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Wendy Mesley is a journalist, podcaster and blogger.

I’m a former anchor of the CBC News program The National and I have an uncomfortable confession to make: I don’t watch the news.

This is really hard to say but I don’t watch The National any more. I can’t tell you the last time I watched W5. I don’t get news from people who do what I used to do for a living. It’s sad, but it’s much more than that.

I’ve been sitting on the sidelines as I watch people react to all the job cuts, amid our shrinking media landscape. It hurts to see people I know and love lose their jobs. There is lots of anger and disappointment over the latest layoffs at Bell. I get it: W5 is the longest-running investigative program in Canada. CBC could be next, if Pierre Poilievre becomes prime minister and defunds it.

But here’s the awkward part: If everyone who is complaining about the cuts actually watched, the situation would be very different.

It breaks my heart to say this, but I understand why people don’t watch the legacy stations any more. If I’m being honest, the stories, tone and presentation are just not working. I have lots of other options, and they’re better. By 10 or 11 at night, I have all the information I need. We’re not going back to the 1960s – or the 1990s, for that matter.

It’s disappointing and scary, and it’s beyond sad. That said, it’s happening. So what are we going to do about it?

A lot of people have been calling out Bell, or other corporate bosses. I’m happy to join the chorus. That’s easy. It’s true they have an onus to provide quality news, and it’s their responsibility in return for being given access to the airwaves. They should be made to hold up their end of the bargain. Everyone was happy when the media was making a lot of money, when people were watching.

It’s also true that technology has changed things. And it’s true that advertisers go where the eyeballs are. Advertising money kept traditional media alive for decades. Now the audience has splintered and gone elsewhere, and the ad money has followed. All this is true, but it’s a lot more than that.

The current model is not working. I don’t have a magic solution, but it seems there are a few basic considerations. How do we chase an audience? Can a large newsroom or network connect with a large Canadian audience? Can it face controversy and offer two sides on difficult discussions? And if it can, who will pay for it?

I left CBC in 2021 and am now doing a podcast and writing a blog on Substack with another well-known media personality, Maureen Holloway. I’m having the time of my life, talking to interesting people, talking and writing unfettered. That said, it’s difficult to make a living without the reach and scale of a network. If this is the future of journalism, it’s hard to imagine what it must be like for the twentysomethings. It’s not easy, but I’m still desperate to know what’s happening in the world.

In terms of my own media habits, I devour The New York Times, the Guardian, Al Jazeera and The Globe and Mail. I spend hours reading blogs, newsletters and sites I’ve found online, recommended by smart people. I read the headlines, the facts, then I go directly to the opinion sections, often reading people I don’t agree with. I do not go to broadcast news. I’m no longer relying on people like me to stay informed. And I’m not alone.

I remember listening to the podcast Serial back in 2014 and thinking, “Wow, this is interesting.” I didn’t realize the journalistic world was about to change. Others did, and went to work outside the usual network boxes, like Connie Walker. She won last year’s Pulitzer and Peabody awards for her podcast Stolen. Ms. Walker was transfixed by Serial, too – she heard a way to finally get people to pay attention to Indigenous stories, and she transformed how people think.

There’s been lots of hand-wringing. I understand it, but let’s put our energy into a product people want and need. Journalism still matters and democracy requires it. Civil society works on facts. We need a fair and balanced conversation as a society. We need sources we can trust. People are still watching, listening and reading.

Conversations about the future of journalism are happening, and some people are exploring solutions. Could it be more local or more digital? Some think the answer might be the streamers, but so often they lack the rigour and integrity of legacy news. I’m not sure we can live without that foundation.

Broadcast journalism is facing a reckoning. It’s time to stop complaining and figure out how we fix it. And then maybe, I’ll start watching again.

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