There's a scene in the movie Spotlight that speaks not only of the journalistic resolve of the Boston Globe but also the challenge facing newspapers everywhere.

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This article was published 31/12/2015 (2374 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Opinion

There's a scene in the movie Spotlight that speaks not only of the journalistic resolve of the Boston Globe but also the challenge facing newspapers everywhere.

"Do you think your paper has the resources to take that on?'' is the question put to the reporter chasing a story on a decades-long coverup of sexual abuse involving the Catholic Church.

Fortunately, the answer to that question was yes, and the Globe's investigation won a Pulitzer prize for its exposé celebrated in the film now attracting Oscar buzz.

For the Free Press, 2015 was a year in which the spotlight was focused on ensuring we'd have the resources so we could also answer yes when asked to take on the stories that need to be told today and in the future.

We bet our readers were willing to pay online for what we deliver minute by minute on our digital platforms. What launched in July was a paywall that was a first for a newspaper in North America. While readers could gain all access for $16.99 a month, we also provided a micropayment option that charged 27 cents per article.

Since that launch, we have seen a steady growth in both readers who subscribe to the unlimited monthly plan as well as those who are paying as they go. While digital payments only make up about two per cent of our total revenues, it's created a positive trend line in an industry, that of late, has seen mostly downward trends.

Behind the scenes, the spotlight was on a transformation of our newsroom that would allow us to break free of the print cocoon, in order to serve all our audiences regardless of whether they read the Free Press in print or pixels. What we called the Metamorphosis Project required us to no longer define ourselves by the rhythms and rigours of a newspaper, or see our future through the prism of a newspaper. In order to break new ground digitally, we needed to stop thinking about print real estate and start thinking about serving our audiences in real time.

As we bid farewell to 2015, it's fair to say no one in our newsroom sees the Free Press solely as a newspaper anymore.

My hope is that those of you seeing all that we produce online, especially new distinctively digital products such as our morning briefing, Head Start, and our lifestyle conversation starter, Ctrl+F, also see the Free Press in a new light.

That dramatic shift in the definition of what the Free Press is and what it can do is critical for 2016 and beyond.

The Free Press has been expanding its digital presence throughout the newsroom.

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The Free Press has been expanding its digital presence throughout the newsroom.

While the print product remains valuable, precipitous declines in advertising are eroding the bedrock of the newspaper industry.

In fact, there are already predictions that within the next three to five years, the printed paper landing on doorsteps each morning will be the exception, rather than the industry norm.

Alberta academic David Taras argues in his new book, Digital Mosaic: Media, Power and Identity in Canada, the upheaval in journalism triggered by shrinking audiences and advertising, a development he calls "media shock," has reached the point where there are questions about the continued survival of newspapers and traditional TV networks.

Against that bleak backdrop, we have a Hollywood treatment of the story behind the story of the Globe Spotlight team, complete with all the heavy lifting of newspaper journalism -- the tedium, the obstacles and the countless hours it takes experienced reporters to break a big story.

"We are a profession that is under tremendous pressure, a lot of financial pressure," Marty Baron, the Boston Globe editor at the time of the newspaper's spotlight investigation, said in a recent interview.

But Baron, now the Washington Post's executive editor, said newspapers need to find a way to overcome those pressures to do investigative journalism.

"Clearly, it is going to be more difficult, given there are fewer resources to do it. This is very expensive work to do. And yet we have to commit ourselves to doing it. Somebody needs to hold powerful institutions and individuals accountable. And we are the ones who have that particular role in our society."

As readers of the Free Press, you are helping provide the resources we need to do the heavy lifting of newspaper journalism.

On behalf of our newsroom, I want to thank you for the investments you have made in us with your time and your dime. And we resolve in 2016 to ensure those resources are put toward breaking the stories that need to be told.

 

Paul Samyn is the Free Press editor.

paul.samyn@freepress.mb.ca @paulsamyn

Paul Samyn

Paul Samyn
Editor

Paul Samyn has been part of the Free Press newsroom for more than a quarter century, working his way up after starting as a rookie reporter in 1988.