How does one save print journalism?
This is the question of the hour, and one that deeply troubles me.
Obviously I have a vested interest, given the privilege of sharing my thoughts with readers every week in this space. But even more important than this, I truly do believe a printed paper is an indispensable part of democratic society, if for no other reason than one must own up to their opinion and that opinion is permanently written in ink.
In an age where governments delete emails and people take down tweets or posts that garner too much negative attention, there is something right and just about keeping a permanent written record.
It allows for a public debate in the public square of everyone's mind and it has the distinct advantage of keeping said debate local - most of the time.
Furthermore, the pulp and ink that go into our local paper are universally accessible, unlike the ones and zeros of the interwebs: you can pick up an old paper and instantly be engaged by news, sports, or outrageous opinion - but I've not seen a lot of old iPads left in coffee shops or truck stops to let others have a chance at reading the news of the day.
There have been endless suggestions over the years and especially the last little while as to how to save print journalism.
Of course it all comes back to money, which directly highlights the prickly facts of journalistic life: the independent press which isn't always the most complimentary of public forces and the need to keep the lights on while writing said copy.
Public funding will not save journalism.
As the CBC proves year after year, public coffers are just as easily used to support the unfounded opinions of demagogues pretending to be experts as the worst cable news networks in America. Whatever one may think of my writing, the fact is they can unsubscribe from The Citizen or demand that the editor get rid of me - but my words are not supported by mandatory fees taken off a paycheque, and I pray they never are.
Thus, one reaches the following conundrum: ending printed news will introduce another barrier to a decent civil society, yet the costs associated with creating said copy are best covered voluntarily by the public in order to ensure the news remains free of corporate or government influence, and all this in an age where newspaper subscriptions have become viewed as obsolete.
There is no easy answer to this problem, and I can see how it keeps some of my colleagues up at night.
In the end, as with all things in our fair city, this problem will ultimately be solved by its citizens.
I can only hope that collectively our choices lead to there being a 200th anniversary for the Prince George Citizen.