On Jan 1, the Manitoba Press Council ceased operating after the last few participating newspapers withdrew their financial support.

The Manitoba Press Council has ceased operating after the last few participating newspapers withdrew their financial support.

The Winnipeg Free Press reports that newspapers including the Free Press and the Brandon Sun were among those to pull out, prompting the council to shut down on Jan 1.

"There seems to be a belief that the council lacks relevance and credibility, yet one could argue that the need for a watchdog over journalism's ethics has never been greater," Martin Krawec, a council member, told the Free Press. "If there is no avenue of redress or recourse for the public, then the public is indeed in dire straits."

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However, Bob Cox, publisher of the Free Press, said that today’s social media environment lends to different avenues for the public to complain about news media, and that the council only received two complaints in 2011.

The significance and clout of press councils has been in decline for a number of years now. Don Sellar, former ombud at the Toronto Star, wrote this feature about the importance of press councils in the face of their decline in 2008. In 2010, Brian Gabrial, an associate professor of the M.A. journalism program at Concordia, followed up with this article, which contained suggestions on how to fix the model.

After Sun Media pulled its papers out of the Ontario Press Council in 2011, Newspapers Canada announced a new study that will look into options for the future of the watchdog groups. Ivor Shapiro, the chair of Ryerson’s School of Journalism will present the results on April 28, at the national newspaper conference in Toronto. 

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