April 22, 2024

Ink-stained wretches is a grassroots volunteer advocacy group founded by former Waterloo Region Record newsroom staff. Their mission is to promote a culture that values journalism across the country.

The decline of the business of journalism accelerated in 2008 after the recession hit Canada, and many outlets started shutting down since then. According to local news map data, between 2008 and Dec. 1, 2023, a total of 516 local news operations closed in 345 communities across Canada.

The group was formed in early 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic hit Canada. Following the lockdowns, the state of the journalism industry worsened. The founder and coordinator of the organization, Mirko Petricevic, and his group, who were former newsroom staff, decided to act. “What can we do as former news workers, as people who care about democracy, what might we do to boost the state of the newspaper industry,” said Petricevic of his motivation to start the organization.

“It came down to deciding that we would advocate with municipalities to see if they can advocate at the federal level because the federal government has the influence to bring in legislation and regulation and make sure we have an ecosystem that supports local news.”

To connect with journalists and gain support, they have taken to social media and other platforms to share their petitions. One such petition has called for elected officials to create regulations and legislation prioritizing local journalism in Canada. This petition has gained notable support, more than 1,170 people from across the country signing it.

“It’s great to get support from across the country,” said Petricevic, expressing his joy because of the support they get around Canada.

In partnership with World Press Freedom Canada and journalism students at the North Atlantic and Western University College, the group requested that mayors across Canada recognize May 3 as World Press Freedom Day in their municipalities. The Canadian Commission for UNESCO partnered with the group for their second campaign. The commission amplifies the organization’s messages on social media, pays for UN flags, and ships them to municipalities holding a flag-raising on May 3rd.

Councillors have passed journalism-supporting resolutions in 29 municipalities in nine provinces, where approximately 13 million reside. The City of Waterloo, Region of Waterloo, Township of Wilmot, City of Hamilton, City of Windsor, City of Cambridge, and City of Winnipeg are among those that have passed the resolutions.

The group organized its first Journalism Film Festival this year and partnered with four major media outlets in the Waterloo Region: CBC-KW, CTV Kitchener, The Record, and CityNews.

The festival showcased four films promoting journalism. Each film was screened at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of March, April, May, and June of last year at the Apollo Cinema in Downtown Kitchener (DTK).

“I think it went well, we exceeded the number of the usual crowd of people coming into the theatre,” said Petricevic when asked about the festival’s success. “The part of the success was that we had former journalists and people who like journalism come together and feel good about journalism for a couple of hours,” he added.

Mike Farwell, a prominent figure in the journalism industry, was present and volunteering at the Journalism Film Festival. He hosts the well-known show “The Mike Farwell Show,” works as a radio announcer for CityNews 570, and runs his own OHL podcast.

Along with several other journalists, he firmly believes that there is a need for an advocacy group for journalism. “I’m happy to promote them, and I’m certainly happy that somebody who’s still working in media and trying very hard to emphasize the importance of coverage of local stories and local media,” said Farwell, expressing his fondness for the group.

“I think the work they do in reminding people of the importance of local media is critical. We need an organization like that, and hopefully, more and more municipalities sign the pledge they’ve been asking them to sign on to keep local media alive,” he added.

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