News Media Canada writes the book on the industry’s ‘Champions’

Who: News Media Canada, with The Greater and Shortstop for creative (Catherine Vidal for French adaptation); Craft for PR.

What: “Champions,” the organization’s annual campaign marking National Newspaper Week (Oct. 1-7). As with all of News Media Canada’s campaigns since 2018, the program is being supported with funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage.

When & Where: There are a few moving parts, but the centrepiece of this year’s campaign is a book honouring members of Canada’s newspaper community. There are also print and digital ads in member publications, as well as sponsored content with CTV’s daytime talk show The Social, and out-of-home ads in post-secondary institutions offering a journalism program.

Why: In broad terms, the campaign is specifically intended to celebrate the Canadian news industry and recognize the people responsible for making it happen—a group the organization has dubbed “the champions of the truth,” said News Media Canada’s director of marketing and research, Kelly Levson.

While the national organization typically opts to support its members from the background, Newspaper Week is the one occasion each year when it briefly steps into the spotlight.

“Our goal is to spark conversation about the role of newspapers in society, the role they play in the democratic process, which is becoming even more important in this age of fake news and misinformation,” she said. “We like to remind people once a year that newspapers and their sites are important in this process.”

This year’s campaign arrives in the midst of a particularly tumultuous period for Canada’s newspaper industry, which continues to grapple with the fallout from Meta’s news ban in response to Bill C-18, as well as ongoing financial pressures that recently led the Metroland chain to move 70 of its community newspapers to a digital-only model, resulting in the loss of more than 600 jobs.

“I think the clear message here is newspapers need to be supported, and if they’re not supported this is what happens,” said Levson. “Without support, newspapers are in a fight for their survival. That support comes from readers and from advertisers. The newspapers are the ones that are asking the tough questions and providing factual information to the people in their communities, and it’s tragic when communities lose their newspaper. There are all kinds of trickle-down effects, and none of them are good.”

How: This year’s effort is a continuation of last year’s program, which introduced a downloadable font called “Champions.” The font was emblematic of newspapers’ role in championing the truth in an era of misinformation and disinformation.

This year, the font is being used in a 56-page hardcover book (also available as an e-book and a digital PDF) called “Champions,” which celebrates key figures in Canadian news media across a broad array of roles. Among the people featured in the book are La Presse cartoonist Serge Chapleau; former Montreal Gazette editor-in-chief Lucinda Chodan; and the late Toronto Star leader John Honderich.

“The people who produce the news hate to be the news,” said Levson. “They like to be in the background with the nesws up front, and we thought it was time to showcase some of these stories and inspire the next generation and let them know about the opportunities in news media.”

The book is being sold for $35, with all proceeds from sales going to First Book Canada, an organization that provides books and educational resources to children and youth in high needs communities across the country..

The project began with an open call for nominations that resulted in 113 names being put forward for consideration, which was whittled down to the 24 people featured in the book. Each person has an illustration by Canadian illustrator Rachel Joanis, accompanied by a short profile.

Why not make the message more pointed given the industry’s well-documented problems? “The goal is really to elevate the awareness of the role that newspapers play, not necessarily to threaten people [with the message] ‘If you don’t support local media, you’ll lose it,'” said Levson. “We want people to recognize and appreciate the role of newspapers.

“We’re coming at this from a positive place. Next year, who knows. Next year we might be in a completely different position and the message may not be the same. The basis of this [campaign] is let’s celebrate the fact that we have newspapers, and why we should appreciate them and the people that make them happen.”

Chris Powell