With Postmedia and Torstar swapping 40 papers, shutting down 22 of them, local media has taken a huge blow. Not only is this the biggest closure of newspapers in a single day in Canada, but this deal didn’t have an exchange of money; it seems that it was done just to reduce competition in the area, especially in Ontario.
But why should we care about the closure of some local papers that we’ve never heard of?
For starters, a lot of these papers were free daily papers, like the Edmonton Metro that you might pick up while getting onto the LRT or ETS. In some of these areas, these free papers are the only source of local news. While many papers are online in the social media age, it’s really only the major papers that have a website; not the papers that have been shut down.
Between racists marching the streets (like Charlottesville), Donald Trump’s tweeting, and attacks around the world, the news is more overwhelming than ever before. It’s hard to feel that connectedness to the world when it seems like everything is imploding around you. Local papers provide not only these stories, but more lighthearted content about what’s going on in your own city. It makes you aware of what is going on in your backyard — something that the larger papers can’t give.
By decreasing competition amongst papers, less viewpoints are being told. In a time where freedom of speech is being debated and abused, having only a handful of large companies control your papers should be something that scares you.
Think of it in terms of cable companies. There are two main giants: Telus and Shaw. These companies can overcharge you because who else will you turn to? With my family, it’s always a dance between the two; a couple years with Telus, Telus overcharges and has horrible internet, switch to Shaw with a deal, Shaw overcharges, and the cycle continues.
Without customers having a wider selection of companies to choose from, the “big guys” can do basically whatever they want. When this is applied to news media, it gets dangerous. Local papers provide perspective on things without worrying as heavily about profits as some bigger companies. They showcase what’s going on in the area and how to get involved.
With this closure, more are certain to come. Local newspapers across the country aren’t safe from this epidemic. But who can stop them? Most of the time local papers aren’t turning a profit or are even losing money to allow free daily papers. The larger companies have more money and more people to throw around.
Local papers are becoming an extinct species and it should concern you.