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Almost 20 other municipalities in Ontario and B.C. have signed on
St. John’s city council passed a resolution earlier this week to support the essential work of professional local journalists.
During council’s weekly meeting Monday, councillors agreed to acknowledge the importance of local journalism to democracy.
The resolution was brought to council by a group made up of current and former journalists known as Ink-Stained Wretches — InkStainedCamp on Twitter.
A HUGE THANKS to @CityofStJohns councillors today for voicing support for robust #LocalJournalism! Mover @Sheilagholeary 2nder Coun. Skinner #leadership #unanimous @DannyBreenNL @DeanneStapleto2 @jamiekorab @ianfroude @mmburton @SandyHAtLarge @DebbieHanlon1 @hirider750 pic.twitter.com/0KXeaDDk1o— ink-stained wretches (@InkStainedCamp) April 5, 2021
The group is asking councils across the country to pass motions supporting local journalism between World Press Freedom Day on May 3 and Canada Day on July 1.
“There’s no ask for money. It’s about asking council to use its voice,” Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary told council, adding that 17 municipal councils in Ontario and British Columbia have already supported the resolution.
According to the council documents, the motion states, “Be it resolved that the City of St. John’s council recognizes that a healthy, professional news media is essential to the proper functioning of democracy in our city; urges nearby municipal councils and across Canada to recognize that a robust news media is essential to the proper functioning of democracy in their jurisdictions; endorses legislation and regulations to support and rejuvenate news outlets across Canada; and urges the federal government to move quickly to pass legislation to ensure an ecosystem for a healthy news media to serve all Canadians.
“And that the resolution be forwarded to the area municipalities; local (members of Parliament) and MHAs; Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador; and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.”
“Journalism is an invaluable service.” — Sheilagh O'Leary
It noted that Canadians have lost the essential services provided by roughly 2,000 media workers in 100 communities across Canada due to layoffs in only six weeks from the first COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, a time when receiving accurate information was crucial. Advertising revenue has also plunged, prompting an emergency $30-million advertising expenditure by the federal government.
O’Leary, the only council member to speak on the issue, recognized the increasing pressures faced by local journalists, including outlet mergers and closures, along with the challenges during the pandemic, “… many of whom are working out of their homes with children just like everybody else.”
“Journalism is an invaluable service,” she said.