Welcome and opening remarks
April Lindgren, Academic director, Ryerson Journalism Research Centre, Ryerson University
Charles Davis, Associate Dean, Scholarly Research & Creative Activities, Faculty of Communication & Design
June 3-4, 2017
Ryerson Journalism Research Centre
Welcome and opening remarks
April Lindgren, Academic director, Ryerson Journalism Research Centre, Ryerson University
Charles Davis, Associate Dean, Scholarly Research & Creative Activities, Faculty of Communication & Design
Understanding Local Journalism: An Overview
Moderator: Jaigris Hodson, Royal Roads University
April Lindgren, Ryerson University
These are challenging times for local news media in Canada. Local broadcast and print newsrooms have been hit by cutbacks, consolidations and closures and many digital-first news sites are struggling to survive. Research on local “news poverty” from The Local News Research Project illustrates the extent to which local news is at risk and available unevenly across Canada.
Colette Brin, Université Laval
In Quebec, weekly newspapers are traditionally an important source of local and regional news. In the past few years, however, dozens of these publications have closed or merged. Online initiatives, meanwhile, are relatively rare and concentrated in Montreal. Newspaper owners are now asking for public funding to weather the storm and appealing to advertisers to “buy local.” The Centre d’études sur les médias is documenting changes to the Quebec media landscape.
Damian Radcliffe, University of Oregon / Cardiff University
Local news is important to audiences, communities and the wider media ecosystem, but fundamental long-term issues remain in terms of sustainability (financial and human), relationships with big media and keeping abreast of changes in audience behaviors and expectations. Although the American and British markets are very different, a number of common challenges remain. This session will explore some of the main similarities and differences to local news provision on both sides of the Atlantic.
Michelle Ferrier, Ohio University
While the media landscape has shifted over the past 10 years with the development of hyperlocal online news sites, in the United States we find these hyperlocals are growing in high income/high education communities, mirroring the class journalism employed by legacy media. Ferrier will discuss strategies to jump-start local coverage in media deserts, including community engagement approaches to building trust and inclusive journalism strategies.
Does Local News Matter? Tales From the Trenches
Moderator: Asmaa Malik, Ryerson University
Kristy Hess, Deakin University
Local news is gaining increasing traction in academic scholarship on a global scale as news media reassess their place in the digital terrain. Understanding local journalism and why it matters is an important component to broader understandings of news and journalism. Hess will provide an overview of the role of local news in western democracies, including key concepts, the importance of local news to our daily lives and the challenges and practices
unique to the local level, from business models to the power that comes from connecting people to others and to place.
James Gordon, Municipal councillor, City of Guelph
The 149-year-old Guelph Mercury, one of the oldest daily newspapers in Canada, published its last edition in January 2016. The day before the closure, readers gathered outside the Mercury’s newsroom to hug staff, thank reporters and even embrace the building. James Gordon, who is a city councillor for the community of 130,000, reflects on the state of local news in the post-Mercury era. In the absence of a news outlet that provides balanced coverage, he says, the loudest voices – rather than the most reasoned – prevail.
Brian Lambie, President, Redbrick Communications
Media Relations Contact, Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO)
Media is changing as traditional providers compete with social media. News moves faster. Less time and fewer resources are available for research. Communities are losing traditional news sources. A few urban centres receive intense coverage, while the majority of communities receive relatively little. The local news vacuum is being filled by new forms of media, with different rules, values and expectations. Attribution is often anonymous and advocacy and marketing can masquerade as objective news. Out of necessity, governments and businesses are responding by publishing their own news independently.
Knia Singh J.D., Community activist
Knia Singh, past president and co-founder of the Osgoode Society Against Institutional Injustice, is currently articling at the firm of Dallas Criminal Defence in Toronto. His fight to end random police checks that have disproportionately targeted Black and Indigenous men involved launching a constitutional challenge and a Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario complaint. In his role as a “go to” source for journalists writing about racial profiling by police, he has observed first-hand how local news coverage can play a role in changing perceptions, police practices and government policy.
Greater than the sum of its parts: Strategies for strengthening local news ecosystems: A lunch talk with Josh Stearns
Josh Stearns, associate director of the Democracy Fund’s Public Square Program, will present a conceptual framework for understanding local news ecosystems and offer concrete strategies for strengthening the health and sustainability of local news and information. Where there once was a thriving news industry dominated locally by big newspapers and TV stations, he observes, there are now struggling news ecosystems made up of small pieces loosely joined. As such, the health of a news ecosystem used to be rooted in the stability of a few big newsrooms, but today healthy news ecosystems are more diverse and dynamic. If we are to support a vibrant and healthy news ecosystem, we have to attend not only to the health of individual newsrooms but also strengthen the connections between them.
Moderator: Janice Neil, Ryerson University
Invisible Judgments: Source Diversity and Local Journalism (Lightning Talk)
Moderator: Gavin Adamson, Ryerson University
Asmaa Malik, Ryerson University
Newsrooms make hundreds of invisible judgments everyday. To whom do journalists speak? Who do they quote? From whose point of view are stories told and whose voices get the most prominence? Research shows news under-represents citizens and activists and favours authority and power. Using named-entity recognition, the Journalism Representation Index (JeRI) categorizes and weights the types of sources quoted and represented in a news story. JeRI offers news organizations and media watchdogs a rare view of how journalists fare in representing all of the key stakeholders in stories of heightened public interest. Using named-entity recognition, JeRI categorizes and weights the types of sources quoted and represented in a news story
and helps newsrooms understand the cumulative impact of the choices they make in
sourcing their journalism. JeRI offers a performance index about the variety and depth
of sources reporters are representing. This evaluation offers valuable insights into
stories of particular importance. For our pilot project, we are focusing on stories about
police carding and racial profiling in Toronto media coverage.
Tyler Nagel, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and Alycia Mutual, University of Northern British Columbia
During the summer of 2016, the largest cruise ship to date traveled through the Northwest Passage in the Canadian arctic, carrying more than 1,600 passengers. During this voyage, the Crystal Serenity made stops in the northern communities of Ulukhaktok, Cambridge Bay and Pond Inlet. The trip was covered extensively in the area’s two local media outlets. Mainstream southern Canadian media also covered the story. This presentation examines coverage from the perspectives of sourcing and voice; in particular, the balance of voices from the north verses voices from the south in coverage by both local and major-market media. As expected, local media gives a greater voice (both in ratio and overall sources) to local residents. But these findings pose interesting questions about the duty of major-market media to include local voices in their coverage.
Catherine Wallace, Atkinson Fellow in Public Policy 2016-2017
Diversity of civic information goes beyond the race, gender and sexuality of journalists; we should also consider the types of information to which a community has access. Professional journalism is produced according to a particular mindset, which includes the abilities to stand apart and to relentlessly pursue government malfeasance. These abilities are key to upholding democracy. But as the news industry shrinks, we risk losing the kind of stories that knit communities together and spur our curiosity — stories not always related to “news.” If we find reliable sources outside the news industry (such as citizens and universities) to get more of these stories, we also add greatly to the diversity of authorities, voices and contexts in the portrayals of our societies.
Assessing the State of Local News at Multiple Levels of Analysis:
The Latest From the News Measures Research Project (Panel)
This session will present the latest methodological developments and research results from the News Measures Research Project, a Rutgers University research initiative funded by the Democracy Fund and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation that focuses on developing quantitative and qualitative indicators of the health of local journalism. Presenters will discuss methodological and technological aspects of the research, as well as findings from analyses conducted at the state, designated market area and community levels.
Moderator: Philip M. Napoli, Duke University
This presentation will provide an overview of the News Measures Research Project, which was established to provide more granular information about the state of local journalism across large samples of communities in a way that is practical, affordable and replicable. After developing and testing a methodology that focused on three levels of analysis:1) infrastructure (i.e. number of local news outlets serving a community), 2) output (i.e. the quantity of news output emerging from these outlets) and 3) performance (i.e. the extent to which the news output is: a) local; b) original; and c) addressing a “critical information need”), we are now examining local news in a random sample of 100 U.S. communities. The key questions we seek to answer are whether the infrastructure, output and performance of local journalism is a function of geographic and demographic characteristics of individual communities, and how the nature of these relationships can inform philanthropic strategy for supporting local journalism and media policy.
This presentation will provide an overview of the Internet Archive, its archiving activities and the archive’s research collaborations with media and journalism researchers. The challenges and opportunities associated with archiving online content will be discussed. The presentation will also include an overview of the processes associated with designing and implementing the web crawls conducted for the News Measures Research Project and putting the crawl results into a form that facilitates analytical approaches, such as content analysis and network analysis.
This presentation leverages big data analysis and web archive data to create a large-scale record of local news content across the United States. The data has been used to examine how various types of local news websites occupy key roles in the local news ecosystem, either influencing information flow or dominating a given community’s news landscape by controlling information flow. Social network analysis was used to conduct a multilevel study of the local news community, looking at the connections between local news websites both within a given community and across the entire network of communities. This presentation will also discuss the archiving of local news and how it is being preserved for both research and practice. The aggregate findings represent one of the first large-scale examinations of the interconnectivity of local news websites in the United States.
This presentation will focus on assessments of local news infrastructure measured in terms of the number of news outlets and news workers serving individual states and designated market areas (DMAs). This analysis also sought to explore the utility of existing commercial media databases such as BIA/Kelsey and Cision in terms of leveraging these databases to conduct robust analyses of the state of local journalism at state and DMA levels. The results will facilitate comparative assessments of the health of local journalism across states/DMAs. It will also provide insights into the relationship between geographic and demographic characteristics of individual states/DMAs and the robustness of local journalism.
Thinking Outside the Box: Crowdfunding, Cooperating and Thinking Local — Really Local (Panel)
Moderator: Andrea Hunter, Concordia University
Patricia W. Elliott, University of Regina
Non-profit, small enterprise and cooperative media represent a vibrant and growing segment of Canada’s media ecology. Sometimes referred to as third sector media, these operations hold certain advantages over commercial and state media, having more flexible organizational structures, diverse revenue streams and strong community connections. However, the work of third sector media producers typically gets overlooked by media development planners, leaving their operations sidelined on the margins of government initiatives, program reviews and decision-making circles. This presentation will examine the role of a third media sector in our communications landscape, with a view to expanding its inclusion in discussions about the future of local news in Canada. We’ll think small, then think big!
Andrea Hunter, Concordia University
In a time when job cuts and closures in journalism are increasingly the norm, crowdfunding has been championed as a way for journalists to finance new journalism ventures and create work outside of mainstream media. This research looks at examples of journalists and would-be journalists in Canada and the United States who are turning to crowdfunding to fund journalism that is focused on their local communities. They are motivated by what they see as a hole in mainstream media, where local news is often overlooked or under-reported. This research examines best practices for crowdfunding, with a focus on labour issues. What is often overlooked is that the labour involved in crowdfunding is often consuming and precarious. It is also a different type of labour than most journalists are used to, requiring them to be entrepreneurs. There are also ethical issues involved in relying on the ‘crowd’ for funding.
Gretchen King, University of Ottawa
Producing local news remains a challenge for many Canadian radio stations. Within Quebec, community radio stations employ more than 50 journalists. There are, however, only a handful of news departments and local news programs in the rest of Canada. Many community stations report difficulties maintaining news staff and volunteers. Currently, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission offers no oversight or expertise to ensure the development of community radio news or the sustainable production of local news content by the non-profit community broadcasting sector. Positioning non-profit community radio news as a pillar of the broadcasting system and an overlooked site of local news practices among scholars and policy makers, this research presents a preliminary assessment of interviews facilitated among community radio news producers regarding these practices and the difficulties facing community broadcasters in producing local news programming. It is part of ongoing research that documents the experiences of community radio listeners, producers and station staff to assess the impact of community radio news practices across small, medium and large broadcasting markets in Canada.
Sarah Stonbely with Stefanie Murray and Joe Amditis, Montclair State University
In the United States, as in many Western democracies, consolidation, downsizing and cost cutting have resulted in dramatic losses for local journalism in all but the largest cities. Surviving local journalism outlets, including many hyperlocal startups, have turned to collaborative journalism to share data, stretch limited resources and provide what are often more comprehensive stories to their audiences. This project compares models of collaborative journalism using a matrix that identifies common elements. It provides case studies representing each model and formulates best practices — as well as practices to be avoided. In addition to identifying/describing collaborative journalism models for journalism educators, funders and practitioners, the project highlights one way that local news and information providers are finding their way forward in the digital age.
Reporting on Indigenous Communities in Canada: Local People, Local Places, Local Issues (Panel)
This special session brings together Indigenous journalists from across Canada to discuss the challenges, opportunities and practicalities of covering local news about Indigenous people and their lives in the cities, towns, reserves and self-governing treaty territories they call home. Issues to be discussed range from the extent to which the press freedom guarantees in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms apply in self-governing treaty territories, to the challenges of covering racially charged local controversies in cities and towns with sizeable Indigenous populations.
Moderator: Michael Dick, CBC Thunder Bay
Local reporting helps build communities, hold power accountable and it allows citizens to make informed decisions about issues that impact them. This conference examines disruptions in local journalism and responses to it. But what happens in a community where there was never any local reporting to begin with? What happens if this community is a new democracy, but doesn’t have one of the key hallmarks of a democratic society? And what happens when political leaders in a community without a free press rebuke the efforts of journalists when they want to cover an issue of public interest? This is what I found in First Nations communities when I did my series of stories on freedom of the press and First Nations.
Kukukwes.com is an independent Indigenous news website funded by monthly
subscriptions and Patreon pledges. Maureen Googoo began Kukuwes.com in August
2015. Googoo is Mi’kmaq from the Indian Brook First Nation and a member of the
Sipekne’katik Band in Nova Scotia. Googoo has worked in journalism for nearly 30
years. She has worked as a reporter, editor and producer in radio, television, print and
online news. In 2008, Googoo was the recipient of the Adrienne Clarkson Diversity
Award with the Association of Electronic Journalists for a radio documentary she
produced for CBC Radio Atlantic about two Aboriginal groups in Nova Scotia seeking
official recognition from the federal government. Googoo was also part of the news
team at the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network that won a 2003 Native American
Journalists Association award for a television news special on the fourth anniversary of
the 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Donald Marshall commercial fishery
The Indigenous Reporters Program (IRP) is Journalists for Human Rights’ (JHR) first development program focusing its activities on Canadian soil. Scaled from a successful Northern Ontario Initiative pilot program, the Indigenous Reporters Program has two goals: 1) to build opportunities for Indigenous peoples to pursue careers in media, ultimately strengthening the Indigenous voice in Canadian media and 2) to ensure that non-Indigenous journalists are trained in best practices for reporting on Indigenous people, culture and issues. Through improving the quality and quantity of Indigenous voices and stories in the Canadian media, JHR is ensuring that the wider populace is better informed on these topics. This improved understanding is essential for true reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.
Carrie Buchanan, John Carroll University
Each local news publication expresses its unique character and that of its community – some call it “sense of place” – through its design and content. That character differs between publications and even between print and online versions of the same publication. This paper will introduce three hyperlocal news outlets that compete in roughly the same geographic area: the Heights Observer, the Sun Press and Patch.com. All serve segments of the eastern suburbs in Cleveland, Ohio, with circulation areas that intersect and overlap in the suburb of Cleveland Heights. How do the three differ in the sense of place they create about this local community? Starting in August 2013, this content analysis documented how the three publications vary in the way they represent the same suburb.
Maria Holubowicz, Université Grenoble Alpes
Local and hyperlocal media are now faced with the task of dealing not only with information that is highly localized, but also with issues that can be termed “global.” The scope of these issues extends beyond national borders and can even affect the whole of humanity — for example, environmental issues or the digital revolution. What are the global issues covered by local media? By what criteria are they selected? What is their place in local content? In what way does local media “glocalize” the selected global issues, i.e. how do they adapt these stories to the local dimension and the interests of their readership? We propose to find answers to these questions using as an example the local newspaper Le Postillon. This newspaper has been published since 2009 in Grenoble, which is the capital city of the French Alps and known for the vitality of its civil society.
Bryan Pirolli, University of Arts London
Local journalism traditionally addresses civic issues while tying communities together. In an increasingly globalized world, however, these communities don’t always share a common language. This research looks at an alternative form of local media, The Local, which emerged in 2004 as Europe’s largest English-language news site, reaching more than five million monthly users. Does this innovative site deliver on promises of “engaging journalism” and offering a “window on life in other cultures”? Using Rasmus Kleis Nielsen’s three areas — accountability and information, civic and political engagement and community integration — this research explores how this digital startup corresponds to the needs of local communities. Through interviews and questionnaires with several of The Local’s editors, as well as a content analysis of its website, it becomes clearer how this site strives to serve audiences across its nine national versions.
Lenka Waschkova Cisarova, Alena Mackova and Jakub Macek, Masaryk University
The relationship between audiences, local media and local news is presumed to be close. This “myth of the local” is criticized for being abused in media discourse, however. Could the “closeness” assumption be applied to other non-U.S. and non-U.K. media systems, or would such application shatter the ‘myth of the local’? What is the relationship among audiences, local media and local news in the Czech media system? In 2014, we have combined a quantitative survey of the Czech Republic’s age 18+ population and a series of qualitative interviews to answer these questions. Survey findings show that audiences have low interest in local news. While that does not necessarily shatter the ‘myth of local,’ the data highlights the difficulty in defining what ‘local’ actually means. Findings from interviews with media consumers reveal specifics of the audience, local media and local news relationship. Importantly, the data suggest that the U.S. and U.K. experiences can’t simply be extended to the Czech context.
Robert Washburn, Loyalist College
Meaningful discussions surrounding issues related to local news coverage can be confusing when they lump major news organizations like the Toronto Star, CBC and CTV with smaller ones like the Belleville Intelligencer, CHEX or the Wellington Times. There can be an urban bias in both the industry and academia when performing analysis and proposing solutions. Studies tend to focus on major mainstream news organizations far removed from rural communities and the newsrooms that are vital to the audiences they serve — a relationship that goes beyond providing news to include the sustainability of those communities economically and socially.
Matthew Powers, University of Washington and Sandra Vera Zambrano, Universidad Iberoamericana
This paper examines local journalists’ use of social media in France and the United States. Through interviews, we show that shared practical sensibilities lead journalists in both countries to use social media to accomplish routine tasks (e.g. to gather information, monitor sources and develop story ideas). At the same time, we argue that the incorporation of social media into daily practice also creates opportunities for journalists to garner peer recognition and that these opportunities vary according to the distinctive national fields in which journalists are embedded. Where American journalism gives individual journalists incentives to orient social media use toward audiences, French journalism motivates news organizations to use social media for
these purposes, while leaving individual journalists to focus primarily on engaging with their peers.
Dan Rowe, Humber College
The Oshawa Times, a 123-year-old daily newspaper serving a city of more than 100,000 people and surrounding communities, closed in 1994 during a labour dispute with the paper’s owner, Thomson Newspapers. In subsequent years, there has been no comparable replacement to the newspaper in the Oshawa area, despite the emergence of a local daily TV newscast. This research will look at voter turnout rates in Oshawa for federal, provincial and municipal elections before and after the newspaper’s 1994 closing. It will compare these turnout rates to other similar communities in Ontario over the same period to work toward an understanding of the effects of diminished local news coverage on voter turnout. This will serve as a preliminary and partial test of the normative theories of local journalism and democracy.
Philip Savage, McMaster University
This case study of the CBC in Hamilton provides new research on community and audience reaction to a highly publicized “new model” CBC storefront journalistic approach in 2014. This paper provides the results of a study of audiences to this new form of digital PSM service, pre- and post-launch. Through a combination of uses and gratification analysis and reception theory, with suitable to networked interviews, focus groups and large scale surveys, the findings show new patterns of reflection, identity and connection in terms of key stakeholders’ expectations and actual audience experience. A key concern involves the lack of traditional ‘broadcast’ audio-narrative storytelling expected by listeners/viewers/users.
Joyce Smith, Ryerson University
This paper will consider the ways local news outlets have operated as important conduits for charitable works in their communities and how this role may be changing as local news ecosystems restructure. The history of Canadian news organizations as reporters and publicists of first religious and then secular charities will be examined. The ways in which some outlets created their own charitable campaigns will also be considered. The hypotheses to be presented include: i) that newspapers lent legitimacy to religious organizations by supporting charitable works before serving as a pivot point for the creation of a secular welfare state; and ii) that local news outlets are now using philanthropic projects in part to shore up their own status as community actors while preserving their consumer base.
Reception + Local News Storytelling and Innovation Bazaar
Hear from researchers, journalists, news organizations and others as they showcase local news advocacy efforts, innovations/experiments and local news stories that have made a difference. In this new take on the traditional poster session, conference registrants will see multimedia and interactive presentations on local news research and get the chance to talk one-on-one with presenters.
Jon Corbett, University of British Columbia and April Lindgren, Ryerson University
This crowd-sourced Local News Map invites members of the public to share information about changes — launches, closures, service increases and service reductions — to local broadcast, online and print media in Canadian communities. Using this online resource, we aim to spark debate about what is happening to local journalism, generate data to inform that debate, track changes in local news availability and help researchers identify patterns/trends in the local news sector. The map launched on June 14, 2016. As of March 31, 2017, when we last analyzed the data, the map displayed 338 markers highlighting changes to local news outlets dating back to 2008. Of those, 188 markers documented the closure of local news outlets in 149 communities, while only 58 markers indicated the launch of new local news outlet of any media type.
John Ferri and Kathy Vey, TVO
The Ontario public service broadcaster TVO is creating a network of four local hubs in regions across the province as the result of a $2-million donation — one of the largest philanthropic gifts to journalism in Canada. This gift will allow TVO to increase coverage of Indigenous issues, hire journalists to expand current affairs coverage and establish partnerships with colleges and universities to create student internship opportunities. TVO, a registered charity supported by the Ontario government, sponsors and thousands of donors, provides Ontarians with in-depth analysis, debate, context and informed opinion about current affairs — something that is in increasingly short supply as economic forces disrupt the journalism industry. We will discuss how this transformational donation will help remedy the market’s failure to adequately serve local audiences and communities that feel abandoned and alienated from one another.
Omme-Salma Rahemtullah and Gretchen King, GroundWire
Tune-in to the first 60-seconds of any episode of GroundWire on the FM dial or online at www.groundwirenews.ca and hear how, through acknowledging Indigenous territory, (CAUT, 2016) non-profit community radio news journalism is using innovative practices to work towards decolonizing the news. One of the keys to decolonizing the media, as recommended by the Calls to Action prepared by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, is reclaiming the news, and GroundWire does this by decolonizing production practices, which are as important as content and distribution. GroundWire consciously and overtly seeks to align its media work with social justice and Indigenous movements that are working to resist and overcome the legacies of political and cultural domination that continues to define the state
Ian Gill and Wawmeesh Hamilton, Discourse Media
After conducting an information needs assessment of the Skeena region of northwestern British Columbia, a region grappling with the implications of massive proposed energy developments, Discourse Media launched an ongoing reporting series in an area poorly served by conventional media. This presentation highlights the divisions that development proposals have created between and within communities, features innovative reporting that uses social media as an engagement tool and asks hard questions about press freedoms and access to information in First Nations communities.
Diana Pereira and Dave Budge, CityNews Toronto
If the news business is failing, why do so many newsrooms keep doing things the same old way? One major news outlet is winning by rejecting some big traditions. CityNews has no anchor sitting at a desk in a well-lit studio. Instead, the newscasts come from reporters out in the city they cover. CityNews is winning awards, growing in the ratings, attracting a much younger audience than its competitors and expanding while the rest of the industry shrinks. Soon, CityNews will produce daily newscasts in five more Canadian cities. And it’s hiring.
Claus Rinner, April Lindgren and Andrew Komaromy, Ryerson University
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) enable the integration, mapping and analysis of data in numerous fields of application. It has been estimated that 80 per cent of all data collected by governments and businesses contain geographic references, and local news is no exception. We will explain how we conceptualize local news items as data points and how we use GIS to manage and analyze them. The analysis includes cartographic mapping for visual analysis of local news distribution and geospatial tools for quantitative-statistical analysis of the same data. The objective of this research is to identify concentrations and gaps in local news coverage within a given area and thus better understand the status of — and trends in — local news reporting.
Scott White, The Conversation Canada
The Conversation is a global network where journalists and academics have teamed up to create a new journalism model — and now it’s coming to Canada. The Conversation Canada is the sixth national edition of the global Conversation network. Since its launch in Australia in 2011, The Conversation has expanded to the U.K., the U.S., France and Africa, as well as through the creation of a global website. Our team of professional editors works with researchers to unlock their knowledge for audiences across Canada, contributing to a better understanding of current affairs and complex issues at the international, national, regional and local levels. The Conversation Canada will help local news coverage on two fronts. First, we hope to provide local audiences with research-based explanatory journalism on issues that impact Canadians at local and personal levels. Secondly, all the content from The Conversation is free for anyone to use under Creative Commons license. This will provide new local news start-ups with quality content at no cost.
The Student Solution? (Panel)
Moderator: Archie McLean, Mount Royal University
Errol Salamon, University of Pennsylvania
University and college campuses across the United States and Canada have recently launched, partnered or collaborated with news services, investigative journalism centres and non-profit or commercial news outlets. These initiatives give students valuable training and help provide a public service, filling gaps in local news coverage. Yet there is a longer history of collaborations between professional journalists and students that can be traced as far back as 1920. This paper outlines a short historical survey of the different types of journalistic collaborations with students of yesterday and today.
Janice Paskey, Mount Royal University
Many Canadian college and university journalism programs have vibrant news sites and print publications that contribute to the local news landscape. This project surveyed journalism program faculty editors nationwide to find out more about the types of local news students cover, the impact of their online and print publications and the on-the-ground realities of covering local news with students within learning settings.
Archie McLean, Mount Royal University
A 2017 survey of collegiate news operations in Canada shows an opportunity for digital outreach and audience engagement. The social media results show a traditional reliance on social media to push readers to the respective website. However, could a fresh approach to social media extend the reach of collegiate news organizations and enable the coverage of more local news?
Understanding Local News in a Changing Media Environment:
New Methods for Local News Research (Panel)
This panel offers a methodological toolkit for studying local news. Offering insights into text mining, user analysis, the qualitative analysis of interviews and network analysis, each presentation will demonstrate tools and approaches that can offer research insights into the state of the local news ecosystem in Canada and around the world.
Moderator: Jaigris Hodson, Royal Roads University
Jaigris Hodson, Royal Roads University
This presentation will discuss two different approaches to understanding the local news ecosystem: social media text mining and user experience methods. Beginning with social media text mining, it will show how local news audiences can be understood through text, illuminating how social media mining can shed light on users by understanding what they share and comment on. It will use the traditional UX card sort method to show how user preferences for social media sites can be understood as a series of competing social and societal influences. This method offers the potential to understand gaps in social media use between local journalists and their publics, and thus help reveal opportunities to better target audiences with stories that will resonate.
Nadine Nakagawa, Royal Roads University
In the unmediated landscape provided by social media, Canadian political leaders have unprecedented opportunity to engage with national and local constituents. Since participation barriers are relatively low, Twitter in particular offers a potential public sphere where ideas and issues can be discussed between citizens and with political leaders. Genuine engagement requires dialogic participation on the part of the politicians, however, rather than simply using social media as tools for broadcasting messages in the same way that would be done on television, radio or in newspapers. Combining existing models from the literature, this study creates a new hybrid model of online social media engagement that is dialogic in nature and can be used to understand how people share and consume political news online.
Priya Kumar and Philip Mai, Ryerson University Social Media Lab
Social media is now the place where people are gathering en masse to discuss the news with their friends, neighbors and complete strangers. This change in news consumers’ behavior is proving to be a challenge for local news, but it is also an opportunity. Users and system generated data from social media can also be a boon for content creators. This presentation will feature a case study showing how publishers can use social media analytics to gain insights into their audience and how to use this information to foster a stronger sense of community around their brand of journalism. The case study will focus on how to use Netlytic, a cloud-based social media analytics tool, to mine the public Facebook interactions of the readers of BlogTO, a regional, Canadian-based media outlet, to find out what their readers are interested in and what engages them.
David M. Secko, Concordia University
Local journalism is often a key understudied link to rural areas and the critical information needs (CINs) of communities during an emerging infectious disease outbreak. This was the case during the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, which was not just a health crisis, but also a crisis of information. While the World Health Organization acknowledged this crisis of information and the “need for urgent change” after heavy criticism, limited research has examined the ineffectiveness of using disconnected non-local messaging to reach and inform various communities and publics. This gap noticeably extends to a lack of analysis of the challenges local journalists face in accessing credible scientific information and fulfilling their perceived roles during an infectious disease outbreak. In collaboration with the World Federation of Science Journalists, this paper examines the role of local journalism during the 2014 Ebola epidemic via qualitative interviews with 36 West African journalists.
The Economics of Local: Survival in the New Competitive Landscape (Panel)
Moderator: Sherry S. Yu, Temple University
Damian Radcliffe, University of Oregon / Cardiff University and Christopher Ali, University of Virginia
This paper addresses a knowledge gap concerning small market newspapers in the United States. We address a deceptively simple research question: What is the state of small market newspapers in the U.S.? Based on in-depth interviews with experts and practitioners, and drawing on grounded theory for analysis, we argue for a more nuanced vocabulary to speak about newspapers and local news. Grouping all newspapers into a single monolithic industry — as general sector analyses often do — suggests a homogenous experience. But that is not the case. Smaller publications face their own challenges and opportunities, and they define success and innovation on their own terms. This reality needs to be better understood.
Nicole Blanchette Neheli, Sheridan College
Local newspapers traditionally cover a specific geographic area and create a product catered to their community. But that formula is changing as a result of digital news, analytics and the consolidation of news organizations that can no longer afford to survive in smaller markets. At the Hamilton Spectator (in Ontario), online journalists work on their own site and also manage the websites of the Waterloo Region Record and the Guelph Mercury Tribune. Although the printed Spectator still creates content specific to its surrounding community, its website serves an audience that could be anywhere in the world and the emphasis isn’t always on local news, but what will attract the most page views. In this presentation, Blanchette Neheli will explore whether this type of consolidation and expanded focus is a sound business model that will help local news coverage thrive, or if surviving under such constraints will change the fabric of
what makes local, local.
Nikki Usher Layser, George Washington University
Scholarship on how and why choices get made about what to cover in a time of limited resources is of utmost importance to explain how journalists understand the challenges facing their newsrooms. This presentation, based on empirical field research in five U.S. metropolitan newsrooms, argues that issues with metropolitan journalism need to be considered not just from an economic or news quality perspective, but also from the perspective of the professional culture of journalism. Ultimately, the paper aims to help shed insight into forward-looking strategies that could help sustain metropolitan newsrooms.
Sherry S. Yu, Temple University
Ethnic media are known to serve a dual role of delivering news about both here (the country of settlement) and there (the country of origin). While ethnic media studies generally confirm an integrative role of ethnic media, an alienation hypothesis is simultaneously raised. That is, ethnic media tend to lean more toward there than here. Is the geographic focus on there an editorial choice, economic choice or driven by other factors? This study explores ethnic media as business ventures and the impact of commercialization of the news industry on the quantity and quality of local news production.
Know Thy Neighbor: Local News as a Tool for Overcoming Difference (Panel)
Moderator: Amira Elghawaby, National Council of Canadian Muslims
This presentation will explore the challenge of managing diversity, equity and inclusion in the context of a small Muslim Canadian publication. While a lot of work has been done in identifying the biases and blind spots of mainstream Western media, less is known about how biases, blind spots and more serious issues of systemic discrimination manifest themselves within Muslim community publications. By discussing her personal journey with the publication Muslim Link, reflections on other Muslim-led publications, the role of personal social media networks and the relationship between community media and mainstream local media, Daigle will offer insights into how each of us have a role to play in ensuring that local and community media do a better job at reflecting the diversity and complexity of our communities.
Daro will discuss the importance of local news to national news organizations. Without good, accurate local news, it’s difficult for newsrooms in big cities like Toronto or Ottawa to know what’s happening in communities across the country. The loss of robust local news coverage also means losing a lot of positive news stories. Not everything has to be doom and gloom, but that is often what makes it onto the national radar. By telling positive stories, journalist can help break down stereotypes and bring people together.
All news is local news. Journalists can’t get at the core of the story without having some idea of the local milieu. Stories are told by going granular. This is particularly telling in that we all acknowledge coverage of Muslims and their issues is lacking because reporters don’t generally know what’s happening at the local level. Not only is there a gap in information about what people are actually talking about, outsiders conclude that no one is talking at all. That’s how we end up with stupid views like “Muslims never condemn terrorism,” for example. It also paints an erroneous picture that there is no intellectual debate happening, or that conversations are not dynamic at the local level in diverse communities. By the time you move up to national/international voices, the nuance and depth are gone.
Newspapers used to focus primarily on cities – that is, local news. Every aspect of urban life was covered, no matter how unsexy. Today’s breakdown of this structure means, at least in part, that this equal prioritization is totally disturbed. Online platforms can’t generate enough funds to pay one or two journalists full time to cover “trivial” topics, so they prioritize the sexier stuff instead. This will hurt our future coverage of minority communities, which were already neglected by traditional outlets. Moreover, Muslims will lose out on a lot. There’s already an emphasis on national security reporting (a needed category to be sure) and of other post-9/11 issues, but there won’t be consistent local coverage of Muslim communities in any systemic way. Papers will have to rely on poorly paid freelancers for this kind of thing – if they even bother checking for those pitches in their stuffed-up inboxes.
On the Beat: Police and Local News (Lightning Talk)
Moderator: Chris Waddell, Carleton University
Gavin Adamson, Ryerson University
Everyone in the news industry (and most readers) know the phrase, “if it bleeds it ledes,” but this paper puts it to the test in the social and digital contexts of news. This paper describes the statistical link between crime stories and reading and sharing habits. The correlation study shows that stories that contain terms such as “knife”, “crime”, “gun”, “law” and “violence” are read more frequently, but that readers spend no more time on the page than they do average articles and do not tend to share these stories via social networks more than average. The study uses web analytics data from several local newsrooms and includes a literature review about crime as a news topic and its implications. The analysis is considered in the context of the sociology of news, as well as uses and gratifications theory.
Romayne Smith Fullerton, University of Western Ontario and Maggie Jones Patterson, Duquesne University
Local or community-based journalism practices are under siege globally. Dublin in the early 2000s was no different. Pressured by the internet and the arrival of British tabloids, Irish media moved away from their long-standing tradition of rarely naming a suspect until trial and not circulating photographs of an accused in shackles or coming to or from jail. Working from data collected in interviews with journalists in 2012, this paper considers how the Irish pushed back against the British tabloid invasion and instituted their own code of acceptable journalistic behaviours. What is at stake and what could be lost? What are the values of upholding community standards in the face of globalizing sameness? Could the Irish approach work elsewhere?
Lisa Taylor, Ryerson University
Until very recently, releasing identifying information in fatalities investigations was, traditionally, a matter of course for Canadian police; that information was often the logical starting point for journalists seeking to answer basic questions of legitimate public interest. This practice is changing, however – a change that strikes at the heart of our constitutional guarantee of press freedom, negating the news media’s role in society and virtually ignoring the fact that a crime is a wrong committed against not just an individual, but society as a whole. Taylor is currently working with an industry partner that has shared data documenting its efforts to elicit this type of identifying information from police, as well as the denials its journalists face and the reasons these denials are given. There is no scholarly literature that explores this precise issue, despite the fact that it is of fundamental importance to journalists and their publics.
Bailey Gerrits, Queen’s University
Local news coverage of crime relies on police information, and this source-media relationship influences the discursive construction of gender-based crimes such as domestic violence. Previous research suggests that police-media relations often asymmetrically favour the police, while retaining a degree of healthy tension. The relationship, and domestic violence news, is shifting, however, as many Canadian local newspapers are shrinking, while police communications professionalize and increase their capacity. Comparing two medium-sized city media landscapes, this paper explores how police influence local newspaper reporting on domestic violence, shifting police-media relations and its influence on crime reporting practices. The paper interweaves content and discourse analysis of news reports in daily newspapers from 2014 to 2016 with semi-structured interviews with police communications officials, local news reporters and editors. The evidence suggests that not only do police communications officials influence how domestic violence is covered, but also whether or not it’s covered at all.
Media Ownership and Concentration: The Impact on Local Journalism (Panel)
Moderator: Ann Rauhala, Ryerson University
Marc Edge, University Canada West
The number of paid circulation daily newspapers in Canada has decreased from 98 to 90 since 2010 due to closures, mergers and changes in publication frequency. Six of the lost dailies were published in British Columbia, where regional chains Black Press and Glacier Media have made a number of deals, including trades, to eliminate competition. Between them, Black Press and Glacier have closed seventeen of the newspapers they have exchanged, including the Alberni Valley Times in late 2015 and the Nanaimo Daily News in early 2016. While this would appear to be classic anti-competitive behaviour, the dealings have gone without apparent challenge from the federal Competition Bureau. While there were 36 daily newspapers in B.C. at the beginning of this decade, there are now thirteen. All but one of the closures have come shortly after Glacier or Black Press purchased the rival newspaper in the community from the other company.
John Miller, Ryerson University
This is a case study of what’s happened to local news, opinion and photographs at one local newspaper. It compares a week’s coverage of Northumberland Today to its predecessors, the 2008 and 1996 editions of the Port Hope Evening Guide, and shows a precipitous decline in local content, raising some important questions about the future of hometown news.
Adam Szynol, University of Wroclaw
Regional dailies are perceived as an essential part of the Polish media landscape because they reach readers every day, while more locally-based media tend to publish only weekly or monthly. The situation for regional daily papers has recently changed dramatically, however, threatening their existence. First of all, nearly the whole media segment was taken over by a company from Germany. Secondly, market circumstances are weakening significantly as readership and sales decline and the publisher has become economically unstable. Finally, the new government is considering the ‘re-Polonization’ of the media, possibly in pursuit of its own political interests. New regulations, which are still being prepared, may destroy regional press in the long run.
Monica Auer, Forum for Research and Policy in Communications and Geneviève Bonin, University of Ottawa
This paper will describe the evolution of Canadian law concerning local broadcast journalism, outcomes of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications (CRTC)’s regulatory approach to local broadcast news and the impact of CRTC policies and regulations on those working in broadcast newsrooms. After summarizing historical developments in the regulation of journalism in radio and television, the paper will discuss the implications of current Canadian policies, regulations and licensing decisions for local broadcast news to provide context for regulatory proposals to strengthen local electronic journalism. We will also present international data about journalism and empirical research about Canadian broadcast journalists’ perceptions of their changing roles and workloads. The paper will conclude by exploring the implications of new regulatory models for electronic local journalism – the status quo, incremental change to address regulatory gaps and a de novo approach to strengthen local journalism in the 21st century.
Desiree Hill, University of Central Oklahoma and Sherrie Brown, KMBC-TV, Kansas City
This analysis investigates a selection of profitable, highly-rated local news affiliates in the United States. Multiple stations, including KWTV in Oklahoma City and KMBC in Kansas City, are studied to understand how local affiliates are leveraging the resource-based view (RBV) of management – in particular, VRIN strategies – to develop cutting-edge ideas to retain audiences and remain profitable. In-depth interviews are conducted to understand the ways these top stations remain competitive and strategize for the future. This study reveals how the VRIN approach is allowing local stations to execute successful performance in a time of great change for the local news industry. The concepts that utilize VRIN methods can illuminate a path for other local news organizations to generate ideas, grow audiences, and increase revenue at a time when the way forward may seem unclear.
Buffy McGaw, Global News
Local TV news in the U.S. has not experienced as much viewer erosion as local stations in Canada. South of the border, investing in local news is considered good for business – the hours of local news programming have actually increased on some stations this year. Meanwhile in Canada, local stations are cutting back on how much news they produce each week even though research has proven over and over that Canadians want local TV news. Why the difference? This presentation will discuss possible explanations ranging from the role of public broadcasters to differences in business models, advertising sales and marketing/promotional strategies.
Amanda Oye, York University
This paper considers whether or not the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), as
Canada’s national public broadcaster, should be producing and distributing local news
content for unserved and underserved communities to ensure that all Canadians have access
to locally relevant content. It outlines how the CBC is currently contributing to local news in
the country, and considers the Corporation’s official mandate to determine its responsibility
to Canadians regarding local news production and distribution.
Debate, Deliberate, Collaborate: Brainstorming Lunch and Wrap-up
This lunch is an opportunity for participants to discuss issues, develop collaborative
projects, share insights and network.
Briefing on the conference publication
Jaigris Hodson, Royal Roads University
Asmaa Malik, Ryerson University
Wrap-up and a video from the conference’s student newsroom