QUESTION
IS THAT THE TWO BIGGEST
NEWSPAPER PUBLISHERS, TORSTAR
AND POSTMEDIA, IN EFFECT GAVE
EACH OTHER... THERE WAS NO MONEY
THAT CHANGED HANDS... THEY GAVE
EACH OTHER MONOPOLIES IN CERTAIN
AREAS.
SO WHERE THERE WERE TWO PAPERS,
THERE'S NOW ONE.

Nam says SO THEY EXCHANGED
PAPERS?

John says YEAH.
AND THEN CLOSED MOST OF THEM.
THEY DIDN'T... AND TORSTAR CHOSE
TO CLOSE THEM ON SUNDAY NIGHT.
SO ALL THE EMPLOYEES CAME TO
WORK ON MONDAY MORNING AND THE
DOORS WERE LOCKED AND THEY WERE
SHUT OUT.
USUALLY WHAT HAPPENS IS THAT IF
A NEWSPAPER IS IN TROUBLE, THEY
TRY TO FIND OTHER BUYERS FOR IT.
BUT THE PURPOSE HERE WAS TO
CREATE A MONOPOLY, SO THOSE
PAPERS WILL NEVER BE FOR SALE.

Nam says SO NO ONE WAS GIVEN AN
OPPORTUNITY TO BUY THESE PAPERS?

John says NOBODY IN THE COMMUNITY,
NOBODY ELSE.
THERE WASN'T EVEN A PRICE TAG
PUT ON THEM.

Nam says SO WHY DO YOU THINK
THIS HAPPENED?

John says JUST GREED.
NOW, THERE'S NO DOUBT THE
NEWSPAPER INDUSTRY IS IN
TROUBLE.
IT'S NOT GOING TO BE SOLVED BY
GIVING MONOPOLIES TO THE BIG
PLAYERS AND DEPRIVING
COMMUNITIES OF COMPETITION
BECAUSE COMPETITION FOR NEWS AND
ADVERTISING IS REALLY IMPORTANT
IN LOCAL COMMUNITIES WHERE IT'S
THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN.

Nam says WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

John says A LOT OF PEOPLE DON'T
APPRECIATE WHAT THEY HAVE UNTIL
IT'S GONE.
SO IF YOU'RE IN A LOCAL
COMMUNITY AND YOU'RE SURPRISED
WHEN A FOUR-LANE HIGHWAY GOES IN
ACROSS THE STREET AND YOU'RE
ANGRY BECAUSE NOBODY TOLD YOU,
THAT'S BECAUSE THE LOCAL MEDIA
ISN'T COVERING THE SCENE.
AND NEWSPAPERS ARE OFTEN THE
ONLY SOURCE OF THAT INFORMATION,
AND PEOPLE NOW SAY, OH, WE CAN
SEE IT ON THE INTERNET.
BUT THEY DON'T REALIZE THAT THAT
NEWS ORIGINATES AT NEWSPAPERS,
BY AND LARGE.
AND IF IT'S NOT BEING PRODUCED,
THEY'RE NOT GOING TO SEE IT ON
THE INTERNET.

Nam says YOU'RE SAYING CIVIC
ENGAGEMENT WILL DISAPPEAR OR
DECREASE.

John says DEMOCRACY, I THINK, IS GOING
TO BE WEAKENED, BECAUSE IF YOU
TAKE AWAY LOCAL INFORMATION
ABOUT MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT OR
WHATEVER, HOW ARE YOU GOING TO
VOTE INTELLIGENTLY IN THE NEXT
ELECTION?
HOW ARE YOU GOING TO BE ON TOP
OF KEEPING YOUR POLITICIANS
ACCOUNTABLE?
HOW ARE YOU GOING TO KNOW WHEN
THERE ARE JOBS AT THE LOCAL
FACTORY?
HOW ARE YOU GOING TO KNOW IF
THERE'S A SCHOOL CLOSING DOWN
UNLESS THERE'S A NEWSPAPER OR
SOME OTHER MEANS OF COVERING
LOCAL NEWS AVAILABLE TO TELL YOU
THAT.

Nam says AND EVEN THE LEGACY OF
THE COMMUNITY, BECAUSE ONE OF
THE PAPERS THAT WAS SHUT DOWN IS
THE BARRIE EXAMINER, RIGHT?
AND THAT'S BEEN AROUND SINCE THE
1800s?

John says YES.
A LOT OF THESE PAPERS HAVE BEEN
AROUND THAT LONG.
AND YOU MIGHT SAY, THAT'S THE
ONE THAT STUCK OUT TO ME TOO,
THE BARRIE EXAMINER.
THAT'S A BIG CENTRE.
THERE'S 140,000 PEOPLE IN BARRIE
AND IT'S ONE OF THE FASTEST
GROWING COMMUNITIES IN CANADA.
IT CAN'T SUPPORT A DAILY
NEWSPAPER?
WE'RE IN TROUBLE.
AND I DELVED A LITTLE DEEPER AND
FOUND IN A COMMUNITY OF 140,000,
ITS PAID CIRCULATION WAS DOWN TO
LESS THAN 2,000.
SO THAT COMMUNITY HAS BEEN
ROBBED OF A NEWSPAPER.
SURE, YOU CAN SAY IT CAN'T
SUPPORT A DAILY, BUT IT'S REALLY
THE RESULT OF POSTMEDIA, IN
THAT CASE, STARVING THAT
NEWSPAPER OF THE MEANS TO COVER
THE COMMUNITY PROPERLY.

Nam says IN 1980, THE OTTAWA
JOURNAL AND WINNIPEG TRIBUNE
CLOSED.
AND IN RESPONSE THE FEDERAL
GOVERNMENT LAUNCHED A ROYAL
COMMISSION.
DO YOU SEE SIGNS OF SOMETHING
SIMILAR WILL HAPPEN NOW IN THIS
SITUATION?

John says I THINK IT'S WISHFUL
THINKING.
I DON'T THINK THE GOVERNMENT HAS
ANY DESIRE TO DO THAT.
THEY JUST COMPLETED A BIG
REVIEW, THE HERITAGE COMMITTEE
REVIEW.

Nam says WHY DO YOU THINK THE
RESPONSE IS DIFFERENT NOW?

John says I THINK WE'VE BEEN THROUGH
THAT.
WE HAD TWO ROYAL COMMISSIONS, IN
EFFECT, THE DAVIE COMMISSION AND
THE KENT COMMISSION.
THEY MADE A NUMBER OF
RECOMMENDATIONS, I DON'T KNOW IF
IT WOULD HAVE PREVENTED THIS,
BUT THEY WERE NEVER ACTED ON BY
GOVERNMENT.
THE OTHER PEOPLE, THE UNIONS OF
THE NEWSPAPER EMPLOYEES AND SOME
OF THE BIG NEWSPAPER
ASSOCIATIONS HAVE PROPOSED OTHER
METHODS OF ALLEVIATING THIS
CRISIS, AND THE GOVERNMENT
HASN'T TAKEN THEM UP ON IT.

Nam says YOU RECENTLY DID SOME
RESEARCH ON YOUR LOCAL
NEWSPAPER, THE NORTHUMBERLAND
TODAY.
IT WAS ONE OF THE PAPERS THAT
CLOSED THIS WEEK.
WHAT WERE YOU LOOKING AT WHEN
YOU DID THAT RESEARCH?

The caption changes to "Ontario hubs: local news losses. A long time coming."

Another web article by John appears with the title "Local news is disappearing in Ontario, and that’s bad for democracy."

John says I WAS TRYING TO TRACK WHAT
HAD HAPPENED TO LOCAL NEWS OVER
THE LAST 20 YEARS, BECAUSE WHEN
I MOVED TO THAT COMMUNITY 20
YEARS AGO, IT WAS A GOOD PAPER.
IT WAS A REALLY GOOD LOCAL
PAPER.
IT'S ONE OF THE REASONS THAT I
MOVED THERE.
WHAT I FOUND WHEN I COMPARED
COLUMN INCH BY COLUMN INCH TO
NOW IS THAT LOCAL NEWS HAD
LARGELY EVAPORATED AND IT HAD
BEEN REPLACED BY WIRE NEWS,
SYNDICATED MATERIAL WRITTEN
ELSEWHERE, IT DIDN'T HAVE
ANYTHING TO DO WITH THAT
COMMUNITY.
AND THAT WAS POSTMEDIA'S
BUSINESS MODEL.
THAT'S HOW THEY SUSTAINED ALL
THESE PAPERS.
AND THEY'RE STILL SUSTAINING
THEM.
THEY HAVE 90 PAPERS STILL UNDER
THEIR CONTROL IN ONTARIO, AND IF
THIS BUSINESS MODEL FAILED IN
NORTHUMBERLAND, IT'S GOING TO
FAIL ELSEWHERE TOO.

Nam says ONE CAN MAKE THE
ARGUMENT THAT, WAS YOUR PAPER
REALLY A LOCAL PAPER THEN?

John says NOT ANYMORE.
THAT'S WHY PEOPLE DON'T MISS IT.
THEY WILL MISS IT IF SOME BIG
NEWS STORY BREAKS OUT.

Nam says WHY WERE THEY USING
NEWS WIRES INSTEAD OF REPORTING
FROM THE COMMUNITY?

John says BECAUSE IT'S CHEAP.
THEY PUT OUT THEIR TEMPLATES.
THE EDITORIAL PAGE WHICH USED TO
BE FULL OF LOCAL COMMENTARY AND
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR AT THE END
WAS COMPLETELY SYNDICATED.
AND LARGELY USELESS FOR THE
COMMUNITY.

Nam says MOVING FORWARD WITH...
I GUESS YOU CAN'T CALL IT A
MERGER BUT THIS EXCHANGE OF
PAPERS AND THE PAPERS BEING SHUT
DOWN, DO YOU KNOW WHAT'S
HAPPENING NEXT?
ARE SOME OF THESE PAPERS GOING
TO BE... WHAT'S HAPPENING TO THE
PEOPLE?

The caption changes to "Ontario hubs: local news losses. What’s next?"

John says THEY'RE GONE AND THE PEOPLE
IN THE NON-UNIONIZED... THE
PEOPLE WITHOUT A CONTRACT IN THE
NON-UNIONIZED PAPERS WILL GET
SOME KIND OF SEVERANCE, BUT THEY
WON'T BE HIRED IN THEIR LOCAL
COMMUNITIES BECAUSE THE SURVIVOR
PAPERS AREN'T HIRING AND THEY'LL
GET PAID A SEVERANCE, WHATEVER
THE COMPANIES DECIDE TO GIVE
THEM, WHICH IS NOT GOING TO BE
VERY MUCH.

Nam says TO THINK THAT A PAPER
THAT'S BEEN AROUND SINCE THE
1800s CAN BE SHUT DOWN, DO YOU
SEE THAT HAPPENING MORE?
MORE LOCAL PAPERS BEING SHUT
DOWN?

John says MY COLLEAGUE, MY FORMER
COLLEAGUE AT RYERSON, APRIL
LUNDGREN, HAS BEEN TRACKING THIS
TWO YEARS, JUST THE LAST TWO
YEARS, AND THERE'S SOMETHING
LIKE 150 COMMUNITIES HAVE LOST
PAPERS ACROSS CANADA.
THERE HAVE BEEN ABOUT 230
SOME-ODD CLOSURES OR MERGERS.
SO, YEAH.

Nam says DO YOU THINK THE
PROBLEM IS PEOPLE AREN'T WILLING
TO PAY FOR JOURNALISM ANYMORE?

John says I THINK THAT'S A BIG PROBLEM
AND I THINK THE OTHER PART OF
THE PROBLEM IS THAT IF THE
NEWSPAPERS HAVE LOST THE PUBLIC
INTEREST, AND A LOT OF THE
PAPERS THAT ARE STILL THERE IN
THOSE COMMUNITIES ARE LARGELY
ADVERTISING FLYERS, WRAPPERS FOR
ADVERTISING FLYERS, VERY LITTLE
INVESTMENT IN JOURNALISM.
AND WE'VE LOST ALL THAT.

The caption changes to "Connect with us: @theagenda, tvo.org, Facebook, YouTube, Periscope and Instagram."

Nam says DO YOU THINK THE
PEOPLE ARE LOSING SOMETHING THEY
DON'T REALIZE THAT THEY NEED?

John says YEAH.
I'M TRYING TO START A
CONVERSATION IN OUR COMMUNITIES
ABOUT GETTING TOGETHER A GROUP
OF PEOPLE.
I THINK OTHER COMMUNITIES SHOULD
DO THIS, BECAUSE IT'S THE ONLY
OPTION.
HOW CAN WE CARRY ON AND GET A
SOURCE OF LOCAL NEWS?
WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS?
THE INITIAL RESPONSE IN COBOURG
AND PORT HOPE HAS BEEN VERY
DISAPPOINTING.
PEOPLE SAY, NO, MOVE ON.
WE'LL GET IT OFF THE INTERNET.
AND THEY'RE VERY NAIVE.

Nam says AND WHY IS THIS
SOMETHING THAT'S IMPORTANT TO
YOU?

John says I SUPPOSE I'VE GOT THIS
SAVE-THE-WORLD GENE AND SOMEBODY
SAID, YOU KNOW, LIGHTEN UP.
LIGHTEN UP.
MOVE ON TO SOMETHING ELSE.
I SAID THAT'S JUST NOT IN MY
MAKEUP.
SOMETHING CAN BE DONE.
IN OUR COMMUNITY WE'VE GOT A
LOCAL VOLUNTEER RADIO STATION
THAT HAS TERRIBLE NEWS COVERAGE.
MAYBE WE CAN HELP IT REPLACE
SOME OF THE LOCAL NEWS THAT'S
BEEN LOST, OR MAYBE SOMEBODY
WILL STEP UP THAT WE DON'T KNOW
ABOUT WITH A LOT OF MONEY AND
CAN SAY, HERE, YOU KNOW, I'M
WILLING TO INVEST IN SOMETHING
NEW.

Nam says JOHN, THANK YOU SO
MUCH FOR BRINGING THIS STORY TO
OUR ATTENTION AND HOPEFULLY
PEOPLE WILL REALIZE WHAT IT IS
THAT THEY'RE MISSING AND MAYBE
EVEN JUST WANT TO FIND OUT MORE
ABOUT WHAT IS HAPPENING.

John says I HOPE SO.

Nam says THANK YOU SO MUCH.
The caption changes to "Ontario hubs: local news losses. Producer: Mark Brosens. @MarkBrosens."

Logo: Ontario Hubs.

A slate reads "Ontario Hubs are made possible by The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charity Trust and Goldie Feldman."

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