Barrett: Newspapers are the guide to truth amidst fake news noise - and worth your support

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You’ll notice this week’s Lacombe Globe is smaller than it should be.

You should notice the lack of room on our sports front, no photo page for the annual Bill Nielsen Trail Run despite my taking extra time to get a variety of different photographs for one. A story meant for a business section is placed on a news page and a lengthy article about a local author’s latest project relating to Truth and Reconciliation had to be cut because there was no room. You may notice the advertising, how there’s much more of it in relation to editorial content than in weeks past.

What perhaps is more striking, however, is what you won’t notice – investigative reports on the impact of the city’s decision to axe residential recycling, and how other communities are handling increases to their own solid waste services, feature stories on how  BOLT’s cancellation is affecting those who rely on the service, or a three-part series on the Town of Blackfalds’ plight in getting health care services in their community. They are stories that should be lining our pages – important pieces of journalism that stand to shed light on issues in the community – but won’t.

Why? Well, the lack of pages and room in our newspaper reflects the dire state of the newspaper industry. It’s a reflection of people, business owners, advertisers and politicians choosing not to shop local with their advertising dollars, and instead spend them with companies who do not invest in the local community.

In fact, 70 per cent of Canadian ad revenue is spent with Facebook and Google, despite the fact ads in newspapers – either on print or online – are the most trusted form of advertising. The lost ad revenue as a result has shrunk newsrooms, decreased our resources and put the entire industry at risk.

Yet newspapers are more important than ever before as “fake news” runs rampant, and the majority of Canadians – 63 per cent – can’t tell the difference between fake and legitimate news. Local newspaper journalism is your guide to truth amidst the noise caused by fake news.

Many seem to know this – our audiences are larger than ever and readership is at an all-time high with eight in ten Canadians reading a newspaper at least once a week, whether it’s in print or online, and 85 per cent of millennials doing the same. This solidifies that there’s a huge appetite for credible, trusted news.

Yet, those who spend their advertising dollars on  Facebook, Google and other forms of social media are paying for our demise – for the death of newspapers that record history, bring communities together in both times of tragedy and joy and serve as the voices of democracy.

With Canada Post planning to cut into revenue that comes from flyers, using their exclusive access to lock boxes in condos and apartments and advantages provided to them as a crown corporation, things could get worse before they get better.

Without newspapers to sort out fact from fiction, those who seek to ruin reputations of innocent people, swing and disrupt elections and undermine democracy will prevail.

However, there is an opportunity to stand up for and support credible, trusted journalism, and stop this before it’s too late.

As part of National Newspaper Week, we are encouraging you to help send a message to advertisers, businesses, all three levels of government and those involved in decision-making processes that newspapers matter by visiting www.newspapersmatter.ca and pledging your support.

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