Re: “Paper Hanging,” by Paul Knox

In his review of Crash to Paywall: Canadian Newspapers and the Great Disruption, Paul Knox starts off misinterpreting me and never lets up. First, he accuses me of echoing Marc Edge’s Greatly Exaggerated: The Myth of the Death of Newspapers, which argues that newspapers have the financial resources to survive well into the future. I not only reject the notion that industrial journalism will endure; I suggest that the sooner Big Media organizations fail, the better it will be for journalists, democracy and the public.

Knox appears to acknowledge this when he argues that it is “far from clear that large-scale text-driven journalism—the ‘factory’ or ‘industrial’ model—is on its deathbed” and that organizations “with global reach … are rising to the digital ­challenge.”

No argument there. (I piled so much praise onto The Guardian and The New York Times that I expected to be taken to task for it.) However, I fail to see how the success of a few global brands could be mistaken for an antidote to the sickly state of local newspapers that are being kept alive to enrich a few executives and a hedge fund. I don’t think anyone doubts big news organizations will continue to cover the world. But who will report on the dozens of communities where newspapers have been eviscerated?

Most perplexing is Knox’s accusation: “He ridicules the Star for its at-times-obsessive focus on Toronto.” I praise the Star for being a reliable, local progressive voice, and complain that there isn’t a national equivalent: “Progressive media are few, ill-funded, and regionalized. The Tyee speaks to Vancouver, Rabble preaches to the converted, and, though ‘Metro Toronto’ has become ‘The GTA,’ the Toronto Star still lives by its old slogan: ‘What does it mean to Metro?’”

Then there is the distortion of my comments about training journalism students to be “cannon fodder.” In context, this isn’t as dismissive as it is made out to be. The entire quote is: “We need journalism education that is highly critical and independent of Big Media, and that trains its students to go out and build new structures to replace the crumbling old ones. We need to produce news-industry revolutionaries, not cannon fodder for establishment media.”

Finally, I take issue with Knox’s interpretation of my aims. I never set out to outline the differences between the Canadian and U.S. news industries (although I do, at great length) or to argue for federal regulation. What I aimed to do, as I say in the introduction, was tell the story of the recent crisis and put it into the context of a century of media criticism. History shows the futility of endorsing regulatory measures.

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