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Why the Media Crisis Is More than It Seems. Hear Insights from Tyee Senior Editor Paul Willcocks

Tune in Wednesday to hang with one of the smartest minds in journalism today.

Emma Cooper 7 Aug 2020 | TheTyee.ca

Emma Cooper is outreach manager of The Tyee.

With over a dozen years’ experience running daily newspapers from coast to coast, Paul Willcocks was sitting in the front row as the stage was set for the current media crisis. With that experience, he knows that what we’re witnessing with newsrooms shuttering across Canada is really a symptom of something deeper than a media crisis. It’s a social and democratic crisis.

For his Three Things interview, Willcocks will discuss the collapse of traditional news media, what might replace the dying models, and The Tyee’s role in this whole production. Three Things is our informal, livestreamed interview show where we dig a little deeper into the things that folks in The Tyee family care about.

Willcocks grew up in Toronto, went to university in Montreal and worked at the Advocate in Red Deer, Alberta, where he moved from court reporter to editor and then publisher. He ran daily newspapers in Saint John, N.B., Peterborough, Ont., and the Times Colonist in Victoria, B.C.

He’s run papers for foreign, private and corporate owners, and we are now fortunate to have him as a Victoria-based editor. He’s worked remotely for The Tyee since before it was necessarily popular to Zoom.

Willcocks acknowledges the severity of the collapse. In the past, he says, the media industry could generate enough money to pay many reporters and editors to gather information. Media was also much more widely read. Even 25 years ago, about 70 per cent of adults read the Times Colonist on a typical day. This is no longer the case, he says, and the numbers are dropping significantly in most media.

The result is that we get our news from different sources and often become more siloed in our perspectives, which undermines community and policy discussion. Please refer to Twitter, family holiday arguments and the blindsided surprise of many that Donald Trump was elected president to remind us that we are losing the common ground needed to connect.

While the tendency in Canada is to look south and think that issues of polarization stop at the border, we are experiencing polarization here too.

How to address this trend and what role The Tyee plays will underpin our conversation, as Willcocks cares deeply about the impact and value that reporting can have on communities and the public discourse. It is fitting that among the awards Paul has won, his proudest is the Michener Award for public service journalism, won as part of a team at the Times Colonist.

Willcocks moved to Honduras in 2012 with his partner Jody Paterson, working to develop the capacity of Honduras development organizations. This was at a time when it had the highest murder rate in the world. He worked there for 2.5 years, then spent most of the next two years in Nicaragua. Now Willcocks and Paterson housesit, and every few months — or weeks — we get to see the new and wonderful location and pet they are caring for.

Tune in to this live conversation for the benefit of Willcocks’s long view on the media landscape and also to see a very fancy library backdrop on Zoom.

This Three Things conversation will livestream on Wednesday, Aug. 12 at 1 p.m. PST and is hosted by yours truly. Click here to register or catch it on Facebook and YouTube.  [Tyee]

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