EDITORIAL: Cooperative, non-profit model could keep journalism alive

Apr 11, 2024 | Editorial, OP-ED

Journalism is on the verge of dying, which is a threat to democracy.

One solution to save journalism and journalists being laid off is to form media cooperatives.

A total of 516 Canadian media outlets have been closed since 2008, according to a report by the Local News Research Project.

The widespread layoffs of thousands of employees in journalism and the closure of hundreds of media outlets is a significant loss of community.

A cooperative is owned and run jointly by the members to realize a common goal. That goal would be to keep journalism alive and retain journalism jobs.

There are numerous examples of this being a successful model.

Alan Shackleton is the editor of Beach Metro Community News, a non-profit, non-partisan community newspaper founded in 1972 and is published 23 times a year.

The solution is to have someone from the community run the newspaper who is committed to providing a community service instead of making a profit, Shackleton said.

Journalist salaries can still be paid through revenues from advertising and subscriptions, he said.

“We have a Board of Directors, who are volunteers, meet four to five times a year and they give approvals. The people who work at the newspaper like the editor, the advertising manager, the publisher and others are paid positions,” Shackleton said.

Another example of a nonprofit media is the Independent Newsmedia Inc. (INI), operating more than 25 newspapers in smaller communities in Arizona, Delaware, Florida and Maryland in the U.S.

While the big media houses have been laying off employees, INI has not only survived but has been expanding and acquiring more newspapers.

There are some cooperatives models in Canada as well, which have been successfully running for more than a decade.

The Media Co-op was formed in 2007 as a multi-stakeholder cooperative after re-incorporating The Dominion newspaper.

Another cooperative called NB Media Co-op (New Brunswick) was formed in 2009 and the founders chose the not-for-profit cooperative model as they felt it to be the most democratic model for producing and disseminating media.

These cooperatives tend to only make enough to pay their employees’ salaries and keep the outlet running, but some are growing and buying other small, struggling newspapers and operating them.

The National Cooperative for Independent Information (CN2i) which was founded in 2019, after buying six regional daily newspapers of Groupe Capitales Médias, a French press company in Quebec.

The goal of journalism should not be to make profits, it should be to serve society by following journalism ethics and to serve society.

The Canadian government is taking steps to help the news outlets by providing funds to hire local reporters under the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI). The program was launched in 2019 and was set to end in March this year but it has now been extended until 2027.

That is a good step, but it might not be enough. The outlets might also require more tax benefits to survive.

A “Free press is important and it’s something that they should be helping, so they should be giving us every kind of tax break imaginable,” Shackleton said.

The government must ensure that journalism does not die.