What is a community? This seems like a particularly dumb question, but it’s really not. Communities vary in size, number of amenities, and even in their overall “feel”. Part of the Ontario social studies curriculum is for school students to explore the aspects of their own community and compare different types of communities. I would be lying if I claimed to know why that particular lesson made it into the curriculum, but an educated guess is that learning about communities helps to build the foundation for living in a place where one feels they belong. We can academically explore the facets of communities all day long, but the one simple idea which summarizes it all is that a community is a place that has what everyone needs, and where everyone belongs.
The beauty of communities is their uniqueness is suited to the people who live in them. It is not valid to tell someone that their community is not a “real” or “good” community because it is too small to have a fitness centre or a department store or a train station. A person living in downtown Ottawa has the amenities and businesses and fast pace that they need, while a person living in a tiny hamlet has the peace and tight-knit social circle that they crave. No matter where people live, their community serves their needs and is part of what makes them whole.
Like a well-oiled machine, communities run smoothly, but not without help. One thing that is essential to bringing any community together and helping it function is its local newspaper. With National Newspaper Week approaching next week, and World News Day having passed yesterday, the Ontario Community Newspaper Association is reminding us all of the importance of newspapers in keeping our communities running well.
Local newspapers play an essential role in keeping communities informed, engaged, and thriving by providing diverse, local, credible news and information that cannot be found anywhere else. Newspapers are the glue that keeps communities connected and are crucial players in the local economies where they operate; they are real-life superheroes who keep our democracy thriving.
Why does original, local content matter? It allows Canadians from all walks of life to tell their stories and feel heard, creating a sense of togetherness in communities from coast to coast. Whether reporting on a local charity fundraiser, international conflict, or even a global pandemic, strong local journalism gives readers credible information when they need it. While many of us agree that the credible, independent reporting newspapers provide is an essential public service – something that has and should always be available – many of us forget that this level of reporting requires a significant investment of both time and resources.
The last few years have shown us the importance of supporting and investing in local communities. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many small businesses faced unprecedented challenges. Newspapers across the country worked tirelessly to provide these businesses with a voice to amplify their message, shining a light on their work and emphasizing the value of “supporting local”. While newspapers continue to play a vital role in supporting and standing up for small businesses, this is not new or out of the ordinary. Community news media have always supported local economies by spotlighting local stores and entrepreneurs, supporting community initiatives, and providing local advertising options to speak directly to customers.
Local newspapers are also champions for democracy, providing Canadians with essential information to spark meaningful conversations about their community and country at large. The work of newspaper journalists, editors, fact-checkers, and more, provides readers with the tools they need to make informed decisions, empowering them to advocate for what they believe in. Newspapers allow communities to form their local identities by sharing stories and information that make a difference. That is why each year, the news media industry and its readers are invited to celebrate National Newspaper Week – an ode to our real-life superheroes and a chance to honour the work Canadian newspapers do each and every day to keep Canadians informed and connected.
This year, National Newspaper Week takes place from October 2 to October 8, 2022. To celebrate, News Media Canada has created a custom font, “Champions”, available to all Canadians for free download and use. Inspired by the essential service that newspapers provide, the “Champions” font highlights the power of words and the people behind the press who use them to communicate essential information to Canadians each and every day.
The facts on newspapers are clear. They keep people informed – a staggering 90% of Canadians report that they read newspapers every week in Canada! By reaching local community members directly, they also help to combat so-called “news deserts”, or places where unreliable news sources have to be trusted because there are no truly trustworthy sources of information. Newspapers also protect the truth by reporting the facts and weeding out “fake news”, and they protect our precious democracy by holding leaders – including leaders in local government – accountable.
Let’s face it – we can all agree that newspapers are great. They give us the information we need to participate in meaningful conversations with our communities as we work towards a stronger future. This week, as you enjoy pictures of local friends, family, and business owners holding their copy of the Times, be sure to take a moment to reflect on the sense of cohesion and community that these photos represent.