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Will Journalism Survive?

The question is debatable. But we can do something to make sure it does.

Jeanette Ageson 4 Dec 2023The Tyee

Jeanette Ageson is publisher of The Tyee.

Last Thursday night, hundreds of people gathered in Vancouver for something a little different.

2023 marks The Tyee’s 20th anniversary, and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to celebrate as a community.

The room was full of friends, including many Tyee Builders — people who pledge a one-time or monthly contribution to The Tyee to support our independent journalism. We salute you!

And if you aren’t yet a Tyee Builder, we ask you to commit the price of a sandwich every month to help us do what we do.

Back to Thursday night. The main attraction was a raucous debate on the question: “Is journalism on its last legs? Or is it poised for a vibrant future?”

Our debaters did a fabulous job (we will share clips and photos from the evening later), but you may be wondering why we chose to mark our 20th anniversary with proposing such a bummer of an idea. Why are we suggesting that our very own industry might be doomed?

The answer is that we’re paying attention to some tough trends. We see the steady withering away of news jobs and outlets as sensationalist misinformation floods the internet — only to be aided, it seems, by the creeping arrival of artificial intelligence.

How did we get here? A big factor is that advertising — the traditional business model that has supported a lot of journalism — has been sucked up by tech disruptors from Craigslist to Google, and Meta.

Yet when the Canadian government told Mark Zuckerberg’s $840-billion Meta it will be expected to put some money back into the Canadian journalism industry, the tech giant told news outlets, including The Tyee, to go pound sand.

And then Zuckerberg went and blocked sharing of Canadian news on Facebook and Instagram. Which makes life harder for outlets like The Tyee that stay strong by finding new readers and members.

If democracy is nourished by quality journalism, it seems Meta would have Canada starve.

Well, Zucked or not, we say let’s get on with the job of reinventing Canadian journalism and securing a better future for it.

At our debate last week, the "journalism is dead" side (who won the most audience applause) offered a withering indictment of some of the failures and disappointments in how journalism has been practised in this country.

Debater Eden Fineday, publisher of IndigiNews, delivered (via song) a blistering critique of how mainstream media has reported on Indigenous communities. There are a lot of people who have never felt well served by traditional journalism, so perhaps some features of it should be left to die.

But maybe in that dying of the old can come something new. In the past 20 years, many promising new ventures have sprung up that do journalism in a different way, including different approaches to paying the bills that are more transparent and ethical.

Consider The Tyee at age 20. What gives us hope is that thousands of readers have signed up to support our work through our Tyee Builders program.

True fact: It’s the reason we are still here at all.

Tyee Builders is a voluntary membership program, not a subscription that gets you access to paywalled content. We don’t have a paywall. We want everyone to be able to read our stories.

So our ask is simple:

If you visit The Tyee on a regular basis...

If you are glad we exist...

If you would like to help us keep investing in new reporting beats, hiring journalists and staying focused on publishing the best public-interest journalism that we can, then...

Please sign up for a regular contribution to The Tyee, at whatever level works for you.

We’re aiming to add 500 new recurring supporters by midnight on Dec. 31. Help us get there and sign up today.

We’re encouraging recurring contributions — that’s monthly or annually — because these help us plan ahead knowing that we have a stable base of income that can support staff positions.

But of course, one-time contributions are still very much appreciated. (And we make it easy for you to stop your monthly contribution if that’s what you decide.)

Know that your contribution goes straight to our editorial budget for our non-profit newsroom. For stories you won’t read anywhere else. And to maintain coverage in areas that have been completely abandoned by shrinking news media.

Not a dime goes to venture capitalists, shareholders or some distant hedge fund because we’re not in that game. We are a non-profit organization that puts readers first.

Is journalism doomed? When folks voted yes with their applause at our party last week, we laughed along with the dark humour debaters used to win their point.

Yes, journalism needs fixing, even resuscitation at this critical moment for our democracy. And yes, a lot of bad old media practices need to be buried for good.

But here at The Tyee we’re stubbornly committed to keeping the craft alive. And if there’s anything we’ve learned over this past year, it's that we can’t depend on the whims of tech-giant algorithms or favourable government legislation to reward us with viral traffic.

The only way forward for The Tyee is to consistently show up for our community. And then win your support to keep going and doing more. By reinventing the relationship of readers to journalists, this is one way we are reinventing journalism.

Twice a year we make this ask in our pages for your support. It’s that time now.

If you’d like to be a part of The Tyee’s next 20 years and help chart a better future for Canadian journalism, please join Tyee Builders at an amount that works for you.  [Tyee]

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