Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Rebel Ban Sparks Debate over What Constitutes Journalism in the Digital Era

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Rebel Ban Sparks Debate over What Constitutes Journalism in the Digital Era

Article excerpt

What constitutes journalism in the digital era?

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TORONTO - Neither governments nor industry professionals can seem to agree on exactly what constitutes journalism in the digital era -- all they know is that the issue needs to be discussed.

The thorny subject has confounded academics and practitioners alike in recent years as conventional newspaper models give way to online media outlets.

More recently, governments have had to grapple with the problem when trying to decide who should or should not have access to resources once reserved solely for traditional newsrooms.

The issue came to the fore in Alberta this week after an upstart, right-wing news organization claimed the Alberta government was barring its reporters from activities in the legislature.

A spokeswoman for the province's premier, who once asserted that Rebel Media was not considered a legitimate media outlet, has since reversed course and said no one would be banned from news conferences during the time it takes for the government to review its press policies.

Sean Holman, a journalism professor at Mount Royal University, said questions at the heart of the Alberta government's review have been hot-button issues in the industry for years.

He said frequent cuts to legacy news outlets such as newspapers have left the remaining reporters unable to perform their accountability duties as thoroughly as before, allowing new media organizations the opportunity to pick up the slack.

Holman said journalists have been defined in the past as those with the capacity to reach a mass audience and to convey information without a bias.

In his view, both those criteria are too simplistic for today's media landscape.

"The two tests are ... are they performing an accountability function, and are they doing so with the public interest in mind," he said, adding that public interest can be defined according to an organization's political leanings.

Unbiased coverage is not a prerequisite for access to the heart of Canada's political life. …

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