In one fell swoop, Torstar and Postmedia have rendered locally owned news outlets more important than ever.
On Monday, it was announced that the two news giants basically traded a number of news outlets between each other and will be closing quite a few of them.
In Niagara, this sees that some — actutally most — of Niagara’s major news players are now owned by Torstar, a massive conglomerate which owns the Toronto Star and Metroland papers including Niagara This Week.
Among the news outlets acquired by Torstar are the Niagara Falls Review, St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune, Niagara Advance, Fort Erie Times and Pelham News. The list goes on.
It was bad enough when it was only two giant companies running every news outlet in the area. Now it's twice as terrifying.
As one Facebook comment about the decision says, “One company owning three dailies and 12 weeklies in a region the size of Niagara isn't good for anyone.”
John Boynton, president and chief executive of Torstar Corporation, said, in a Monday press release, that the transaction will allow the company to “operate more efficiently through increased geographic synergies in a number of our primary regions.”
“By acquiring publications within or adjacent to our primary areas and selling publications outside our primary areas we will be able to put a greater focus on regions where we believe we can be more effective in serving both customers and clients,” he said.
That basically translates to: “we’ll be able to share more content between papers, meaning we can pay one journalist to write a story that goes in every paper. We can also sell more ads because we can offer multiple-paper packages at a new level.”
It’s a more profit, less journalism trade-off.
Torstar expects it will increase its annual earnings by $5 million to $7 million, according to the press release.
A byproduct of every paper in a community being owned by the same company is stories get shared between outlets, instead of individual outlets dedicating resources to investigate. It means less reporters in general.
The implications of this are significant.
We've already seen it in our local papers — for the most part you're reading the same paper no matter if you buy the Review, Standard or Tribune.
It's not hard to see how this move will maximize profit for Postmedia and Torstar. Likewise, it isn't hard to see how the quality of content could diminish.
The potential upside is if these companies pass the savings on to journalists and give them more time to investigate stories.
In news and history, looking at things from more than one angle is necessary to find the truth. Competing news companies provide incentive to bring the best story and dig for that truth. If a story is wrong, the competitors will find out. If there are no competitors, the truth is what the leading company makes it. We, as a community, can’t afford to give that amount of power to one company.
The fact that these multi-million dollar news companies don’t recognize this as a disrespect to the industry is a scary thought.
So, in a call to arms of the public eye, it's more important than ever to support your locally owned news outlets too.
If you want a reporter to look into something, send your thoughts to a locally owned publication too. Inform them of what's going on in your community. It’s not to say that you shouldn’t send your news to Torstar. Do both. The more people investigating, the clearer the truth becomes.
Having one media company for an area the size of Niagara does not bode well for the future of news in the region, nor does it give incentive for the public to trust the media. It's up to our community to support our locally owned news outlets and bring them to a level playing field with these conglomerates.