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Column: One's down, hopefully, one more to go. And if not, we are still here

An opinion piece on media and the latest deal between Google and the federal government.
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Last week, Google and the federal government finally found a compromise.

The Liberals agreed to set a $100 million yearly cap on payments that the tech giant will provide to media companies in Canada once the Online News Acts comes into effect later this year.

The deal was timely, as the controversial online news legislation is set to be in full power no later than Dec. 19, and Google – which was originally required to pay $172 million to Canadian outlets for our content appearing on the platform and generating revenues – for months was threatening to do what Facebook (Meta) did – black out the news country-wide.

Meta's move didn't come easy on anyone, so losing another channel would be tough.

How has it been without seeing local or any other news on your feed?

Some will say that their world felt more peaceful over these past four months. But most feedback I've heard was negative. Even though it's sometimes hard for us to digest the crazy global news flow of the day, living in a bubble doesn't fix things.

It was tough on us here at the Mercury as well.

Everything became more difficult, from doing business on our side to gaining your input, be it collecting your Letters to Santa or your experiences and captures, to getting you to share your Christmas memories. I'm guessing even the pictures of the 2023 babies (which we start collecting this week by the way, so if you had a little one in 2023, please send the info to contests@estevanmercury.ca). Social media was a platform through which we could communicate with you quickly and easily.

Fortunately, the fact that the government and Google found common ground means you still will have a convenient platform to cover all your news needs. Of course, all of us news businesses have our own websites – for better or worse – which is the main thing we all have been focused on for the past 20-ish years. Our websites are almost like individual stores – small or big – but who doesn't like going to a mall, where you can find everything you need under one roof?

I always viewed Google, and other news aggregators, as a media mall. You open one page and can find all the main events from local to international covered, short or long, depending on you.

Besides, the latest deal means that we, journalists, may have a bit more solid ground in shaky times since Google's payments may give a bit of a boost to the industry. (Broadcasters and French-language and Indigenous news organizations would join newspapers in being eligible for the deals, with draft regulations suggesting the amount of money would be linked to the number of full-time journalists on staff.)

Things don't look well in the industry worldwide. There's always been some difficulties, and I guess we are at the stage where we are facing another wave. Newspapers especially, but I'd say any media in the contemporary world is struggling with finding a new working model that would allow us to remain above water, as well as independent and strong, in the 21st century. Social media managed to allow for the spread of any kind of information at the speed of light. Now AI poses serious risks to any creative work. But we should survive.

The media has been there way before all of it, and through all the changes. Mercury reporters were here for the readers before me and you, and before Saskatchewan became a province and Estevan – a town.

Journalists were always there to connect people, inform and communicate what was happening for hundreds and thousands of years. The oldest known form of journalism is considered to be the town crier, a person making announcements and sharing news in public spaces when most people were illiterate. This dates back to ancient civilizations such as Greece and Rome.

And there always will be a need for reliable information for anyone who wants to be a part of society. This means that the storm and all the challenges caused by the reaction of the tech giants to the Online News Act are also temporary.

We need our news, be it local, regional or global. We just need to get used to walking different paths to access them. Our newspaper is still here and delivers the collection of local weekly news right to your door or to many newspaper stands in the community. Our provincial news hub SaskToday.ca is another option, which provides you with daily local and provincial news coverage, as well as nationwide and international articles. Google will remain another one – SaskToday's news, including the Mercury's, appear there regularly in different sections.

As long as people live in a society, the news will be there. So please, keep reading, stay up to date, and we'll try get through the challenges for you.