DispatchPress Freedom News

Support for Local Journalism due to end


Hundreds of journalists across the country may lose their jobs at the end of March with the expiry of a federal program that supports local media.

The Trudeau government created the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI) in 2019 to help smaller community news outlets keep their doors open. Funding is due to end on March 31, the end of the 2023-24 fiscal year.

Local media outlets are suffering from the same economic forces – shrinking ad markets and tough competition from social media – that have shrunk metropolitan newspapers, and national television and radio news.

Without journalists covering local government, citizens are forced to look elsewhere to get their information. Often this means scrolling through social media for posts that can be highly opinionated and ill-informed. Unfortunately, many readers do not take the time to verify the facts they read and often share the misinformation they have consumed.

The loss of local media outlets results in less coverage of town councils, municipal offices, and the court – the type of coverage in small communities that keeps everyone connected. The LJI has supported media coverage in some 1,400 communities.

Appearing before the Heritage Committee National Forum in the Media hearing in February, Brent Jolly, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, said he was worried about what would happen if the LJI funding ended.

“If we don’t have (the LJI), the news deserts are going to be cataclysmic,” Jolly said.

National TV networks are pulling back from local coverage.  In February, CTV ended its weekend newscasts and noon news shows for most regions of the country. Local news for Global News outside of Ontario, B.C., and Alberta, is anchored in Toronto, and CBC is expected to announce within weeks its cuts of up to 600 employees. Local news across the country is being decimated.

As news outlets continue to cut staff and shutter operations, the public interest is threatened as citizens are left uninformed about the decisions being taken by their elected officials and local judiciary. And without this check on decision-makers, democracy itself suffers.

Quality journalism costs money; it’s an investment that communities across the country need.

At press time, the Liberal government announced an extension of the local journalism initiative that to 2025. Crisis averted.