By Justin Seward
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Oct. 4-10 is National Newspaper Week in Canada.
The week is meant to recognize the role newspapers play in their communities and providing Canadians with credible, factual news and puts a spotlight on why news media is still a credible source of information.
“It really has two purposes I think,” said John Hinds, News Media Canada CEO. “I think there is a broader public purpose in celebrating newspapers and the role in various communities and I think there’s also (an) aspect to it where we thank carriers and we actually try and thank our readers because they make it work.”
There is also an internal aspect to the week in terms of people who work in the industry.
“It’s a tough industry to work in these days,” said Hinds. “The news is not often very good about the industry. I think it gives us the opportunity to celebrate and validate all the great things that we do and the role we play in Canadian society.”
Hinds did not hesitate to admit the industry is seeing frustration when it comes to the impact that COVID-19 has made on newspapers.
“We’ve never had more readers and never been so valuable to our communities and yet we continually face real business challenges in terms of the market, how the business models have worked,” he said.
“And the difficulties in transitioning to new business models, to allow newspapers to raise the revenue to create all the content that they create. There are some real market failures happening in the industry. I think that’s frustrating and again we have to make sure that people realize that we’re still relevant and there is a future for independent news in Canada.”
However, an upside is the industry has never seen more readers and been so valuable since the onset of the pandemic.
“It increased our readership exponentially. More and more people turned to news —particularly digital news — and used newspapers to make sense and find out what was going on their communities,” continued Hinds.
Hinds described the industry as a “canary in the coal mines,” in terms of underlying economic factors.
Those factors in Alberta included its challenges in the oil and gas sector.
“If you’re a business that relies on support from readers and from advertisers, those challenges are more acute in Alberta than in some other areas in the country.”
News Media Canada has seen more closures or mergers of newspapers in the Prairies than in any other part of the country.
Hinds says that is due to the higher amount of small community newspapers.