News is not ‘free’

Last Thursday evening, I was stopped by a retired Abitibi employee at the Sorting Gap Marina, where we both had found our way to enjoy a hard ice cream cone.
We talked about his retirement and then he asked me about the future of newspapers.
“I can’t see a future in making newsprint,” he told me. “My children who live in the cities don’t subscribe to the city papers.
“They don’t have the time to read a newspaper,” he said.
So I asked him how his grown children got their information about what was happening in their city and in the community where they lived in.
I learned it was from the Internet.
And he pointed out to me that it was free, not like buying a subscription.
Newspapers have been the vehicle that has brought the news of communities into the homes of the residents who live there. Since the advent of moveable type, someone has attended meetings, accident scenes, concerts, and festivals, and then has told the story in the newspaper.
Today is no different.
Reporters go to council meetings, record the life of their community, and take pictures of musical festivals, parades, graduations, and all manner of sporting events.
They watch governments, and help the people of the country hold elected representatives accountable to the citizens.
And the newspaper pays those reporters and photographers.
More than 70 carriers deliver the Fort Frances Times and Daily Bulletin to households in Fort Frances and Couchiching. For more, delivering papers is their very first job.
The staff of the paper also includes an editor, advertising salespeople, production manager, a publisher, software technicians, press people, graphic artists, bookkeepers, circulation managers, and delivery staff.
If the person that I was speaking with is correct, many of those jobs would disappear from the community.
And with the loss of newspapers, who might be responsible for gathering the news. Would news follow the route of the VHS tape?
I think not. Newspapers are still vital in Fort Frances and right across Canada. Here in Rainy River District, more than 80 percent of residents have read the last issue of the Fort Frances Times.
It has more penetration into households than does the Internet.
Nationwide, 78 percent of Canadians have read a daily paper in the last seven days. Today, more people are reading newspapers than a decade ago.
Newspapers contribute to the health and identity of every town they serve. They connect people living on one block to acquaintances living on the other side of town, whether in Fort Frances or Prince George, B.C.
Will newspapers disappear? I think not. Will they remain a vital link in communities? The answer is yes!
What also is becoming much clearer is that good, reliable reporting is not inexpensive and to expect free news is unrealistic.
Newspapers might not always be printed on paper, but reporters still will sit down and write stories. They will take photographs and videos. The stories will be edited by editors and the news of the community will be delivered in some new fashion.
We may see the disappearance of carriers, but news will be delivered and, in the future, we are likely going to pay more for news.

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