Journalists all over Canada are dismayed at the Toronto Star’s announcement that their internship program is on an “indefinite hiatus.”
This announcement comes at a difficult time for Torstar, which has seen a loss of $6.6 million in its third quarter. In November, Torstar reached a deal with Canadian media conglomerate, Postmedia, which resulted in many papers shuttered and numerous jobs lost overnight.
The Star’s internship programs, which included both year-long and summer positions, are among the most prestigious and well-regarded in Canadian media. The Star internships were an enormously important foot in the door for many aspiring journalists. In Canada, these mainstream media internships are relatively scarce, and to see one disappear is a sad blow.
More ominous in the long-term, though, is seeing The Star — one of the titans of Canadian journalism — in such dire straits that they can’t afford interns. It’s hard to quantify the effects, but one will undoubtedly be a loss of diversity and new viewpoints.
Journalism is already an old boy’s club, with newsrooms full of older, primarily white, experienced but ideologically samey writers and editors; the loss of an internship program will only make it harder for papers to reflect a young and constantly evolving readership, as well as Canada's increasingly diverse population.
This isn’t a death knell for Canadian journalism, but it does point to increasingly hard times. People are always going to want to read the news and hear the truth, but it's clear that the traditional print-advertising model is obsolete and digital advertising isn’t much better. As newspapers experiment with new ways to make journalism profitable, it's logical — but unfortunate — that they prioritize their existing staff over new blood.
For student journalists, especially, this is ominous: it looks like one more closed door in an industry that's already exceedingly difficult to get into. There's no substitute for a national newsroom in terms of training.
But there is a positive way to look at this, as well. If traditional, enormous media conglomerates are having trouble hiring young journalists, the talent may well spring up in small, intriguing places. The Athletic, a cutting-edge publication which produces quality sports content, is scooping up writers laid off from newspapers across Canada. As Ezra Klein pointed out in 2015, "Vox, the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and Politico didn't exist as recently as a few years ago, and now we hire tons of young journalists."
We hope to see the Star’s internship returned from its hiatus. Its disappearance is certainly cause for concern in the journalism industry. It is the responsibility of newspapers to reflect and comment on what's new and current, and to do that, it's important to invest in young talent; not only from our perspective as student journalists, but also for the sake of ideological diversity in mainstream news media.