You can get depressed watching the downward spiral of the newspaper industry in Canada. Fewer people read newspapers, job cuts in the industry are constant, news coverage of how we live our lives continues to shrink, and is more callow and shallow.
The latest sad news is that Thomson Reuters, the global information and news service, is moving its online news service from Toronto to Bangalore, India. Only five of 23 jobs will remain in Toronto.
Thomson is a Canadian company built by legendary newspaper csar Roy Thomson who operated newspapers across the country and abroad. It sold its newspapers, got into international information sales, then acquired Reuters, the British news service.
The move of the online service says much about something we’ve known for a long time: News is simply an another commodity for making money and news executives now spend more time with balance sheets than they do building a good news report.
Thomson’s move out of actual newspapers in the 1990s was brilliant. It moved into the profitable business of providing data and information to professionals. It left behind a newspaper industry struggling to figure out how to become relevant in a rapidly-changing world.
The important thing to remember about Thomson is that it did something to change. The majority of newspaper companies in North America remain like deer frozen in oncoming headlights. They don’t know what to do, where to go, or what to become. Many are becoming roadside kill.
However, another Canadian is out there making bold moves to get the news business moving again. John Paton, the copy boy who became a major player in Sun Media Ltd., now controls a couple of major print and digital news chains in the U.S. While most newspaper executives continue talk about how to get into online news and make money, Paton has jumped in with both feet.
Paton is changing an industry that has fought change for decades.
The Los Angeles Times recently ran a piece revealing how he deals with people who won’t accept change in the business. At a meeting, a veteran columnist in one of Paton’s news operations told him that the fast moves to online were ruining journalism.
Paton replied: “I read your column. You are ruining journalism.”
Here’s hoping Paton continues to push ahead, changing journalism and the attitudes of the industry’s Neanderthals. And, maybe he can do it without moving it to India.