The Conversation is coming to Canada
This is a sneak peek at research to be presented June 3-4, 2017 at “Is no local news bad news? Local journalism and its future,” a conference hosted by the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre. Click here to learn more and register.
By STEPH WECHSLER
A new iteration of a global online news project will bring academics’ expertise to local journalism in Canada.
The Conversation, a news site founded in Australia and brought to the U.S. in 2014, focuses on explanatory journalism designed to help readers understand critical issues in their communities with the insight of scholars whose extensive work in a given field doesn’t always make it to such a broad audience.
“I’ve personally felt that the primary purpose of journalism is to provide people with information that allows them to make their own informed decisions about important things in their life,” says Scott White, editor of the new Canadian edition of the site, which launches this summer.
“The question around that would be, ‘how could academia help that purpose?’ And I think the answer is The Conversation.”
Local news organizations consult academic sources to explain complex subject matter all the time, says White. This model enables them to bring their deep knowledge in specific fields directly to readers and stakeholders.
For example, during a spring of extensive flooding in eastern Canada, much of the news coverage addressed climate change as an underlying factor. But, says White, there are additional layers of context that could be expertly unpacked by an academic authority on the issue.
“You might think, ‘I’m from a small town? What does it matter to me? I can’t control climate change,’” says White. “But you might have a real impact on your public health policy and strategy, so we hope to enlighten people with that and get feedback from people as well to report on those types of issues that we think will help at the very local level.”
Stories like these are edited by journalists and written and researched by writers affiliated with universities. All of the content is available through Creative Commons. The Conversation Canada, for one, will be distributed by The Canadian Press to hundreds of news outlets, says White, and word-of-mouth will help it reach new and broader audiences. New outlets can also use The Conversation’s content for free.
“At one time not so long ago, traditional media would have had people who covered the beats science, medicine, technology. That still exists to some extent, but certainly not the level that it did,” says White, who will showcase the new Canadian site at Is no local news bad news? The future of local journalism’s Innovation Bazaar on June 3.
“Instead of the traditional model where a journalist would interview an academic, we’re going to actually have the academics explain their work, but working with journalists in a way that is easily understandable to a wide audience.”