A still from Shattered, a documentary about Canada's news media industry. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Fitzgerald.

New documentary will look at state of Canadian journalism industry

Shattered is directed Lindsay Fitzgerald, a graduate of Ryerson’s journalism and documentary-media MFA programs. Continue Reading New documentary will look at state of Canadian journalism industry

While Canadian news outlets continue to face a flurry of job losses and broken business models, a new documentary will follow four reporters trying to navigate through the changing industry.

Shattered is still in production but the film’s director and producer, Lindsay Fitzgerald, said that despite the uncertain futures of the journalists she’s followed for the past year, they still manage to do “incredible” journalism.

“It’s very difficult to go to work every day knowing that half of your friends are taking a buyout or being laid off. Keeping that motivation up, I think, is extraordinary,” Fitzgerald said.

The documentary was sparked by the Canadian Worlds of Journalism Study. The Canadian study is part of an international academic project covering 67 countries, which evaluates the state of journalism around the world. Fitzgerald pitched the idea for the film after 361 journalists across Canada were interviewed for the CWJS, led by Ivor Shapiro, associate dean in the faculty of communication and design and journalism professor at Ryerson University. Shapiro is also an executive producer for Shattered.

Fitzgerald said the film is based on those interviews and that she chose journalists who fit the themes they identified in the study.

Shattered follows former Brampton Guardian health reporter Radhika Panjwani, Toronto Star city hall reporter Jennifer Pagliaro, CBC investigative journalist Harvey Cashore and independent Hamilton journalist Joey Coleman.

The film isn’t directly related to The Shattered Mirror report, a study by the Public Policy Forum on the state of news media in Canada, said Fitzgerald. But she spoke with the Forum’s CEO Edward Greenspon when the report came out around the same time filming began.

“I think it will be very useful to be associated in the future with something like The Shattered Mirror report because the film isn’t going to … provide any answers on how to solve all of these problems,” said Fitzgerald. “But I think by connecting ourselves to other groups of people who have provided some answers to some degree will be really helpful to keep the dialogue going.”

Shapiro contributed $32,000 from the CWJS funding to create the film, and Fitzgerald credits him for being the reason it’s happening.  

The Ryerson Journalism Research Centre also contributed $7,000 to the project.

The film is halfway through production and has raised $50,000 from grants and donations. Fitzgerald launched a crowdfunding campaign to help raise $10,000 to finish the film and pay for an experienced Canadian documentary editor and team of story editors based in Europe, who specialize in rough cut work.

Money will also be used for an extra 20 shooting days in fall 2018.

Fitzgerald said she will still try to finish the film even if the funding goal isn’t reached.

The film’s total budget is $75,000 and the Shattered team will seek an additional $10,000 following this campaign from organizational sponsors to pay for a sound editor, composer, marketing and distribution.

She highlighted the importance of getting this story out as she said few people understand all the implications of losing journalists.

“Some people have no idea that there’s even a crisis in news. They think newspapers are going out of print and that’s the extent of it,” Fitzgerald said. “And I don’t know if there are local sources online who we can trust in the same way we can trust that a newspaper will write something factual.”

The film is set for release in winter 2019.

Disclosure: Ivor Shapiro is a former editor of J-Source.

Spencer Turcotte is J-Source's summer reporter/researcher. He can be reached at spencer.turcotte@ryerson.ca, and on Twitter @turcottespencer.