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CSPS Virtual Café Series: The Media Landscape in Canada, with Althia Raj and Isabelle Mondou (TRN5-V48)


This event recording features esteemed journalist Althia Raj and Isabelle Mondou, Deputy Minister of Canadian Heritage, who explore how contemporary media has evolved in terms of business models and journalistic practices, the complex interplay between governance and media, and the impact of public distrust on the future of our cultural institutions.

Duration: 00:47:30
Published: March 28, 2024
Type: Video

Event: CSPS Virtual Café Series: The Media Landscape in Canada, with Althia Raj and Isabelle Mondou

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CSPS Virtual Café Series: The Media Landscape in Canada, with Althia Raj and Isabelle Mondou

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Transcript: CSPS Virtual Café Series: The Media Landscape in Canada, with Althia Raj and Isabelle Mondou

[12:00:01 AM The CSPS logo appears on screen next to the text "CSPS Virtual Café Series."]

[12:00:06 AM The screen switches to Vanessa Vermette, in a video chat panel.]

Vanessa Vermette: Hello, and welcome to this Virtual Café Series session where interesting people share their ideas and perspectives on a range of economic, social and technological subjects. My name is Vanessa Vermette, and I am vice-president of the Innovation and Skills Development Branch here at the Canada School of Public Service. I'm very happy to be moderating today's session in which we will be discussing the media landscape in Canada.

Before I begin, however, I'd like to acknowledge that I am joining you from Ottawa, on the traditional, unceded territory of the Algonquin and Anishinaabe people. We all live and work in different places across Canada, and while participating virtually in this event, we recognize that we currently reside in different traditional Indigenous territories. I encourage you to take a moment to think about the traditional Indigenous territory you find yourself on today.

Let's move on now to the topic of the day. Over the past few decades, media and journalism in Canada have undergone enormous changes that have completely changed the way information is transmitted to and consumed by citizens. As digital media consumption increases, large traditional media outlets must rethink their business model and journalistic practices in order to compete with smaller, independent media outlets for public attention.

Although Canadians have never had more options for finding information, the media landscape is becoming increasingly crowded, and this appears to be having a disruptive effect on the ability of governments and other institutions to communicate coherent messages to the people. Additionally, our public discourse seems increasingly fragmented, reinforced by the echo chambers that are created when we continue to rely on the same sources of information that may simply reinforce our narrow views rather than prompting us to consider others.

So, what does all this mean for our collective identity here in Canada? How are media outlets and journalists reacting to these changes? How should the government respond to ensure that journalism in Canada remains vibrant? Today, we're going to find out. I have the great pleasure of introducing our two guest panelists, Althia Raj and Isabelle Mondou.

[12:02:34 AM Isabelle Mondou and Althia Raj appear in separate video chat panels.]

Althia is an accomplished, award-winning journalist, author and speaker, who is currently working as a national columnist at the Toronto Star. She is the host and producer of the Star podcast It's Political and a regular panelist on the CBC News show Power & Politics, and a member of CBC's At Issue panel. She was senior editorial director of HuffPost Canada and Ottawa bureau chief. In addition, she is a multi-award winning journalist, ranked among the 100 most influential people in Canadian politics. Welcome, Althia.

Our second panelist is Isabelle Mondou, Deputy Minister of Canadian Heritage. Ms. Mondou was appointed to this position in May 2021, after having held the position of Associate Deputy Minister of Heritage and, for a year, the position of Deputy Minister of the Privy Council Office responsible for the COVID-19 response at the height of the pandemic. She has previously served as Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Priorities and Planning, Legal Advisor to the Clerk of the Privy Council, and Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet Committee for Democratic Reform. She has a first-hand view of the importance of the media's role in government and its citizens, and we are extremely grateful to have her perspective on this high-profile topic.

It is a great pleasure to welcome you both. I'm going to start with you, Isabelle, and give you a few minutes to give an overview of your perspective of where you see... what things look like to you today. The floor is yours.

Isabelle Mondou: Thank you very much. First of all, I must say that I'm very happy to be on the panel with Althia because we have the privilege, for colleagues who are online, to have someone who not only talks about the issues we are going to discuss, but who lives them every day. It's really a privilege for me to be here, even though it takes a lot of humility to be on a panel with someone whose job it is to be on panels, so I will be taking that into account in my interventions.

Listen, this is a profession, a subject that affects us all, and in fact, it's perhaps one of the subjects that, even if you don't work in the sector, influences your day-to-day life, your life as an individual, obviously, but also your life as a public servant. I'm going to take a look at the statistics because, obviously, public servants like to go over statistics.

You have all read about the situation of newspapers; the platforms, among other outlets, have significantly altered the audiovisual landscape, and that has changed sources of income for newspapers. Where in the past, obviously, advertising was the main source of income, and it is still an important source of income, but the movement of advertising towards the platforms has meant, in reality, that so-called traditional newspapers have had to diversify their sources of income and we must admit, they sometimes struggle to find different sources of income.

If we look at a few statistics, I'll just give you three, only 11% of people online pay for the news they read. So, 11% isn't much, if we're counting that as a source of income. And you may have seen a recent poll that says that Canadians, a high proportion of Canadians think that news should be free, they should have access to news for free as a public service. The print newspapers that we knew, their sources of income have decreased by 76% since 2008, and 76% is huge. Even though newspapers now often have an online presence and those revenues have increased about eight-fold, the fact remains that we can already see the problem that might cause.

In terms of employment, I can't wait to hear what one of the journalists has to say, but there are 60% fewer jobs in the field compared to 2010. That means heartbreaking choices, obviously, for newsrooms and more. This also means that now, some communities no longer have any journalists, we call these news deserts, and therefore, to know what's going on at city hall or wherever, to rely on indirect sources or at least... sometimes when the subject is national news it can be captured, but it's obviously not the same thing as having local news.

There is still some good news, I know I seem to be giving all bad news, but there is still some good news. There is a lot of innovation happening. Different models have been tried; the government has also tried to take measures to help the industry a little. Some have worked, in some cases. For example, cooperatives have been formed, cooperatives of employees who have taken over and who have managed to… continue to run the newspapers they worked for. In other cases, which you may be familiar with, tax benefits have been put in place to support the issuance of donations, for example, for certain newspapers. La Presse qualified in this regard and was able to find different sources of income.

There is also a lot of innovation in terms of community engagement. Some newspapers have managed to... really plant themselves firmly in the community and have managed to do well. And some have... even if they are online, have managed to get subscriptions, and with that they are able to do excellent journalism. I'm thinking of The Logic, but there are others too. All this to say that the market is shifting and some outlets are being innovative in this context.

I will end with one last point. We are all on the doorstep of artificial intelligence, which already existed but which is accelerating. Everything I just said, obviously, is going to be highly influenced by AI. Not necessarily at this point, anyway, because AI creates news, but it's a terrific tool that can gather news.

Terrific in both a positive and negative sense. Terrific because it will have a significant impact, sometimes positive, sometimes negative, particularly in terms of disinformation. Because as soon as things are combined, there are dangers. We have already seen with the first versions of AI that there are dangers in that. But it is a reality that will have to be measured in the context of this sector, as in several other sectors.

So with that, I'll hand the floor over to Vanessa.

Vanessa Vermette: Thank you very much, Isabelle. That was a great overview to start the session. Now we're going to move on to someone who has experience on the ground to see what this landscape is like on a daily basis. Althia, the floor is yours.

Althia Raj: (Inaudible)...Vanessa. Thank you, Isabelle, it's fun to see you again in this context. I just want to add a little clarification to my introduction. Firstly, I'm speaking in a personal capacity and am not representing the agenda of the Toronto Star, although I believe that is well known because that owner is quite public.

As for my career, well, I've been working on Parliament Hill for about 20 years. I started at CBC, then I went to CTV, then I went to Sun Media, which at the time was a channel where newspapers belonging to Quebecor wrote articles for the Ottawa Sun, the Toronto Sun, the Calgary Sun, the Edmonton Sun, and the Winnipeg Sun, but the same articles appeared in the Kingston Whig Standard and the Brantford Examiner. So it was a little less tabloid, you could say, the same article having 400 words in one publication and 800 words in another. After that, I worked for the National Post. Then I went to work for HuffPost, and now I'm at the Toronto Star.

The landscape has changed dramatically these last few years. It was when I started with Quebecor that there was the biggest change because there had just been a big downturn, and that continued mainly because newspapers were no longer publishing classified ads. Everyone went on Kijiji to post ads to sell their cars or their canoes or whatever, and that was a big source of income that ceased to exist.

So how do you find other revenue streams? The big idea for about ten years was that we would do video because we could charge more for advertising with images and sound than with just a print ad. So, everyone had to make videos. For example, we would go to an event and write our first article on our BlackBerry because that was our work tool at that time. We had a little Sony camcorder, we would record a clip of the police officer or politician saying X, Y, Z. We would go home, make a few calls—…at home, I mean at the office! Working from home, that was really 2022-23. Then we would write a longer article.

But it was during that period that we first saw Twitter and other social media really start to change how we worked as well. The first thing we had to do was put something online on Twitter, then post something on the Quebecor Canoë website. And then, it continued on video.

All this meant that you had a lot less time to write the article you wanted to write because you were busy editing your video, taking care of… making sure that the different voices in your article were represented in social media too. We became more like newswire reporters than print journalists in the old days, like in the '80s and '90s, when you had all day to write an article and then send it to your editor at 5:30 p.m., 4 p.m., then it was over, until the next day.

Now, if you were on TV or the radio—because TV with Newsworld, which started in the early 80s—we all really became newswire reporters, so there was an update almost every hour, so the article changed, moved. Which meant that a lot… there was a lot less in-depth analysis of different voices that had been included in the article. Even editors did less fact-checking afterwards. Because of the cuts, as Isabelle mentioned, these positions no longer exist. We have editors, but they don't call the people we quote in our articles to find out if we quoted them correctly, if in fact they told us... what are we reporting that they told us. Everything has really changed.

I know we're going to talk more about it, but just to give you an idea of how we saw the role of journalists in the past; now, it's really not the same thing at all. I do a podcast, we have TV panels, a lot more elements come up, and at the same time, we are living in a much more partisan environment. In terms of publication, we've gone back in time a little, 120, 130 years ago.

We have a lot more options, and that's a good thing, I agree with Isabelle, except that I'm not sure that most people take the time to seek out all this information. We have more information that is more accessible than ever, but I actually think that people don't put in the work to be informed. Before, the newspaper was really the Internet, the community's Internet. Now, almost no one reads... well, Isabelle told us, 11 people, that's very few people who get a newspaper at home or who even... who watch the news every day on their phone or tablet.

Vanessa Vermette: I think it's a great starting point to continue the conversation in terms of how these transformations have the public consumes information and how to participate in the public discourse. Isabelle, I was watching you, you seemed to really agree with the last part of Althia's remarks, so I'll give you the floor again to comment on those developments.

Isabelle Mondou: I more than agree, I'm super interested because it's a great overview of the evolution from the inside. I would say that social networks, we are still… things are still changing. Probably some things will change again in the next few weeks. And the reason I say that is that when we look, for example, at the mandate of some of these platforms, let's take the mandate of Meta, for example, in which one of its five principles is the duty to inform. That is perhaps less true now in light of recent positions they have taken. And I say that just to illustrate the fact that even the platforms are evolving a lot in their mandate, their objectives, their (inaudible).

The entire environment is constantly change, there are new dominant platforms coming up that were not in the news space before but are now in the news space, and vice versa. It's an extremely volatile and dynamic environment, dynamic in the positive sense, but also dynamic in the unpredictable sense for the people who depend on the information, and especially for the journalists who really form the heart of information.

So, what does that mean? Well, everyone, or almost everyone—not everyone but a large proportion of Canadians are on some social network or another, not always the same one, and they use social networks or not. But we know that more and more young people, and others, use social networks, and how they consume information has evolved. I can't wait to hear the comments of a journalist. But we were talking about videos earlier, now it's video with almost music, dance. I'm exaggerating, but not really. They expect a level of… in English we would say entertainment, but really visibility, which is still quite high.

So, this creates other ways of practising the profession, but it also puts pressure on the organizations that must deliver the goods because, basically, it is information, it's about verifying information and everything that goes into that, in promotion, marketing and competitiveness, it's not easy for the environment, obviously.

I want to end on a positive note because I like it to end on a positive note; there is still an aspect of openness to the media. I'm not sure that the media 30 or 40 years ago, and we see that this is still sometimes the case in newsrooms, were very diverse, so there were voices which had absolutely no place at the table, and the further back in time you go, the worse it gets. And so the fact that it was democratized, to a certain point, allowed other voices to come out.

It's not perfect yet, and there is still work to be done, even in the... in social networks; there is access, but access is not always the same for everyone, but there is still something there that allowed newspapers in different languages, newspapers which targeted different audiences, Indigenous audiences, whatever, started to see the light of day, and that's a good thing. And to a certain point, the social networks have sometimes made it possible to open up a little, at this level, this discourse to other people.

If I come back to our role as public servants, we certainly have a role in finding ways to support that. For example, we created a program on local journalism and in this program, the majority of journalists who were hired—I'll get the numbers later, but a significant number, certainly—is to hire journalists who have all kinds of experience, who come from all kinds of communities and who can really tell the stories that are important to all Canadians.

I'll leave it at that, Vanessa.

Vanessa Vermette: Thank you, Isabelle. Althia, I'd like to hear your comments on people's information consumption habits today. What have you observed over the last few years? Are people getting their news on TikTok now? As Isabelle said, it's all videos. It's infotainment, it's content, perhaps, and not necessarily news. And also your observations on the evolution and importance of local media.

Althia Raj: For the first question, it's... I'm not a political scientist, it's not something that I have studied in depth, but what we are told, what we're told is that most people read their news or used to read their news on social media, especially Facebook, and Twitter a little less. We political journalists spend a lot of time on Twitter, but most Canadians don't spend... in fact, they don't spend time on Twitter. It's not at all representative of the population, and I'm not even sure if most of the people who follow me are actually real people or all bots.

But in any case, it has its advantages and disadvantages. Isabelle told us about the initial mandate of Meta, Facebook in the beginning. At the very beginning, Facebook did a lot of development with newspapers, not just newspapers, television stations too, to get their readers, to get their audience and get them to use their platform, encourage them to share articles. They invested a lot in this relationship all over the world.

Now that they have these readers, they... they no longer need the journalists' articles, and we saw this with their response to Bill C-18. I'm not sure that I completely agree with the government on this bill, but we can discuss that later. But just to say that most people, before, got a lot of their information from social media.

I think they still get a lot of information there, but the information has changed. Now, we, the journalists who are trying to paint a portrait—well, I'm a columnist—but more objective, with a little more analysis, context, well, we are blocked from the platform… from Meta platforms. I believe that this is a big disadvantage for society that we, journalists, are no longer accessible to people where they are.

Another thing that I think is quite important to mention, and it's often not discussed in this context, but Isabelle is right that there has really been a drop in advertising, in advertising revenue for newspapers. It really made a huge difference. The week, two weeks ago, in September, Metro Media in Quebec closed its doors. 30 journalists lost their jobs.

Here at Metroland Media which is... The Toronto Star belongs to Torstar. Torstar has another local newspaper chain in Ontario called Metroland. They decided to go... except for the big newspapers, like in Hamilton, for example, but the small local newspapers, the weeklies, are now all online. They let go of 605 people, around 60 journalists.

It's very difficult to make money from advertising, even online advertising, because companies don't want... they don't want to give money to the news because most news is negative, and if you sell tires, well you don't want your ad next to an article talking about how tires malfunctioned and there was an accident involving 80 cars on the 401. So... people who advertise want to put themselves in the... like the car section, the condos section, everyday things, but not news, hard news. Not politics either, nothing that could be controversial in the least.

And that has a big impact on how much income we can really get from people, from private companies who want to invest in us. Like Loblaws is not going to want to invest in advertising this week, even though it's Thanksgiving, because there has been a lot of negative news about the big companies selling us things at prices that are too high.

Which means that really two models emerged. One model that Isabelle talked about, like The Logic, a subscription model. The Star also continued this model, but we are not at the same level, let's say, as Le Devoir or the Globe and Mail. Another model, a slightly more tabloid model, is really based on clicks. We really have two very different models which encourage people to separate themselves even more in their ecosystem, even if they are not necessarily partisan ecosystems... class-based ecosystems, people who are not willing to pay and people who are. That's something that worries me.

I'm sure you asked me another question, but I don't remember what it was, and I think I talked too much, so I'll stop there.

Vanessa Vermette: No, it's great! The second question was about the importance of local media because you both mentioned, I think, during your introductory remarks...

Althia Raj: We'll come back to that.

Vanessa Vermette: …The fact that there were news deserts geographically in Canada, so a little more comment on this subject.

Althia Raj: From Isabelle or… maybe I can say a few words.

Vanessa Vermette: Yes.

Althia Raj: I think one thing that really worries me is not parliamentary coverage, there are still 400 journalists in Ottawa; it's the small communities that no longer have journalists covering what is happening with their city council, covering more of what is happening at council, with schools. And when there are emergencies, as we saw with the forest fires this summer, we need local media. Who's going to tell people what's going on? The information that they really need to... to survive even, it's really... it's so important.

We saw the same thing in Nova Scotia with the shooting and the RCMP sent out alerts on Twitter, but no one saw them and it probably cost lives. At least that's what the commissioners told us. It's so, so important, and I'm not sure that we've really found the answer to encourage and support, and ultimately (inaudible) it's at this time and that worries me a lot, yes.

Isabelle Mondou: 100% agree. I would add one more point of concern in my case too; it's the fact that people's trust in institutions in general is declining, including in the media, unfortunately. When people don't have journalists in their community, when they don't have the privilege of having news in their community, well proximity is important for trust, to feel seen, to feel represented, to feel that we are there.

While I don't think I have an absolute causal link, I think there is a risk when journalists are no longer present in the community, that trust in journalists can also decline. And that leads to a whole other series of risks regarding our democracy, regarding all sorts of other subjects. But I think it's really important too, that when journalists are on the ground, it creates a connection to the newspapers, to the news and everything that perhaps exists less when journalists are not around.

Vanessa Vermette: Yes, absolutely. That makes me think of one of the questions we wanted to address during our session today, which is the link between changing media and our cultural institutions in Canada, our collective identity. Because now, people get a lot of news content from the United States too, that comes from other sources. So, is there an impact on culture and heritage, Isabelle, that we should discuss in more depth?

Isabelle Mondou: Well, it's interesting because we often think that newspapers, and the importance of newspapers in our... to our identity and all that, the news or questioning ourselves. But even before Confederation, there was a type of measure to support newspapers, it was called the postal rate, because precisely, there was a feeling that if we heard our stories, if we had news in our context and not just news from other places, we would develop a stronger Canadian identity and all that. It's obviously connected. Newspapers tell us about ourselves, tell us about our good sides, our not so good sides, and both are equally important. So having this foundation is something that has concerned us for a long time.

It's interesting because when we talk about identity, there is always a very difficult debate, and I'm sure that even among journalists we probably have different points of view. But there is the fact that should the government, precisely, support this... this independent voice that must remain independent, and how do we do that and what is the best way to do it? But it's certain that whether it's periodicals and all that, these are programs that have existed for a long time because it's a difficult market, at the beginning, to compete with the American media. It's nothing new, it's not just the platforms, it was the same thing with periodicals, there were programs to ensure that we had newspapers in Canada.

So there's a kind of cultural sovereignty and identity in newspapers, not just in culture, but in the media as well. And that's not new, and it continues to be something which, I think, is important to have, not just news from other places. Because obviously, the New York Times is not necessarily going to look into what's happening here, unless it's going very, very bad or very good. So you have to... you really have to be able to have Canadian voices telling the story, and that's why identity and the media is really important, I think.

In a country without national media, I think it would really be difficult to have a real identity because it's so basic to everything we do. This is why the government sometimes intervenes. We can debate on the best way to intervene, we can debate on the importance of ensuring… we cannot debate the importance of maintaining independence, but we can debate on the best way to do it. But no Canadian newspapers, no Canadian journalists, our identity is more than threatened.

Vanessa Vermette: Undoubtedly, and that also makes me think of the protests during COVID. We saw the New York Times coverage, which was basically misinformation because the New York Times journalists were not on the ground, and so it took a while to correct the facts in the story that was... that was published in the New York Times, if I remember correctly. Althia, do you have any comments on this subject in terms of cultural identity?

Althia Raj: Yes, I think it's so important. I think we should also perhaps point out that yes, we have been subsidizing the media in Canada in different ways for a very long time, but it's seen very differently in Quebec compared to English-speaking communities in the rest of the country.

And more and more, and I don't want to be too critical, but with the Conservative Party's arguments now to dismantle the CBC. Sometimes they say CBC, period, and sometimes they say CBC TV, so I'm not really sure what they would do with that. But this is still a time, in my opinion, where we should indeed be asking, do we still need this voice that brings us together? I'm willing to say that I think that CBC/Radio-Canada should do a better job of bringing us together and reflecting the different communities across the country.

But I think we need to have this voice that brings us together even more because we are so in our own little silos, focused on our region, on our interests. A little because of social media, but also because, I don't know, we... it still surprises me sometimes that there are journalists on Parliament Hill whose job it is to cover federal politics, and they never travelled to all the provinces. That's beyond me! But people come with their own point of view, and we learn from each other when we listen to each other. There's less chance of listening to each other if we just read the things that interest us, and these things are very niche.

When I was little, there was a show on CBC radio called Cross Country Checkup—it still exists, I think it's on TV now, on Sundays between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Eastern—and they cover a story and people call in from across the country to give their opinion. And you know, even if you don't know Herb from Corner Brook, Newfoundland, or Julie from Saanich—Gulf Islands, the fact that they share their viewpoint of how they see things in their part of the country, you try harder to be attached to Canada. I find that we are losing those voices, and it discourages me a little.

The less we know each other as individuals and as a community, the less we learn and travel across the country, the less we will have... we will lose the bonds that bind us together. And then what will connect us? Then it's much easier to have very negative, very critical issues in politics because we don't know our neighbours. I think we're seeing that, we've got the lessons of what is happening in the United States, which we should not want to repeat here.

Then there is... I don't think there's one answer in terms of public policies that will take us back into the past somewhat or that will re-balance things. I would say an education issue because there is... it seems that there are not as many parents as there were before, who read the newspaper with their children because now, we read everything on our phones or our tablets. Discussions with the paper around the dinner table, it seems like we have less of that. We have less... we don't learn much about reading media, mainstream media, even at school. And if we don't learn habits when we're young, I don't know when we will learn them.

Vanessa Vermette: Yes. Indeed, I remember sitting around the kitchen table with my family and the newspaper, sharing sections, we discussed what we read over the weekend, and that's something that isn't really done anymore.

Isabelle, I had the same thought as Althia, so I'm going to turn to you for something positive, something, a ray of sunshine in this cloudy landscape. I know it's very complex, but in terms of the government's response, what does all this mean for public servants? How do we bring all these diverse interests and issues together at the public policy level?

Isabelle Mondou: Well, I think that the fact that we are talking about it is already a really good thing because it means that we are considering the matter. What worries me is when I see statistics that say that some people now are detaching themselves from the news specifically to avoid the negative side of knowing what's happening on the planet. That's really the worst thing that can happen because that means that people are disconnecting themselves from what's happening, not only in their immediate environment, but in the world, in the country, et cetera. So we need… we really need to have these conversations.

And I would say... it's relevant for public servants, but it's also relevant for children, as newspapers teach us to develop critical thinking. We learn that at school, but we learn a lot from newspapers because we finish school at a certain point, and newspapers remind us every day to think critically. And that's the best defence against disinformation, it's the best defence for making the right decisions also in situations where we need to take decisions, whether it's politics or whatever it is. That's why it's so important to keep it at the centre.

Different solutions have been tried, obviously, we just named one on journalist credits. I think that the local journalists' program has also worked well in the sense that it is not the governor… the government gives to associations, the associations give it to newspapers and the government has nothing to do with who will be subsidized by that program, but it allows us to maintain a local presence. We could do more, obviously, we could do better, and we must continue to do more and better.

You all know that there's a bill, it was mentioned, C-18, which was trying to... actually, which is trying to find a way to regain some of the balance that when people create something, when they work hard on something and that news is picked up, now with artificial intelligence, it will happen like that, that this work, those newsrooms will be paid for their work.

Of course it's not easy, as you know, because there are even different points of view, and that's quite good that there are different points of view on which way is the right one. But there are obviously... one platform in particular decided that it was going to withdraw its news following that, which is obviously not the desired goal. So work continues on this.

But I think what's important not to forget about this, and the conversation for public servants around the table, is that some problems are not simple, and some problems don't have only one solution, there are problems that need to look at multiple solutions, both short and long-term solutions. Because the system, as we talked about, will continue to evolve, so how do we ensure that solutions from 20 years ago, where perhaps it worked for 20 years, I think there's less and less of that.

What are the solutions, what are the alternatives? A tax credit, a fund, creating a kind of bargaining table? As public servants, all these instruments are what we have, we have legislation, regulations, subsidies, and taxation. So it's about looking at all the tools and seeing which are the most effective, and if some are not effective in the long term, then of course we need to review them.

But I think the one thing we can't do is sit back and not think about how we can support this industry that is absolutely fundamental to our democratic system. As public servants, if there is one thing that should concern us, it is to ensure that we have a democratic system.

As public servants, I find it difficult to see how we could do our work without newspapers. We depend on information in newspapers, we communicate our messages through journalists to have these discussions with Canadians. So not only is it essential in our work, but it is also essential to be the citizens we need to be in order to be public servants. So there you go.

Vanessa Vermette: Thank you very much. I also see… we heard the word essential, essential comes up several times. Althia talked about the subscription-based model, the click model, but also an essential service model that has to come out somewhere, and in a timely manner.

I wonder, Althia, when it comes to evolving, what do you see for the future in the short and long term? Do you have anything to say on the impact of AI in the media, and how does it… what impact does it have on journalists and media organizations?

Althia Raj: Well, we're all afraid we're going to be replaced! And that there's going to be a lot of cuts. But, if I may, I'd like to go back to a few points that Isabelle just made?

Vanessa Vermette: Yes, of course.

Althia Raj: Okay, this is really important. To go back to one of your points, Vanessa, for me, the thing that worries me the most is that there are more and more citizens, it seems, who are completely detached from reality, who believe in the QAnon stuff, conspiracy theories. Before, we argued about what kind of policy we should make, should we spend more, should we cut taxes and reduce the deficit? Now, there are people who are... even some MPs who can't even agree on the facts. And when people have lost their attachment to reality, it is very difficult to govern. That really worries me.

I would tell you that as public servants, you still have a role to play. It might be a little weird for me to say this, but please help us tell stories. If you see something written in the media that is false, write to the reporter and tell them. The access to information system is completely broken, so you have probably noticed that there is more and more information based on sources. Unfortunately, I would say for my profession, more and more articles are based on anonymous sources, sometimes even a single source. I don't agree with that. But I have pressure, dates... deadlines, then getting clicks, as we talked about, I would say that there are some very worrying trends that are in the process of being routinely established now.

Then, if you have information to share, please contact journalists. Please be aware that the deadline is probably the same day, probably around 4:00, even 3:00, 5:00 at the latest, otherwise it won't make it into the paper. Please help us because we can't do it (inaudible). I encourage you to support us, because a little goes a long way... it can go a long way.

With Bill C-18, I, personally, do not want to see a future where there is no news on Meta at all, or on any platform. I would like to see the government start from scratch or create a tax and a fund, that it be applied universally so that we can have access to more information and not less information.

And I would like to see a bigger budget for Radio-Canada to have this more in-depth journalistic coverage from journalists across not just the country but the world as well. I believe that now is the time to invest because we are perhaps at a critical moment, and in 10 years, 15 years, habits will have completely changed, then who knows what will push us together, from one side of the country to the other.

Vanessa Vermette: Yes, indeed, it is… thank you for that call to action, precisely, and really, really very clearly. Time flies, like I said it would, so we're already almost at the end of our time together. Isabelle, let's come back to you to perhaps offer a few closing words from the Government of Canada and Heritage point of view.

Isabelle Mondou: Maybe I would just call on my colleagues. The question of the media and journalists, beyond citizens, concerns all public servants because there can be issues… another issue that worries me is the safety of journalists. Because before, we saw journalists being locked up under dictatorships and all that, and now we're seeing journalists in the country being attacked while they are trying to do their job. And honestly, in some cities where there are few journalists, it gets very uncomfortable at times. So we have colleagues perhaps from public security, who work with the RCMP, our police forces must be ready to respond when there are complaints and to take these situations very seriously.

But it's true for many of you around this virtual table. Think about your context. And I think also a call to tell public servants, we also have a responsibility when journalists ask their questions, to answer the question, to provide the information to Canadians, and to make this as easy as possible. So this affects each of you because you have all had questions from the media, we've all had media questions.

It's not always easy, there's a lot going on, but it's really important. Because as our journalist colleague said, it's their job, and it's getting faster, the world is getting faster, so obviously, we have a responsibility in that regard. And I also take it upon myself when we don't do it fast enough, and when we don't do it completely enough.

So that's quite a… it's quite a call to action that we can take, certainly. Then, look at what other tools are in your sphere of action to continue to protect an absolutely fundamental aspect for our work for Canadians, and for the future of our country.

Vanessa Vermette: Thank you very much, Isabelle. So for our participants today, truly a very powerful, serious and dynamic session on an important topic today. Continue to listen to yourselves, remain vigilant and maintain your critical thinking. And above all, don't lose hope. Continue to work on short and long-term solutions, and this is what we must do together between the industry and the government and all stakeholders and citizens of our beautiful country.

So, on behalf of the school, I would like to thank you for taking part in today's event. Thank you very much, Althia and Isabelle, for the discussion today. In the current context, you have really provided some very valuable thoughts on the effects for media and journalism today.

Thank you also to our participants, and we of course hope that you found the event useful and we ask you to take the time to complete the evaluation which will be sent to you electronically in the coming days. And also keep an eye for upcoming events at the school. We really have some very interesting events this fall. Check our catalogue to find out more.

In particular, on October 27, we have an event called Five questions about innovation in Estonia, which will focus on the digital revolution of the Estonian government and the lessons learned. On November 8, we will have an event called Leadership Reflections with former Clerk Jocelyne Bourgon. So if you are interested in leadership, definitely do not miss this one. We will discuss the context of what is required today in talent development and effective leadership in the ever-changing landscape that represents our world today.

So still other events to offer, check out the catalogue, and once again, thank you and have a great day.

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