One of my very favourite movie moments came in the Orson Welles classic Citizen Kane. Early on in the story, the young Mr. Kane who inherits huge wealth in the form of a gusher of a goldmine, tells his disapproving banker that he thinks, “It might be fun to own a newspaper.” Thus begins a hugely-entertaining thinly-disguised profile of William Randolph Hearst.
I wonder if similar thoughts ran through the mind of Jeff Bezos of Amazon when he heard that the Washington Post was on the market. The same question might be asked of Mexico’s legendary gazillionaire Carlos Slim before he came to the rescue of the New York Times no less?
Don’t look now, but print journalism in Canada needs such deep pocketed people more than ever. As is the case in many other parts of the world, the ritual of reading a printed paper with coffee and toast in the morning might be lucky to survive the next 12 months or so.
Led by Bob Cox of the Winnipeg Free Press, Canadian papers tried to make the case to Ottawa that the very survival of our democracy might be in peril, if government was not prepared to help them financially. What an interesting flipping of the playing field that was. When profits were strong, the last things newspapers wanted was government interference or involvement of any kind.
In 2017 there has been no groundswell of support from readers for their cause, because the number of readers has been steadily declining. There really should have been no surprise this week when Heritage Minister Melanie Joly delivered the Trudeau government’s grand plan for the future. Daily newspapers were dismissed as working under a business model that was “no longer viable”… Ouch!
If newspapers are allowed to die, what will be the foundation of news gathering to take their place? I somehow have difficulty seeing Twitter and Instagram as the pillars that will hold the feet of political leaders to the fire.
It was a beautiful summer, but winter may include a lot of uncertainty.
I’m Roger Currie