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EDITORIAL: Your local news will soon vanish from Facebook and Google, but SooToday is here to stay

Big Tech is vowing to block any trace of your trusted local news. Whatever happens, our journalists will keep covering the stories that matter most: the ones closest to home
Village Media headquarters.

I have been a journalist long enough to remember when a column like this only existed in the pages of a newspaper. If you wanted to share the article with somebody else, you had to literally hand over your hard copy.

Fast forward to today, and there are plenty of ways to access the words you’re reading right now. Many landed here by going directly to the homepage of SooToday, your city’s most trusted source for local reporting. Others saw the headline in our daily email newsletter and were intrigued enough to click through. 

And for a lot of you — up to half — the road to this web page began with a visit to Google, or a scroll through your Facebook feed. Both of the world’s Big Tech giants have steered countless readers to our high-quality local journalism, ensuring the important stories we cover every day are seen by as many eyes as possible.

Sadly — for your sake, and ours — that digital gateway is about to slam shut. As you’ve likely heard by now, Facebook and Google have both announced that Canadian users will soon see zero Canadian headlines on their platforms. Not one. And that includes every piece of community journalism produced right here at SooToday.

Readers will no longer be able to find our links on Facebook, let alone share them. If you try to Google “Sault Ste. Marie,” not a single hit will be a story from our website. Simply put, SooToday is about to vanish from the internet’s two most popular portals, as if we never even existed.

Why is this happening? Because the Trudeau Liberals — determined to protect Canadian media from online giants that supposedly poach our content — passed a flawed piece of legislation that will devastate far more news outlets than it saves.

At Village Media, which operates SooToday, we never bought into the prevailing wisdom behind Bill C-18: that Facebook and Google somehow steal our stories, and should therefore compensate us for that theft. Born digital, our local news company believes the exact opposite: that Facebook and Google are critical to our success, helping us reach more readers, expand our audience, and share as far and wide as possible the stories that matter most — the ones right in your neighbourhood.

We want Facebook to be chock full of our hyperlocal articles. We want Google News to feature our latest headlines. Just look at what we have proudly built as a result of all that traffic: a thriving local news source staffed by talented journalists who actually live in your community. In this modern age of newsroom cutbacks, that level of on-the-ground reporting is a rare resource.

As predicted, the future of local news is suddenly in serious jeopardy because of Bill C-18. Rather than pay up, Facebook and Google have responded to The Online News Act by vowing to abandon the Canadian news business altogether. No more links. No more shares. And no more licensing agreements, which some media outlets, including Village, had previously signed with both companies.

Bottom line: a lot fewer people will see our reporting, which will threaten our ability to continue that reporting.

The timeline is still not clear, and much could change in the months between now and when the bill is officially enacted. In the meantime, I’m asking you, a loyal reader, for one favour: Keep depending on us.

Continue to visit our homepage, your go-to source for accurate, up-to-the-minute local news and information. Even if our links do disappear from social media, our goal is to keep finding ways to provide the same robust coverage you’ve come to expect.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe to our free email newsletter. It arrives in your inbox every afternoon at 3 p.m., full of hometown headlines you won’t find anywhere else.

And if you believe in the critical importance of community journalism — and you can spare a few dollars a month — please consider pledging your support for SooToday. Every last dollar goes toward bolstering local news coverage in the city you love.

I’ve said it many times before, but I will say it again: When done with purpose and passion, local journalism has the power to strengthen a community like nothing else can. Day after day, story after story, our reporters scour for the truth, hold decision-makers to account, introduce you to fascinating residents, and chronicle local triumphs. Our mission is to shine a spotlight on everything the public deserves to know — good, bad and ugly.

To me, that is the real magic of local journalism. It reminds us, one article at a time, that each person has a stake in our community. That we share things in common. That we all belong.

I know for a fact that we definitely belong here: in the Sault, covering the issues and events that impact your day-to-day life. Stick with us, please, especially now. With you in our corner, we don’t plan on going anywhere.

Michael Friscolanti is Editor-in-Chief of Village Media

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Michael Friscolanti

About the Author: Michael Friscolanti

Michael Friscolanti is Editor-In-Chief of Village Media, which owns and operates 19 local news websites across Ontario, including this one
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