Ryerson University and the NNC release new report: Good News, Bad News: A snapshot of conditions at small-market newspapers in Canada

TORONTO, April 29, 2019 – Ryerson University’s Local News Research Project, in partnership with the National NewsMedia Council of Canada (NNC), is pleased to announce the publication of its new report: Good News, Bad News: A snapshot of conditions at small-market newspapers in Canada.

The report’s findings provide invaluable insight into questions about workload, audience engagement, the use of digital tools, and journalistic ethics and standards for print publications with a daily/weekly circulation below 50,000 copies.

Some of the report’s key findings include:

The Good:

  • The survey provides strong anecdotal evidence that highlights how local newspapers have a special place in Canadians’ news diets.
  • More than one-third of respondents said their publication had launched an editorial campaign on an issue that is important to their community.
  • Many respondents see the role of ‘audience engagement’ as an important way to foster conversations with readers and play an active role in civic and local debates.
  • Respondents overwhelmingly said their publications are a trusted source of information in their communities.
  • Survey results point to a willingness of community newspapers to embrace digital tools: About three-quarters of survey respondents said they now spend more time on digital-related output than they did two years ago.

The Bad:

  • Smaller newsrooms: Fifty-seven per cent of survey respondents said there are fewer people in their newsrooms now than in 2016.
  • A work culture that is demanding more of its workforce: About one-third of journalists said they are producing more stories and working longer hours compared to two years ago.
  • A split between employees who feel secure in their jobs and others who are concerned about job security: More than one-third of respondents said they felt slightly or very insecure in their positions, while nearly half said they felt very secure of slightly secure.
  • Small-market newspapers, like their bigger city counterparts, are grappling with intense competition from non-local digital platforms and publications for audiences and advertisers.
  • Limited employer-sponsored ethics training: Most respondents said they learn about journalism ethics and best practice from fellow journalists and from published articles. Only about one-third cited employer-sponsored resource guides or ethics training courses.

“These results paint a picture of what’s happening in small-market newsrooms at a time of major disruption,” says April Lindgren, a professor at Ryerson’s School of Journalism and lead investigator for the Local News Research Project (LNRP). Data from the LNRP’s Local News Map, which tracks changes to the local news landscape across Canada, show that 199 of the 275 local news outlet that have closed since 2008 have been community newspapers published fewer than five times per week.

“Smaller newspapers face major challenges but the survey also reveals that publications know they are making a unique contribution to communities by focusing on local stories that nobody else is telling.”

For its part in this project, the National NewsMedia Council sought to learn more about how journalists in small-market newsrooms kept abreast of editorial standards and ethical decision-making in an increasingly digital world.

“Editorial standards and ethics act as the foundations for good journalism – and good journalism is an essential piece of a community’s civic architecture,” says Brent Jolly, director of communication, research, and community management with the NNC.

“This study demonstrates that, on a whole, community newspapers are doing good work in building trust with their readers.”

A full copy of the report can be accessed here.

Ryerson University is Canada’s leader in innovative, career-oriented education. It is an Academic Member of the National NewsMedia Council.

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MEDIA INQUIRIES:

April Lindgren

Professor, Principal investigator for the Local News Research Project

Ryerson University Tel: 647 281 8847

april.lindgren@ryerson.ca

 

Brent Jolly

Director, Communications, Research, and Community Management

National NewsMedia Council of Canada

Tel: 289-387-3179

bjolly@mediacouncil.ca