The media business is doing incredibly poorly. Bell Communications laid off about 1,300 media workers last week, and are closing or selling nine radio stations. Postmedia is close to bankruptcy (and would have been bankrupt years ago if not for government subsidies). And all of this is all just the market doing what it does best.
Joseph Schumpeter coined the term “creative destruction,” and it’s what’s happening to the media business. Where before local newspapers and television stations were licenses to print money given the stranglehold they had on local attention and eyeballs, they’re now wisps of their former selves. They’re barely able to keep the lights on as Google and Facebook suck up all the advertising dollars these local attention monopolies used to rely on.
The trouble is that, historically, the media business figured out how to bring in money from all of that attention and, as a byproduct, a fun, happy, little democracy-saving accident — journalism – got done.
But the trouble with just letting the market sort out how to pay for news gathering and reporting is that while we wait to figure out how we’re going to pay for it, misconduct, corruption and malfeasance will get worse and worse. One of the best, and unfortunately only current ways, to stop us from descending into a corrupt gangster state is when you have multiple reporters paying attention, showing up to meetings, reading documents, asking questions, and generally just being annoying.
It’s beat reporting. It’s just work. But the media business exists under capitalism and capitalism regularly blows up its institutions. Now we have to figure out how to keep our fragile, crappy, but still somehow barely functioning, democracy alive, which depends on making sure that journalists make enough money to live.
Why should you, a sane, regular, non-media person care? Well, let me just tell you that there is an egregious amount of corruption and shady shit happening in local and provincial governments, local and regional businesses, and, of course, with the police. The fewer reporters you have, the worse it’s going to get.
Wherever you live in Alberta, I guarantee someone is robbing the public. Journalists, for how annoying they can be, are how you defend the public square and stop this from happening, but there are less journalists now than ever.
To the 450 or so people who regularly donate to the Progress Report — you are key. You help keep this little operation going. You are how I’m able to sit down and read every ASIRT report that comes out, attend Edmonton Police Commission meetings and government press events, and take the time I need to figure out what is going on and report back to you.
It’s just general beat reporting. And the beats I cover are municipal politics, provincial politics, the police and all the intersection points in between. A lot of media companies these days are either just op-ed factories telling powerful people what they want to hear. Think of Jen Gerson’s The Line or Sean Speer’s The Hub, websites obsessed with explaining simple concepts to stupid rich people like Vox or Semafor, or are behind a paywall like the New York Times or the Globe and Mail.
The Progress Report will always be free. It will always do beat reporting on the rich and powerful. And it will never be a place that just cranks out takes and clickbait essays. And for a monthly donation that’s about the cost eating out once for lunch you can make sure that I have food and shelter and help keep democracy alive.
A little earlier I said 450 people help keep this media project going. Last year, that number was closer to 550. We lose monthly donors all the time, whether it’s because their job situation changes, their credit card expires, or whatever. If you value the work we do, please consider becoming a monthly donor.
A law enforcement training facility is being proposed for Beaumont — just outside of Edmonton. Not only did it break lobbying rules, but it would also be really handy for a provincial police force. Given what’s happening in Atlanta with Cop City, we’ll be keeping an eye on this one. This is a Progress Report exclusive and we were only able to publish it due to the financial support of our patrons.
The Calgary Police Service charged two of its most vocal and well-known critics with hate crimes last week. Adora Nwofor was charged with a hate crime after an incident at St. Thomas Aquinas School, however the hate crime part of the charge was quickly dropped after a Crown prosecutor actually looked at the case. The CPS are saying it’s a clerical error, which is pretty fishy considering Nwofor’s status as a police critic and how the justice system actually works. Taylor McNallie, another vocal anti-police critic, was also charged with a hate crime by Calgary police after a protest in May outside of Western Canada High School on the International Day Against Homophobia. The CPS weaponizing the hate crimes unit, a unit with not exactly the best reputation, against racialized police critics is an incredibly worrisome trend especially when what they're being charged with relates to protests.
The City of Edmonton and the Edmonton Police set a new record in cruelty in its continuing war against unhoused people last week, when they swept the same encampment twice in six days. One of those sweeps came during a heat wave. According to a newly created matrix given to non-profits that work with unhoused folks, any encampment with more than six people in it is “high risk” and will immediately be swept. This is another Progress Report exclusive. Nobody else is covering this.
A six-year ASIRT investigation into a book published by a former Calgary cop has concluded, with ASIRT finding that John Brix-Maffei exaggerated and embellished and did not commit the numerous violent offenses detailed in his purportedly non-fiction memoir. The Calgary police knew about this book and did nothing about it, or its author, until the backlash grew so large that ASIRT was forced to investigate it.
Jim is on medical leave for the foreseeable future so you’re stuck with me until he gets better, but please send your positive vibes his way as he recovers.
This is the online version of the Progress Report email newsletter. Don't depend on some social media or search engine algorithm to find this content in the future. Sign up to get updates on the most important local political issues in your inbox every week. If you like what we do at the Progress Report there is also one big way you can support us and that's by becoming a monthly donor. The regular donations of the 450 or so regular monthly donors keeps this small, independent media shop going.