Veteran journalist John Stackhouse explores the future of serious journalism in a new book that documents the digital disruption of Canadian media in recent decades.

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For those of us living through the digital revolution that has shaken media in ways few could envision even a decade ago, journalist John Stackhouse’s new book, Mass Disruption: Thirty Years on the Front Lines of a Media Revolution, may well be a downer.

But for journalists and readers, too, this book is an important recent — and uniquely Canadian — history of the global forces that have upended our media industry, particularly newspapers, and changed journalism forever.

Stackhouse, an award-winning veteran newspaper journalist and a former editor of theGlobe and Mail and its Report on Business, has produced an insightful, elegantly written work that brings together his personal perspective from that lofty perch with smart analysis of the central question that matters much to journalists, readers and, indeed, to democracy itself: Can serious journalism survive?

Stackhouse, who shared his views on journalism’s future this week at a Canadian Journalism Foundation “J-Talk” with Buzzfeed Canada editor Craig Silverman,responded in advance to my questions. (Disclosure: I am co-chair of the CJF’s programming committee).

Following is an edited version of our email interview.

Your book poses the question of whether “serious journalism” can continue? How do you define serious journalism?

Serious journalism is the pursuit of unknown truths about the events and issues that shape our society. Some of it is expository, some of it is explanatory. If there is a litmus test, perhaps it is consequence. As the late, great CBC journalist Barbara Frum once put it, journalism means telling us something we don’t know about something we care about — or should care about. Of course, that was a few decades ago, and the shape and style of serious journalism has changed, even if the substance hasn’t. Not only must consequential journalism be well told, and compellingly told, in 2015 it must strive for a visual dynamism and multiple dimensions and be immediately sharable.

To read the rest of this column, please go to the Toronto Star’s website, where it was first published


H.G. Watson was J-Source's managing editor from 2015 to 2018. She is a journalist based in Toronto. You can learn more about her at