Canadian media is on “the cusp of a change that has huge potential for news,” according to Jennifer McGuire, general manager and editor-in-chief of CBC news. And it’s the viewers and readers, even more than the always-evolving technology, who are behind the new media shift.
“This change is being driven first and foremost by the audience themselves; you lead, we adapt … or else,” McGuire told a room of journalism professors and students at Concordia last Friday, as part of the journalism program’s annual Reader’s Digest Lecture. A 1988 graduate of Concordia’s journalism program, McGuire was also presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award by program director Mike Gasher.
The media revolution, she said, is about people getting news “on their own terms, when they want it, how they want it and not saying wait, you have to come to us at a certain time for a prescribed meal.”
The theme of giving the viewer a more participatory role through increased options, choices and control was reiterated by McGuire throughout the night as she described the transition media organizations are having to make to keep their audience.
“It is the proverbial paradigm shift, a new world where the viewers and readers have more control, where the concept of up-to-date and new and breaking news is taken to new levels,” she said.”For viewers, it allows them to make up their own minds about what’s in the news and for news producers, it acts as a check and a balance. Transparency is now a virtue, and an essential part of the process.”
But new technology is also playing a profound role in the changes to news media. “Those of you who refuse to get Blackberries, iPhones or Facebook accounts, or don’t listen to podcasts, surrender now, resistance is futile,” McGuire joked with the audience. Online news is now second only to television as a news source, and is the fastest growing source according to McGuire.
There are obvious downsides to the shift, as McGuire noted that there was a loss of approximately 800 jobs and close to $170 million in budget cuts, all of which the CBC has experienced in the last year. Still, she believes that the current changes offer more positive opportunities than negative ones. It is a mixture of the viewers’ increased need for participation, advancing technology, and an increasingly diverse Canada that has motivated media corporations, like the CBC, to make drastic changes in various areas. McGuire pointed out that the CBC has recently added new programs, changed the format of The National, changed their schedule, and will soon be modifying their website.