Monday, April 29, 2013

Saviours of the News Business

   I’m sitting in the banquet room, enjoying my coffee and waiting for the Ontario Newspaper Awards ceremony to start when I gaze around the room and say to myself: “So these are the people who are killing the newspaper business?”
   That is what some desperate publishers of dying newspapers believe. They are hacking and slashing the people who produce their news because they cost money and apparently possess skills not needed anymore.
   Toronto’s Globe and Mail is hoping to drop 60 of its 770 staff through buyouts but it’s a good guess that there will be layoffs. The Toronto Star also is hoping to cut 55 jobs, many in editorial. The Vancouver Sun and the Province cite unprecedented revenue declines as the reason for staff buyouts that almost certainly will be followed by layoffs.
   It has been roughly two decades since newspapers began their steepest decline in profitability, power and influence. Newspaper owners and publishers have had all those years to invent ways of saving their businesses but have failed miserably. Their response to newspapers in crisis always has been to cut the staff that produces the news that customers value. 
   Corporatization of the newspaper world brought in many run-of-the-mill executive ‘geniuses’ who have come and gone, leaving behind much wreckage and broken dreams. None of them left poor.
   Most remarkable in the decline-of newspapers story is how the journalists have adapted to trying to produce, under increasingly miserable conditions, the only thing that matters in newspapering: news that explains who we are and how we live our lives.
   You can’t help but admire these people as you watch them walk to the front of the room to collect their awards, now sponsored mainly by organizations not part of the newspaper business. Many of the recipients are young and here on their own dollars because some newspaper operators won’t even pay the tiny awards entry fee, let alone the costs of getting to the awards ceremony.
   These are the people who will achieve what the millionaire owners and operators failed to do: restore the news business as a vital part of society, in whatever new forms or formats that replace the traditional newspaper.

1 comment:

  1. From Tom: Jim, you and I were fortunate to have been in on the tail end of the glory days of the newspaper business. But even then the writing was on the wall. I remember the original Lord Thomson, the toad-like Roy, saying during a television interview: "Editorial? Oh yeah, that's the stuff I have to put around my ads!" And don't even get me started about the destructive influence of Conard Black and his Brutus, David Radler. The traditional print industry is dead on its feet and just doesn't realize it. It would be laughable if it wasn't so tragic.