Cut the apron strings


“Nothing much happens in small towns”, as they say. Whoever “they” refers to, I’m sure that they don’t mean to suggest that small towns are boring. Small towns are vibrant, welcoming, mutually supportive, economically self-sufficient, and filled with adventure. From a news standpoint, however, small town happenings rarely compare in their juiciness to the scandals, crimes, major events, and political drama that can be found in big cities. 

Newspaper editorials, including the one you’re reading, are meant to discuss topical happenings. This week, many of these happenings are happening, well… in all of Canada, rather than exclusively in North Grenville. The separation of Justin Trudeau from his wife, Sophie, is one heavily-discussed current event as of late. 

I really dislike Justin Trudeau, but a politician’s family situation should have no greater impact on their ability to do their job than it would on any Canadian’s ability to do their job. I don’t blame media outlets for picking up the story. In fact, it would almost be strange for Canadians NOT to know that their Prime Minister is no longer happily married. However, it doesn’t need to be sensationalized, and it’s certainly not a relevant enough topic for a small town editorial. 

The other major “happening” lately is the passing and implementation of Bill C-18, a federal bill known popularly as the “Online News Act”. Despite my dislike of Justin Trudeau, I support Bill C-18, which was simply written as a way to ensure that small news providers – like the Times – get their fair share of online advertising revenue from big companies like Meta (which owns Facebook) when their original content generates such revenue online. 

The Online News Act itself is not what’s generating headlines… it’s the fact that Facebook and Google have created algorithms designed to automatically detect and filter out anything that is considered “news content” in Canada, preventing Canadians from seeing it. This way, they don’t have to pay the “little guy” for using their content, since they aren’t using it anymore. 

A headline that came to our attention last week from News Media Canada was this: “News publishers and broadcasters call for Competition Bureau investigation into news blocking”. Is this the right approach? Facebook and Google are American companies worth billions of dollars that both operate internationally. If these companies are digging in their heels regarding something as simple as paying news producers, what makes us think that they won’t use the “pulling out of Canada altogether” card when sanctioned by the Competition Bureau? Do we really believe that the loss of the Canadian market is such a severe threat to these companies?

I’m not defending the companies at all. Any parent of children aged 6 – 12 knows what “YouTubers” are and how many millions of dollars they make annually. That money comes from ad revenue sharing. It makes no sense that big companies like Facebook and Google can share advertising revenue with individuals who bring in advertising dollars, but not with news companies. 

My first thought in all of this is that a Competition Bureau investigation would do little except hurt Canadians. Imagine if, after being disappointed by the findings of such an investigation, Google and Facebook decided that they would simply block access to their sites from all Canadian IP addresses, rather than do business in a country that over regulates them. Canadians would lose two online services that they enjoy, and would gain nothing in return. 

My second thought is this: “Perhaps it’s time to cut the apron strings”. What’s wrong with using Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, and to view entertainment and raw current events footage, while relying directly on news sources for news? The same can be said for Google – let Google direct you to the nearest plumber or a fascinating Wikipedia article about platypuses, and seek news directly from news producers’ websites. 

At what point in history did we become so reliant on Facebook and Google for our news? It’s incredibly ironic, given how much these platforms are known for users spreading false information on them. Why is it such a hardship to type “” or “” or “” into your internet browser, instead of “”? How on earth did Facebook and Google become our new mommy and daddy, telling us what content we can and can’t see on the internet? The content they are refusing to share is not their content in the first place – go straight to the source instead! Speaking of internet connections and the fact that some people don’t have one, did I mention that cracking open a print copy of the NG Times or any number of other publications requires no internet at all? Seriously! No internet required. Newspapers are so advanced that they even work in a power outage!

I do love a good expression so much so that expressions, or modifications thereof, have inspired the titles of my editorials for the better part of a year, and the titles of some guest editorials before that. “Cut the apron strings”. Like most expressions, it makes no sense at first. Aprons keep food off our clothes. How do they relate to interpersonal or inter-entity attachment? It’s simple, really. In the past, babies wore aprons to keep their clothes clean, because laundry wasn’t the automated breeze that it is today. These aprons had strings sewn on to help the parent guide the baby’s movements (“two birds one stone” – another great expression). When the baby was ready for more independence, the apron strings would be cut to allow such freedom. The expression has therefore morphed into referring to any instance when a person severs their reliance on another being. 

Well… snip, snip. We don’t need Facebook and Google to regurgitate other organizations’ work. If they don’t want Canadian advertising dollars, then Canadians don’t want their recycled news. 




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