Researchers at Ryerson University are asking Canadians to share their opinions on the future of Canada’s press councils.

 

Researchers at Ryerson University are asking Canadians to share their opinions on the future of Canada’s press councils.

The past few years have not been promising for those who believe that press councils are the key to past, present and future accountability in journalism. Quebecor withdrew from the Quebec Press Council in 2010, and its Sun Media newspapers withdrew from the Ontario counterpart last summer. Then, the Manitoba Press Council ceased operating after the last remaining newspapers pulled out just as 2012 began.

Further, there doesn’t seem to be much agreement on what can be done. Calls for a national press council have been met with criticism that such an organization would pose a threat to freedom of expression. Op-eds offer different remedies for what they see as a problem.

But a new study looking into the future of press councils makes no assumptions.

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At the request of Newspapers Canada, Ryerson University’s journalism research centre—headed by efforts from Ivor Shapiro and Lisa Taylor—will look to compare existing models of press councils in Canada, understand their purposes and examine their effectiveness. Preliminary findings from the study will be presented at the Ink&Beyond national newspaper conference on April 27.

News consumption has changed so vastly in the 40 years since press councils were created, says Taylor, that the watchdog's role warrants re-examining. “[Citizens are] no longer passive recipients of information–they shape journalism and, when they’re not happy, news consumers have ways to make their voices heard through social media,” she said in a press release.

Taylor and Shapiro are looking for feedback now, though. They are looking to hear opinions on the future of press councils from journalists, those in the industry and the public at large.

The public survey is available in both English and French, and can be found at each of those respective links.