The Local Journalism Initiative (LJI) is a fund set up by the Canadian government in 2019 to “support the creation of original civic journalism that covers the diverse needs of underserved communities across Canada”. News organizations can apply for funds to cover the salaries of newly hired reporters, if those reporters are assigned to specific beats that address “news deserts”. To maintain editorial independence, the fund is administered by a group of news industry associations that oversee the application and adjudication process.
Media organizations everywhere are having financial problems, largely because of competition from free online content and because of advertising buys going to websites and social media. So the intent of the LJI is commendable, especially if it can help support local reporting – which, as we’ve recently seen in the US, is critical in keeping governments accountable, and in building democracy by keeping citizens informed.
But LJI funds should not be going to media organizations that have largely been the architects of their own financial misfortune – and which could also be blamed for creating the “news deserts” that the LJI is trying to fix. Two obvious examples of such organizations that LJI has funded are the newspaper chains Postmedia and Saltwire.
Jeremy Klaszus, publisher of the award-winning online publication Sprawl Calgary, posted a thread on Twitter this week, after Sprawl’s application for LJI funding was rejected for a second straight year. (more…)