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JournalismIs campaign: 5 questions with spokesperson Mary Agnes Welch

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.       


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

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

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

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. She is a spokesperson with JournalismIs camapaign.

For more, visit the campaign website JournalismIS.ca


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