Whose newspaper anyway?

Whose newspaper anyway?

A while ago, our local community newspaper – as it is advertising itself – appeared with a blank frontpage. And in an editorial it was explained to us that it was part of a campaign aimed to pressure the government to protect(?) independent small local media. Next day I sent in the letter below to the editors. It has never been published, which is fine, it is their right to decide which letter goes into print. And they never even wrote back, which is also fine although bad manners…

The blank front page

I used to work in traditional print media (a.k.a. daily newspaper) in my previous life… and I was lucky or unfortunate (depends on your perspective) to witness and be in the middle of the transition from one owner – the party state – to the more or less capitalistic model.

At that time well intentioned Western organizations came in to help us, and all the seminars and discussions concluded that local newspapers are the future… allegedly people not being that much interested in big national papers.

I loved the idea of locally focused and owned small(er) papers. Then I worked in other fields for a few years and came to Canada.
Here then I’ve seen the transformation of the media landscape due to the new digital world. Technology. Even those that confess missing the feel and smell of the paper and ink – consume less and less traditional paper format and opt for digital content. And being a daily user of the online giants like Google, Facebook, Twitter…I am aware of their overpowering status and how they misuse their position.

Now I see this campaign aiming to pressure our governments to regulate the media landscape – practically calling to save the small local newspapers against the giants. The disappointment comes when one is looking at the imprint of this paper: over 70 “community publications” owned by one corporation.

The question we need to ask: whose interests are represented in such a product? Is it really a local community oriented paper (as it used to be in the golden age of small LOCAL newspapers worldwide) or it is just another corporate entity trying to protect their own turf and profit?

While I think we do need to stop and rein in those multinationals (supernational corporations) whose hegemony threatens the fabric of our society and our democracy… I am not so sure about wanting to protect – even just by adding my name to the campaign – the interests of another, admittedly smaller, corporate owner, just because they claim to be Canadian.

I don’t have illusions that even those old local newspapers of the past had agendas and served the interests of their owners. But their size and focus was more local, consequently their claim of being local and community-based media was more true.

I experienced the censorship of a ruling ideology and later the censorship of the capital (money). It would be hard to determine which was worst… Corporate ownership is about money and financial interests. References and claims regarding the “community” is window dressing.

So, there is the dilemma. I would like to support my small local newspaper… but I am reluctant to raise my voice for a distant corporate entity.

How is the media landscape in your place?