The media: watchdog, power-cons necessary or pillar of democracy?
Since the advent of the mass media, journalism was a mission the supervision of public authorities and private for the common good. Today, reports and surveys show the importance of the work of journalists and determined with adequate means to carry out their work. Such investigations should not however hide the current challenges of the practice of journalism, the consequences of the commercialization of information and the disparity of access to local and regional information.
The issue of information in society affects us all. First, because the information is among the civic literacy indicators: it helps make each of us a better citizen. Moreover, access to information and development of independent media, government included, in the eyes of international organizations, including indicators of social, political and economic societies. But curiously, such links between information and community development does not automatically do so.
A crisis, what crisis?
It is important to decide what is presented as the economic structural crisis of media companies and the crisis of information of public interest. While companies are experiencing financial difficulties and need to review their business model, often to the detriment of the diversity and quality of information. They turn to entertainment, a strong “peopolisation” governance and the rule of comment at the expense of the story.
These economic choices which must be added the current strategies of convergence of content, job cuts and the use of poorly paid freelance writers, serve the financial objectives of companies, but not their mission to inform. But it is this mission which we must now concern ourselves collectively.
See and hear
The impact of media ownership concentration and the huge disparity of resources between large companies and independent and community media are significant in the field of local and regional information.Quebec is vast and the market forces – sometimes small population – can not ensure a sufficient variety of information, jeopardizing the existence of local and regional media.
The links between information and community development are not yet well established. Knowing what is discussed at the council, have the information necessary to discuss the development plan with neighbors or read a non complacent interview with a local elected transforms our relationship with the community. This information is the first engine of civic engagement. Unfortunately, the local public information is often inaccessible, media blame for the present or lack of space in them, invaded by advertising.
If the trade war that currently deliver the two giants of the weekly press, Transcontinental and Quebecor, has significantly increase the number of weekly newspapers, it already causes damage. The voices of independent newspapers (whose number has decreased) or community are heard. First victims of this war advertising rates, independent denounce unfair trade practices. These alarm calls are echoed in many of the submissions to the Minister Christine St-Pierre during the public consultation on the information held in the fall of 2011.
Please, could we hear from the Gaspé, Montreal and Saguenay, about other topics that plant closing or the opening of the lobster fishery?
Production and dissemination of information in the regions are major issues. But one should not underestimate the role and contribution of interregional information; eg Gaspé solutions to social or economic crises are often presented in Abitibi, where they could be imported and adapted – and vice versa. The interregional information also helps to fight against stereotypes; Information concerning the regions is often caricatured. Please, could we hear from the Gaspé, Montreal and Saguenay, about other topics that plant closing or the opening of the lobster fishery? The information here occupies a fundamental function: the development of social ties. Without interregional information, it is very difficult to develop solidarity among Quebecers.
Saved by techie?
Internet and new information and communications technology (ICT) represent a promising avenue for holding debates necessary for democratic development. But beware, this does not solve all the problems raised. Our work has shown that information public experiences the same difficulties in finding financing on these modern platforms than in traditional media. NICT still allow for new media develop, the hyperlocal news sites are exciting avenues in environments where a TV, radio or newspaper could be born, for lack of a sufficient market for do exist . They eliminate the barrier of kilometers and high production costs, printing and distribution. However, imposes a condition: that all citizens must have access to these technologies and have the training to use them. Problems of access and introduction to ICT in some areas exacerbate the gap between the information rich and the information poor. These differences represent a stinging defeat for Quebec and its future.
A social debate on the availability of information in Quebec is required. It must engage with social organizations and local development. Information is necessary for social debate, it is the same ferment of social progress.