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It’s time to start paying for Canada’s newspapers

July 3, 2018

American media are finally noticing Canada and making nice. It is unclear why they are suddenly so fond of our 37 million citizens, oh I see, they want our subscription money. 

 

A chirpy hard-sell American consultant explained it this way to the Financial Times: “It’s simple math. Canada is really a big, cold California,” said a grinning Ken Doctor. “Well-educated, affluent, English-speaking, a natural market.” Doctor is a Californian.

 

 

He thinks Canada is the University of California campus at Santa Cruz. Be true to your school, Ken. Canadians are young, white, glib guys with rich parents. They vape, are without French, and happily pay hefty subscription prices for news. 

 

It is to laugh. Canadians don’t pay for news unless they’re high, which they will be soon. 

 

Admittedly, Canadians prefer their news so trustworthy that it’s carved in stone, and respectable U.S. publications know a market when they see one. Yet we’re reluctant to pay for subscriptions to our own national and local publications, which is one flaming ball of holy hell rolling down the ... I advise subscribing to the newly expanding Toronto Star when we ask you to. You’ll like it. 

 

Politico, an American news site, will offer Politico Pro Canada, providing American news and research on issues relevant to Canada and global trade (as Trump shuts down trade.) Politico’s Alexander Panetta, a smart Canadian, says, “Decisions on everything from auto emissions, financial tech, rules for emerging industries like self-driving cars, drone tech, AI and, yes, trade, are being made in DC, by agencies & committees that are little-covered by Canadian media and drowned out by the noisy story du jour.”

 

So U.S. news sites are hoping to win Canadian paying subscribers by doing the work Canadian bureaus in the U.S. used to do. Thanks to budget cuts, Canadian journalists have little presence in Washington, New York and elsewhere, as it’s prohibitively expensive to send more than one lonely reporter southwards. 

 

The CBC does wonderful work but Panetta’s right, “the noisy story du jour”—Melania’s tasteless jacket, Trump saluting a North Korean general, Trump not grasping the difference between feed and grain in North Dakota this week — gets more attention.

 

Why does the CBC, or anybody, cover U.S. clickbait at all? Isn’t the mission to make us smarter? But now Canadian news lures you with headlines like “Vengeful dad bakes own child” or “Ice pick killer rapist caught at age 73” that leave out the location. Nova Scotia must be rougher than I remember, I think.

 

But of course, it happened in Oklahoma and Alabama where such things are done daily. My heart skipped a beat for nothing. Of what use is this to me?

 

Most Canadian journalism now offers news bought from U.S. papers and news services. In essence, Canada assembles journalism the same way it assembles cars, moving parts back and forth across the U.S. border. The American chains do the same thing.

 

All news organizations are trying to survive. Without journalism, every person becomes a nation of one, without the news they need to survive in the snake ball, the cage fight, the rat convention. We all need to pay for news.

 

I personally subscribe to the Globe and Mail, the Washington Post ($90), the New Yorker, the London Review of Books (its political coverage is stellar), and Alberta Views, and yearly donate $88 to the Guardian so it can remain free for all. I can no longer afford the Financial Times even with its pity discount, and that’s a sorrow.

 

American consultants have no idea what drives Canada: language, Indigenous voices, multiculturalism, health care for all, respect for intellect, courtesy, and of course, peace, order and good government.

 

In Trump times, are U.S. companies building a Canadian escape plan or simply invading? 

 

One day Trump voters will bust the border, welcomed by Stephen Harper apparently, as climate change drives them to seek drinking water and escape heat, fire and flood. 

 

They’ll find readymade American news and TV because we caved in even before we had to. Did Canada have no pride, they will think as they look at each other with a wild surmise — silent upon a peak in Kootenay. 

 

Heather Mallick is a columnist based in Toronto covering current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @HeatherMallick

 

 

 

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