In Canada, as elsewhere, we are facing fundamental questions about the role of professional journalism in our democratic lives. Canadian society and the Canadian mediascape are structured very differently now than they were a century ago, when many of the current ideas about journalism as a practice were being consolidated. New, decentred, journalism practices, such as those of WikiLeaks.org and OpenFile.ca, are increasingly reforming and providing alternatives to professional journalism’s conventional organizational and funding structures. WikiLeaks is an example of a global not-for-profit organization that provides a way for independent sources to anonymously leak news to journalists around the world and that relies on its supporters for financial sustainability. OpenFile.ca operates on a profit-based model, and it is designed to connect citizens to their cities and the reporters who cover them. These two organizations demonstrate different ways to gather and disseminate information, to finance an organization, and to engage citizens in democracy.
Journalistic Policy and Democracy
Public policy is already deeply implicated in Canadian journalism: in funding to public and community broadcasters, in postal subsidies to magazines, and in foreign ownership restrictions. We believe, however, it is failing on two important fronts: first, it has not addressed the democratic deficits already raised in a series of royal commissions and reports; second, it has not addressed the implications of recent technological changes and the ensuing challenges to traditional funding models and organizational structures. We argue that these failures need to be addressed urgently because they threaten a key pillar of our democracy: the ability of citizens to be well informed and to participate in their governance.