The sudden silencing of Global News 16×9

When the news hit Twitter Tuesday afternoon that Global News was cancelling its weekly investigative program 16×9, I was hit with a combination of anger and shock. Angry at those who would sweep away one of the country’s best investigative news shows, and shock from yet another body blow to public interest journalism in Canada.

Television shows come and go with the seasons, but the elimination of a program such as 16×9 isn’t just the loss of something to watch on a Saturday night; it’s the silencing of an important voice, one that helps us understand ourselves a little better, shines a light on matters the powerful and rich may prefer remain in the dark, and speaks for the voiceless.

According to the Globe and Mail, Global says this was ” purely a business decision.” Corus Entertainment, which picked up Global as part of its $2.7 billion takeover of Shaw Media, is on a drive to cut $50 million in costs to reduce debt, and the award-winning team at 16×9 is just one of the casualties.

I had the privilege to teach a data journalism course at 16×9 last summer, and came away impressed by their professionalism and dedication. Executive producer Laurie Few is an uncompromising and precise journalist who knows how to spot and develop talent, and built an investigative unit that while small, achieved much, repeatedly winning and being nominated for journalism awards.

Corus says it will create a new national investigative unit that will work with local reporters to cover stories on various platforms, including its network of radio stations. 16×9 host Carolyn Jarvis will become the chief investigative correspondent, Corus said. The CBC has taken a similar approach with its cross-country regional investigations, often with good results, and if well led the new national unit could also get results. But the sudden fade to black of 16×9 is something all of us who believe in journalism as the heartbeat of a democratic society must stop and think about. Silencing such a voice makes us all a little poorer and our democracy a little weaker.