LOG CABIN CHRONICLES

"I'm from the government, how can I help?"

Posted 12.16.17
FRED RYAN

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The Quebec government just announced a budget to help "traditional media," including small community newspapers. Great idea! The help? Oh, that community newspapers stop being newspapers.

Quebec will help fund a shift to on-line or digital "publications" -- so forget the paper, the newspaper part. Plus the newspapers -- financially suffering in part due to a withdrawal of all government communications and notices -- are themselves to pay fifty percent of what's needed to carry out Quebec City's Big Idea.

Every study I've read shows that digital newspapers are a losing proposition. No community papers are making enough on their web presence to pay for a wholesale shift of emphasis, resources, and personnel to digital. The huge Toronto Star closed its digital version this year after two years, losing $20 million. Is the government ready to back up the losses they'll cause?

The government's figures used to buttress its silliness are the billions made by Google and Facebook. "If they can do it, you can too!" Is that Liberal thinking?

The opposite is true. At our sister paper, the Bulletin d'Aylmer's web version registers about 4,000 viewers per week. That's substantial (for a local website), but the paper version of the Bulletin is read by close to 50,000 people, every week.

We shouldn't be partisan. The other parties seem to have a similar shortfall reasoning -- so let's assume going with the web is a good idea. This would apply to more than newspapers, right? Where else would it save a lot of money? Provide efficiencies?

Government!

Let's see the Quebec government go entirely digital.

Imagine the savings, just keeping the National Assembly building operating -- add the cabinet ministers and their chauffeurs -- newspapers are peanuts! Here's genuine savings for Quebec taxpayers. Imagine the savings on recycling all that official paper!

How it might work: We elect a government based on each party's platform and promises, but this government has no MNAs, no cabinet. The public service examines the winning platform (and current issues) and proposes measures for the coming year.

No more interminable discussion by MNAs in the Assembly on such profundities as women's apparel on buses. No MNAs at all! The bureaucrats come up with the projects (as they do, anyway) -- but this goes digital, and we each vote, once a week, via a voting website. Digitally counted, the government algorithm announces the result -- presto, we have a new law (or not). Digital government! This gives us each a role to play, every week! There's real democracy!

The Liberals would support this. If digital's good for newspapers, it's even better for government since it saves so much money.

Downside< /b>: MNAs, cabinet ministers ,and consultants would have to get jobs now, but, as with the newspaper editors, that's their problem. So, let's hear it in Quebec City for this great Liberal idea!

Folks, ridiculous of course -- but less ridiculous than having no newspapers?

john@johnmahoney.com




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