Tuesday, October 21, 2008

More On The Newspapers

Ross Howard is an award-winning journalist, a marvelous intructor at Langara College, and a good friend. He spends considerable time in Africa and other remote regions teaching journalism. The following is an email he sent earlier today. (Tuesday, October 21/08)

David: while I agree with your excoriations of The Sun's latest putative improvements, I think in your criticisms and polling you have to sharpen the audience's understanding of what appears to be going on.

The Sun is not sacrificing local news and god forbid, enterprise reporting because the newsroom is populated with wholly incompetent reporters and idiot editors. Left to their own and professional instincts they would generally prefer to be doing more, better work.

However, the latest redesign yet again appears to reflect a corporate imperative to maximize profit by spending the least possible on content improvements as opposed to cosmetic rearrangements of limp content.

In some ways its not fair to beat up on journalists. They don't run newspaper anymore, in many cases (especially most big dailies.) .

Bean-counters, accountants, media corporation managers are the ones dictating the underlying impetus for such changes, which is to treat news production as a profit centre, not as a public service.

Within a generation, perhaps within five years, even in Canada where the newspaper crisis is different, weak papers like The Sun risk a real collapse in their readership numbers (old habits eventually die, young ones go online) because of the irrelevancy of the paper edition as useful (aside from reassuring status quo ideas) to readers young and old. Belatedly then the corporate directives may encourage the remaining Sun journalists to rediscover relevance and perhaps modestly invest in the pursuit, but it may be too late.

To belabour my point: it isn't journalists who are killing the print media in Canada. It is the owners.

Ross Howard


Anonymous said...


Your friend Ross Howard makes excellent points. Nevertheless, as Adbusters #73 and #77 have pointed out, the real problem stems from media consolidation.

In the case of Vancouver/BC, that means consolidation into the hands of Leonard Asper and Corus. When advertising revenue becomes the publisher's raison d'etre, objective reporting falls prey to the accountant's hammer.

What I fail to understand, however, is why journalists - in radio, television, and the press - have not the organization and intestinal fortitude to stand up en masse, and draw their line in the sand...It's not as though those media moguls could run their businesses without them - and I, for one, would be happy to stand with them and wave the placard.

Liz J.

Anonymous said...


Somehow, I managed to omit my closing paragraph on this subject:

Democracy cannot exist in the absence of a free and unbiased press. In British Columbia, we reap the harvest of that absence every day of the week.

Liz J.