It seems as though every few years, a new threat comes along that endangers student and local media organizations.
A few years ago it was the Student Choice Initiative, then the pandemic. Now, it is Bill C-18, or The Online News Act.
The Online News Act has generated a lot of discussion lately, especially with how it has been received by digital media and tech giants, such as Meta and Google.
Their decision to remove Canadian news content in response to Bill C-18, including those that belong to Wilfrid Laurier University Student Publications (WLUSP), from their platforms, is one that is as unfair to small, local media organizations as it is potentially harmful to our mission, vision and values.
Unlike larger, more corporate news and media organizations, WLUSP and The Community Edition are funded directly through the ancillary fees that Wilfrid Laurier University students pay through their tuition, as well as community donations. This, in combination with traditional advertising, provides for the majority of our operating costs and allows us to continue providing the products and services we do for our community.
We do not receive compensation through the platforms we choose to share our content on; nor can we be certain that such a revenue option would provide much value for our organization, as we do not serve the kind of demographic or mission that larger news outlets do.
It is for this reason that we are allowed to operate with a distinctly unique level of independence that is unheard of in most media organizations. We have the freedom to tell the stories, or speak truth to power, in a way that is not an option for a number of Canadian news outlets.
However, recent events have meant that a large portion of our content, and social media accounts in particular, are no longer accessible to Canadians—or even other members of our own organization.
Simply put, local, independent news outlets have become caught in the crossfire of corporate news and tech giants and it’s the community that will suffer as a result.
The students who pay to fund TCE and our other publications do not deserve to be affected by having the content—that they pay to see freely—be blocked.
While we still maintain our traditional distribution methods within our publications—both in print and online, on our websites—losing direct access to social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram means being cut off from two of the major platforms used by students and our surrounding community.
We will be doing our part by engaging with our local Members of Parliament (MPs) and lobbying to have local media outlets—and especially not-for-profits, like ours—listed as an exemption for companies like Meta and Google who seek to remove Canadian news from their platforms. We will also be working with other local media organizations to find creative ways of widening our reach without relying mostly on large platforms.
However, we need the support of our community behind us to help make this a reality.
We do believe the conversation surrounding online news, content creators, content platforms and the equitable compensation that the Act seeks to provide a structure for, are all important aspects of modern media. Especially now that digital and social media have become the dominant vehicles for delivering news to Canadians.
However, we also believe that smaller media organizations suffer disproportionately and must also have a part in these conversations.
The Community Edition and WLUSP will be dedicated to expanding our digital reach onto other platforms that do not seek to harm local media, so that the members of this community will always have an avenue for accessing news and content that is by and for them.