I’m getting increasingly frustrated at the who-will-pay-for-the-quality-journalism debate.

Why?

Because I don’t think that what’s really being debated in a lot of cases. And because I think there is an unwillingness to accept that the who-will-pay argument means newspapers are going to have to change.

What some are really arguing, it seems to me, is “Who is going to provide us the money to allow us to keep doing what we’re doing now?”

The question some of them are not asking is, “What do we have to do to ensure that we are preserving the quality journalism?” We, the newspapers. Not Google. Not government. Not some mythical foundation.

Listen.

I strongly believe in the power of journalism and the importance of it. Without serious journalism, coverage of the community talking to itself, the revelation of that which is hidden (either accidently or on purpose), the digging deep into issues that affect us all and much more would be lost and we would be much the weaker and poorer for it.

But the who-will-pay argument ignores the fact that serious journalism is only part of what newspapers currently do. My local daily has, among others, sections on fashion, food, homes and cars (where nary a discouraging word is written), and more.

I understand the need for those, to continue to serve the (aging and decreasing number of) readers and support the (decreasing amount of) advertising. I’ve even been known to clip a recipe or two.

But newspapers are shrinking in size and staff, thankfully more slowly here in Canada than they are in the States or, apparently, Britain.

At some point, newspaper execs who believe in serious, quality journalism — not Google, not government, not some outside agency — are going to have to make the decision to support it with as much as possible of the remaining resources that they have. It is newspapers — even now, because they are still making money — that are going to have make the commitment to make serious journalism their prime, and perhaps only, reason for being, even if it means letting the lighter stuff (which makes up a substantial amount of the weekly page count) go.

And that’s why I’m getting frustrated — that is not something that I’m hearing discussed with any regularity in the who-will-pay debate.

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