gutting the newsroom is the first knee-jerk reaction to every financial crisis.
The Guelph Mercury just committed suicide and the publisher doesn't even realize it.
A tip of the hat and final salute to eleven more journalists who are now looking for jobs. They join the dozens of reporters and editors laid off this week from the Hamilton Spectator and the Kitchener-Waterloo Record.
News executives: when people tell you "I don't buy the paper because there's nothing in it," can't you see the cause and effect of newsroom cuts?
I had my first newspaper job on the Hamilton Spectator in the summer of 1978. The paper had a hefty staff that filled its large newsroom. I went into the Spec newsroom three or four years ago and it felt like I was wandering the Prairies. I can't imagine the skeleton staff that's left can put out a paper that is of any use to the people in Hamilton.
The storm that began brewing in the small-town papers of Canada in the early '90s -- long before the Internet -- has reached the cities.
Yup, thank God for the Internet. It's the best thing that ever happened to lousy media managers, puppet publishers and cowardly editors.
Yesterday, I listened to a talk by Mark Bulgutch, CBC's Senior Executive Producer News and News Specials, who wondered aloud about print media giving away their stories on the Internet. He, like me, argues the "giving away what you try to sell" business model doesn't sound like a winner.
I was glad to hear Mark's take on it. It's not what media managers are usually saying.
So, why do they do it? Why do corporate types think it's a great idea to splash news and feature articles, along with wire copy, on the Internet where people can read them for free? Why did publishers throughout the world play along with the idea that news copy has no value?
Because they never valued it. To them, news was a sort of duty, like following the CRTC's Canadian content rules on radio. They weren't in the business to gather news and sell it. They saw themselves as sellers of ads. They'll chase every little ad through the cyber universe, even if they have to give away the editorial content of the newspaper to do it.
Music publishers (i.e. record companies) understood the value of the creative process. The news media managers didn't. That's why you pay for music on the Internet, or you risk prosecution. So people -- even the pirates -- understand music has some worth but believe news is a free commodity.
I do believe the Internet will be a useful place for journalism, but we're nowhere near there yet. Until we get paid for our work as journalists, the Internet is just a toy. Our primary living is on paper, and the devotion of time and effort to the web should only come when there is a certainty of being paid. If I was publishing a newspaper, I would put nothing but teasers on a web page. And if I was on the board of CP, I would demand the member papers be banned from posting the co-op's copy.
The deep thinkers in academia, the people promoting convergence and multi-platform delivery, feel the same way as the media executives about the value of news and features. There is no place with greater contempt for working journalists and journalism than academia. And that goes for journalism schools, where tenured faculty normally wouldn't be caught dead doing journalism. While the typical sessional -- the people who teach one or two courses but still work in the business -- has a clue, most tenured faculty, who are steeped in bullshit communications theory, have no real credentials in journalism itself and are spiteful refugees from the business.
Meanwhile, for the second time in two weeks, the Dominion Bond Rating Service and Moody's have downgraded Canwest's debt. I think the next level down is "wallpaper". (HT: Tim Meehan on facebook).
Canwest hit a new all-time low today of 30 cents before rebounding to 34 cents.
(BTW: Could any investor rely on Morningstar's "news"? It's just Canwest's press releases, which are an interesting collection of "whistling past the graveyard" PR.)