Over the past 6 months I have contributed to a pretty important project which looks at the future of news in Canada. The end result is a report called The Shattered Mirror (no, not Black Mirror, my fellow Netflix-ers – like that, but actually not) published today by the Public Policy Forum. I am a Public Policy Forum Fellow and served as an adviser for this report.
There is a lot of information in this neat little 100 page goodie. So, here is my super speedy review from the digital perspective.
People like to consume news online. If someone is going to bother with civic journalism (and I hope they do!) they want to see it on their device. They want to know it is of high quality and they want to know it is up to date. We need this not just because there are some keeners who love them some politics, but because democracy depends on informed citizens. So, how do we make sure that happens? How do we make sure we’ve got a news media system that supports high quality civic journalism? Well, the report has a list of 12 recommendations but I want to focus in on a few that I think are particularly important for our digital new environment.
First, CBC needs love. The CBC is crucial to providing high quality civic journalism all across our big beautiful country. Recommendations 10, 11 and 12 are big players here. Let’s have a system where a CBC journalists’ main goal is to create awesome (I think informative and trustworthy and not fake are pretty awesome) content that matters to Canadians. Even if it is a relatively small group of them, you know, in small communities which exist all over this vast country of ours (read: number of eyeballs is not the most important metric of success). Beyond reaffirming inform as the imperative we should not have CBC clickbait. Replace advertising dollars so that we help digital grow in a way that is productive and useful. And, news content should (eventually) be accessible and usable by anyone but in particular small civic journalism shops/start ups such as non-profits. The recommendation is to use Creative Commons licensing (you’d have to say it was from CBC and not mash it up but you could make money from it, for example, by adding your own contextual info.). Together, these recommendations can help foster digital innovation while also ensuring there is a solid base layer of content that is trustworthy.
Second, research and innovation baby. I think digital innovation is a key way we solve problems like low quality content masquerading as accurate and getting lots of time at the top of timelines and search results (see my skillful avoidance of the term “fake news” there?). We need a fund to support digital innovation and that innovation should be able to respond to the needs of Canadians (which we can’t know without research!) – check out recommendations 5 and 9. Also, philanthropic organizations should be allowed to support civic journalism (Recommendation 3). There may not be huge amounts of cash but anyone who has ever tried to create a minimum viable product out in the start-up world knows that even a little can go a long way. And a little can help you make more.
Read the report here.