Editorial, Opinion

Journalism’s only vocal when it’s local

On Jan. 26, Postmedia, a Toronto-based media conglomerate and the parent company of over 130 local newspapers across Canada, including The Montreal Gazette, revealed its plan to lay off 11 per cent of its total editorial staff. This devastating decision, made in a Toronto boardroom, will put up to 10 unionized Gazette reporters out of work and could lead the paper to shut down completely within the next year or two.

With the Gazette being Montreal’s only English-language daily, the cuts raise concerns about the paper’s ability to cover local communities and the future of English journalism in the province. Postmedia’s layoffs will have a disproportionate impact on Black, Indigenous, and racialized writers, which will result in silencing already underrepresented communities. The disappearance of local papers at the expense of large national corporations could be the final blow to journalists writing to uncover truths and protect democracy. 

The rise of social media as an uncritical source of information and the increased digitalization of news have put traditional journalism in a difficult position. As the Gazette is being financially gutted while still turning profits, the myth of dying journalism works in favour of corporations like Postmedia that conveniently avoid reinvesting in their branches. Annual reports in 2021 revealed $8 million in compensation for Postmedia’s executives, half of it being bonus money—despite the company netting losses of $4.4 million in the same year. The concentration of wealth into the hands of executives instead of reporters could lead to a drastic shift in journalistic coverage, propagating narratives of false austerity that only serve those already in power.

The Montreal Gazette is the beating heart of the city’s anglophone journalism and is an undeniable means to fight back against the province’s oppressive language preservation laws. Additionally, the publication serves as a community meeting space, and closing down its doors will shut down a place of discussion and debate that does not exist in national news. This is especially true considering the impact of Postmedia’s 25 per cent payroll cut, which will almost entirely wipe out the Gazette’s photo desk. As unionized reporters are not allowed to take pictures, most media will be taken from a national photo bank—while local photojournalism tells powerful stories that words cannot capture.

This round of lay-offs reproduces ongoing and stratified discrimination and injustice. In a field already perpetuating racism within its walls, white executives in positions of power will hold on to their jobs, while people of colour and reporters without financial fallback will bear the disproportionate impact. Writers of colour, already struggling to be heard in a field that is 75 per cent white, will be the first ones silenced when there is no one left in the newsroom to stand for them. 

Local and alternative journalism vitally sustains democracy in a larger sense. National journalism heavily relies on its local counterpart for municipal political coverage, and while national issues are more likely to divide the population, local news captures political nuances only found when living in the same communities being reported on. National journalism will undoubtedly replace local subtleties and wash over unique individual voices.

The Montreal Gazette serves as a beacon for anglophone student journalism, and its now fragile situation raises a frightening thought: When Quebec’s oldest publication disappears, what will stop campus press from being next on the chopping block? Local journalism works harmoniously with student papers, feeding them with content and factual information that would not be picked up by national coverage. Beyond this, student-run papers remain as the only place to learn journalism at McGill. With fewer industry jobs in Montreal, aspiring journalists will be left with even narrower access to the field. In such times where quality journalism is being sacrificed in favour of corporate profiteering, we must stand in solidarity with The Montreal Gazette to protect the integrity of journalism, for the sake of all the stories gone untold.

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