Editorial: A lack of news costs everyone more

Late Friday during the South Glengarry Business Awards, it was announced that the Alexandria-based Glengarry News will print its last edition on September 13. That paper, like many others silenced, will leave a void in its community and surrounding area. It is the second newspaper in SDG Counties to close since January 2020, the other being the Winchester Press. SDG only had four newspapers left in its geographic region at the start of the decade.

Between 2008 and 2018, 250 news outlets, mostly weekly newspapers, closed in Canada. In the last five years, nearly the same number have closed again pointing to a continuing crisis in news media that affects everyone. Last month, American-based Meta – which owns Facebook and Instagram social media platforms – stopped allowing Canadian News posts on its platforms in response to the federal Online News Act. That act requires tech companies like Meta – who monetize news posted to its platforms – to pay towards that news creation. For news outlets that have an online presence, this is a substantial hit in traffic, and for most online-based outlets, a potential death-knell.

The Leader has published many past editorials on the fragile state of media in the 2020s. This situation has not improved. The risk of having news media fail in Canada has grown, as has the consequences. The number of news deserts have increased in communities from coast-to-coast-to-coast. When a news desert spouts up, the impact will be felt far and wide, and as close to you as your wallet.

Among the many jobs that news media (including this newspaper) does is hold government to account for its spending, and officials accountable for their actions. A study by the University of North Carolina Hussman School of Journalism and Media found that communities without a local news media outlet have higher taxes, more government spending, and more government waste due to a lack of accountability. News media holds those who spend your money accountable. One less newspaper in North Glengarry may not sound like a big issue, but it is. A look at the pages of The Leader highlights this importance.

In the past year, we have reported on an over five per cent municipal tax increase by South Dundas council, how much has been spent or is planned to be spent on new equipment, council discussions regarding big budget issues like land development, our landfill issue, and even whether a municipally-owned property across from Seaway District High School will be used for a community housing project. Without The Leader and other news outlets, would you know how much more a new bus transportation deal cost the two English school boards?

These are just a few of the many examples of accountability for your money. Government – regardless of which level, have communications departments and publish releases and social media posts – but can you trust to get the whole truth, from those with a vested interest? The risks of more communities becoming a news desert is great, so to are the consequences.

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