Canadian news consumers feel strongly about local news, with 70 percent citing this as the main reason for reading printed community newspapers. Local news was also the leading reason why Canadians choose to read digital versions of community papers, however in a survey on perspectives on online news, many respondents agreed that local news coverage is limited and fewer topics about local communities are covered. As of January 2017, 56 percent of changes in availability of local news were attributed to closures, with only five percent of local news sources documented as having shifted online.
Canadians have also noticed a proliferation of fake news, with 33 percent strongly agreeing that a lot of untrue news and information appears on the internet. Unsurprisingly, when asked about the most important aspect of news, 88 percent of news consumers in Canada believed that news should be factual and truthful. When it comes to false news, 67 percent of Canadians said that they were very or somewhat concerned about fake news in Canada, and 65 percent admitted to having wrongly believed that a news story was real until finding out otherwise. This is despite the majority of Canadians feeling confident that they can distinguish between legitimate and fake news, and with false news stories becoming more common and convincing, the risk of news consumers finding and reading factually inaccurate or excessively embellished content is very real. The most recent data shows that consumers are not alone in their attitude towards fake news, with many journalists also agreeing that they consider fake news to be a serious problem in their industry.
As print news consumption decreases and Canadians turn to the internet to keep themselves up to date, consumers should remain aware of fake content generated by unofficial or dubious news sites and should be particularly discerning in terms of the news they read on social media. In early 2018, 38 percent of surveyed Canadians said that they used Facebook for news on a weekly basis, with 22 percent using YouTube. However, data shows that 30 percent of Canadian adults rarely trust the news they read or hear on social networks, with 35 percent saying that they only trust news on these platforms about half the time. So, despite Canadians having little faith in the integrity of news found on social networks, consumers continue to use such websites for news, highlighting an intriguing contrast in user behavior.
It is often the responsibility of the consumer to identify what is real and what is not, and as such to decide what to share and pass on to others. If frequent usage of social media for news increases, consumers must seek out content that is verifiable and based on facts, and report anything they believe to be false. Fake news is undeniably a complex and growing problem, and the future of local news available to consume online remains unclear. For now, consumers must learn to identify false news when they see it and be cautious of the content they read, see and share across the internet, and publications should be aware that covering local and community based topics is just as important as offering a global or national overview.