OTTAWA—Torstar Chair John Honderich squared off against Postmedia columnist Andrew Coyne at a sold-out and spirited debate Tuesday over whether the government should “act to save journalism in Canada.”

Honderich made the case that newspapers are vital for a democratic society, arguing that because of the industry’s “badly broken” business model, government action is necessary to prevent their disappearance.

“You could not have a more fundamental public good than making sure the Canadian population is well-informed,” Honderich said.

“That is an absolutely fundamental tenet of how a democracy works.”

Coyne said the struggles of the industry are largely self-inflicted — mainly by posting content online for free — and that the government has no place choosing which media players deserve to be bailed out.

“People do not value the thing we are selling at a price sufficient to cover its cost,” Coyne said.

“If the government can’t subsidize everyone, it shouldn’t subsidize anyone.”

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