Home Community News The Decline of Journalism in Canada

The Decline of Journalism in Canada

“After all, such [journalism] businesses have to reach a bottom line.”

by Ishitaa Chopra
The entrance of Rogers Communication Centre (RCC) at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU).
In 2022, the operating revenue of Canadian newspaper publishers decreased by 7.9 per cent to a little under $2 billion, according to StatsCan. (OTR/ Ishitaa Chopra)

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The past five months have been marked by layoffs at major outlets such as CBC, Vice, and CTV. The most recent hit came in February when Bell Media announced it would sell 45 radio stations and cut 4,800 jobs, further causing uncertainty among journalists. With these many layoffs in journalism, the question arises: should student journalists pursue it as a career?

Cecil Rosner says that journalism has always been worth pursuing and is vital for a society to have a healthy journalistic community. 

“People depend on journalists to let them know about what’s going on in the world,” he said, “to help them [the people] figure out what’s true and what isn’t true in terms of all the messaging that’s out there,”

Rosner is the managing editor of the Investigative Journalism Foundation (IJF), and he says that the journalism industry needs passionate journalists who care about the truth. 

For Jacquie Miller, a veteran journalist, the answer lies in what attracted you to journalism in the first place.

“If [the reader] is curious about exploring the world, about investigating things, about writing, about meeting a wide variety of people, [and] maybe making a small difference in some way, in this world,” she said.

Are Journalism Schools Meeting Industry Needs?

In 2023, Loyalist College, Humber College, Wilfrid Laurier University, Mohawk College and the University of Regina suspended or discontinued their respective journalism programmes in response to poor enrollment and industry changes. 

Scaachi Koul, a journalist and alum of Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU), says that none of the universities are preparing students well enough. Though she does not regret her journalism degree, she highlights that certain things should be taught to students better, especially when it comes to managing one’s finances as a journalist. 

“What do I do with my taxes? Do I need an accountant? What’s an HST number? Do I need the HST number when I start freelancing?” are some of the questions she said were left unanswered during her studies.

Journalism schools in Ontario are adapting to these massive industry changes by motivating students “to be storytellers in every field,” according to the Canadian Press. 

Ravindra Mohabeer, an associate professor and chair of the School of Journalism at TMU, says that there is a belief in our society that questions the value of a degree in financial terms. 

He says that one may be able to earn a similar amount of money in some fields with or without a degree, but a university education has the potential to impact a person’s life differently. 

A university education is meant to provide a student with a broad set of skills and advance new knowledge instead of just reproducing what already exists in the world, according to Mohabeer.

“You might be able to make as much without a degree, but I guarantee you, you will be living in the world in a very different way. And you will be contributing to the world in a very different way,” he said.

Mohabeer has taught thousands of students over the course of his career and says that for the students who encountered difficulties at different times in their careers, a university degree has given them the flexibility to change and grow, giving them a clear advantage over others who would have landed jobs quickly based entirely on their skill set. 

Journalism: A Transferable Degree

“The thing about journalism training is that it provides really transferable skills. In journalism school, you learn how to think critically. People learn how to communicate effectively and how to deal with a wide variety of people,” said Miller. “And those skills are valuable for practically any employer.” 

According to Kanan.co, media and journalism came in the top three of Canada’s most ‘in demand’ courses. 

“You also learn how to quickly digest, analyze and summarize large volumes of complex information in a way that can be easily understood by the general public. And that is a really invaluable skill,” she said

Rosner says that in 1991, there were about 13,000 journalists and 23,000 public relations and communications agents working in Canada, but by 2021, PR agents greatly outnumbered the journalists, with only 11,000 people in journalism and 160,000 people in PR and communications. 

While working for a media corporation might feel like an unsteady proposition right now, Wendy Kaur, a freelance journalist, says that there is a lot of freedom in freelancing.

In the past 10 years, the number of freelance journalists has grown to 17 per cent, compared to 5 per cent of freelance journalists from 1987 – 1996, according to a 2019 study on journalism jobs

According to Kaur, one can work on stories one likes and pitch them to different corporations. 

“I can write for newspapers if I want. I can write for magazines if I want. I can write for a lot of digital outlets that I want,” she said. 

On the other hand, “It is harder to break into editors and mainstream outlets that you don’t know, but it’s not impossible, and you have to start somewhere.” 

Similarly, Koul says journalism is all about gaining an editor’s trust. 

“You are fighting the fact that you don’t have name recognition and you don’t have clippings. That’s why it’s best to start really early,” she said. 

What Is The Cause Of These Layoffs?

A timeline summarizing the latest happenings in the journalism industry.
A recent timeline of the journalism industry (OTR/ Ishitaa Chopra )

According to Mohabeer, these layoffs tend to come in cycles, and this time around, they are significant. There are multiple factors, including platform and economic reconstructing and a deep reevaluation of the purpose of journalism as an enterprise.

Moreover, when it comes to thinking of journalism as a business, he says that media corporations have a bottom line when running a business. 

With this convergence of business and journalism, Miller says it was easier back then not to think about the “business” side of journalism. 

“Other journalists took pride in not thinking about it too much because we were journalists and…there was supposed to be an iron wall between the advertising department and the journalists,” she said.

So, when it comes to deciding whether you should stay in journalism or not, the federal Job Bank predicts that the employment outlook for journalists is “moderate” for the 2023-2025 period. There are about 4,350 people working as journalists in Ontario, according to the Government of Canada’s job bank.

Moreover, Miller says there is a greater need for journalists in this new age of misinformation. She says this has been specifically concerning since the 2016 U.S. presidential elections and the pandemic. 

In the initial months of the COVID-19 outbreak in Canada, 96 per cent of people found information on the internet that they suspected to be false, inaccurate or misleading, according to StatsCan. 

“After Donald Trump was elected and during COVID-19, there was this flood of misinformation,” Miller said. “The most difficult thing is to determine whether something is misleading,”

According to StatsCan, 59 per cent of Canadians are concerned about online misinformation, and in a different study by StatsCan, 53 per cent of Canadians have a “low level” of trust in media as they grow more cautious of the information they receive. However, when the news comes from television, print media, and radio, they are more tuned to trust those channels than social media.

This article may have been created with the use of AI software such as Google Docs, Grammarly, and/or Otter.ai for transcription.

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