RECAP: The Future of Media and Journalism

We’re building what comes next in local media webinar

November 20, 2020
Heather Mah

With the growing advancement of digital platforms, such as Google and Facebook, that offer advertisers greater audience reach, faster distribution of information and measurable results, local news organizations are experiencing a steep drop in advertising dollars. 

In October, CPRS Edmonton invited Taproot Edmonton co-founders, Mack Male and Karen Unland, to speak about this precise topic in The Future of Media and Journalism webinar. They shared valuable insights into what they view as the plight of mainstream mass media. After observing the drop in advertising dollars over the years, Taproot Edmonton compiled the data showing a great decrease in the quantity and quality of local news produced. It has become a great challenge for consumers of mass media to get the content that they need. While government-related coverage is still prioritized by local newsrooms, equally important stories often don’t get reported because of low funding and subscriptions.

“When local news organizations, such as the Edmonton Journal, use Facebook and Google, over 80 per cent  of the online advertising revenue goes back to these digital platforms,” explains Male. “Local news organizations are subjected to the gatekeeping of these digital players who are selective in what information gets promoted in the news feeds and search engines.” 

Most of the time these tech giants don’t employ journalists, when media organizations already supply them with content by using their product.

The Qualified Canadian Journalism Organization requires news organizations to produce general interest news for more than half of their publication on an ongoing daily basis in order to be eligible for support. As a result, all of the publications about topics, like arts or sports, that are equally important to people and communities, are not considered qualified Canadian journalism organizations.

The readership/viewership’s monetary contributions, which include subscriptions, memberships and donations, cannot be the sole solution to rescue journalism from its steep revenue drop, and quantity and quality decline. A new way of collecting and verifying information needs to be established in order to get better quality of diverse coverage to the masses.

Enter Taproot Edmonton. Taproot’s solution to help alleviate the problem and keep people better informed in their community is to produce a repeatable process that aggregates, curates and adds meaning to information of interest to a community, and meets the information needs of organizations.

“Collecting this information will inspire informed questions from our members that leads to engaging and valuable stories,” said Unland. “It helps keep people informed in the community and understand things better, feeding their curiosities. It also powers the backend system for curating, which is also a valuable service to businesses.”

For communicators, receiving reliable, accurate information is essential to maintain credibility for their organization. News Media Canada talks about “championing the truth” and suggests that “fake news” is the big problem.

As Male states, “A functioning press and democracy require criticism, transparency, and consequences for journalistic mistakes. They also require that we’re able to collectively distinguish them from lies and deception.”

A key takeaway to avoid communicating and encouraging false information is to hold off on sharing articles until it is fact-checked and claims are verified. Given a communicator’s busy schedule, it is a good investment to find a trusted intermediator, curator or source that can monitor what is happening and present you with information that is true. You can trust that the information is accurate because the work has been done to filter the noise for you. Curating information is a growing segment of journalism. You can use it to determine what might be considered factual and not.

“Taproot is in favour of acts of journalism rather than one or two big entities being responsible for journalism,” elaborated Male. “We think everybody can perform an act of journalism, and we’re in favour of technology making those things possible.”

In closing, Taproot summed up the future of journalism very nicely by stating that journalism is a key part of the connective tissue of our city to help the entire community thrive. Journalism helps us keep up-to-date on what’s happening; it informs us so that we can make better decisions.

Visit the Future of Media and Journalism to watch the full recording of the webinar.

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