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Journalism Is more important than ever – 5 questions with reporter Mary Agnes Welch

Journalism Is  more important than ever

Carmel Smyth and Martin O'Hanlon
Carmel Smyth and Martin O’Hanlon

A dozen media organizations are collaborating on an innovative campaign –  a first ever national promotion of the craft of journalism.

It may sound strange, since journalists are by virtue of their jobs “in the news”, but the fact is we don’t promote the profession well, or share how important  a free and independent press is to democracy. It is no coincidence every developed country has professional journalists and a media environment that encourages sharing and exposing crucial information.

That’s why representatives from many of Canada’s news organizations and media unions, have launched a series of national ads – the goal is to promote an understanding and appreciation for quality journalism at a time when the industry is undergoing significant upheaval led by changing technology.

In an environment where rumour and gossip seem to easily mix with facts, journalists remind us  that verifying information is more important than ever.


Chantal Hébert and Mary Agnes Welch
Chantal Hébert and Mary Agnes Welch

At the launch of the JournalismIS campaign, prominent journalist Chantal Hébert noted that we advance journalism by doing good journalism. I couldn’t agree more. We must do everything we can to support what makes doing good journalism possible.

Campaign sponsors include Ryerson University Journalism School, The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ), The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and Metroland Papers, Bell Media CTV, Postmedia, Communications Workers of America, Newspapers Canada, TC Media, Winnipeg Free Press, Cartt.ca, Glacier Media Group, and Black Press, Unifor, CWA Canada and CMG.

For more, visit the campaign website JournalismIS.ca, and check out this Q&A with reporter and JournalismIS spokesperson Mary Agnes Welch.

Carmel Smyth
National President, CMG


MAW5 Questions on journalism with Mary Agnes Welch

Q1: Why this campaign now?

 Because this is a crucial time. Journalism is in transition, and it’s really important to bring attention to the fact that journalists do vital work in our country, in our neighbourhoods and globally. We want to remind people that, despite all the changes, wonderful and not so wonderful, we need good, independent, professional journalism if our democracy is going to function.

Q2: Some have said the growth of social media has replaced journalism, what’s your take?  

 I think even the staunchest social media enthusiasts now recognize the limitations of citizen-journalism. I don’t think we can replace the fundamental functions of digging and investigating stories, sourcing and verifying, and ensuring the public is kept informed by independent people who have the time and resources to work. That said, social media enhances all those aspects and I think it bolsters journalism in really exciting ways. Social media has revolutionized how we reach Canadians and how they reach us and it’s made us much more accountable, which is never bad.       

 Q3: How concerned are you about the current crisis in  journalism funding?  

Very. The work reporters do cannot be done at the level we need unless it’s funded appropriately. It takes time, the right gear and training, experience and money, whether we are talking about public service media or privately-owned outlets. My hope is that this campaign will help shed a light on what it takes to do consistently great reporting, and that sustainable funding is a big part of that.

 Q4: You’ve said journalists do not speak enough about the work they do, what would like to see them do?

As reporters, all we do is talk about journalism. Hang out with any reporter and they won’t shut up about the stories they’re working on, what happened in that day’s scrum, which reporters they admire and which ones kind of suck.  We actually have a very sophisticated code of ethics and we kvetch about who has violated that code all the time. But we talk about that among ourselves only. We need to have that conversation with Canadians. How we work is a bit of a mystery to most people. We need to talk about what’s involved in creating good journalism and also talk about what people are entitled to expect from us. We should have done this long ago, but it’s especially important now.

 Q5: What do you say to young people thinking about going into this business

There is, quite simply, no more interesting job. If you’re bored as a reporter, you’re doing it wrong. You give up a lot to be a journalist. You can’t be politically involved. You have to be careful to maintain your independence. You’ll never make the big money. You’ll never have much job security. Some days the sheer absurdity of dealing with government is ridiculous. But you get to witness all the parts of the world – the small stuff like a morning at an inner-city day care and the big stuff like the end of the Tory dynasty in Alberta. And in doing that, and trying to highlight problems, you might make things just a little better, a little fairer in your city or province.

 Mary Agnes Welch is the public policy reporter with the Winnipeg Free Press


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