Journalism … Use It Or Lose It: Quotable

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“We have very little time left. More cuts will be coming, guaranteed. I’m not going to speculate on various competitors, but we’re very, very close to the end.”

John Honderich, chairman of the Torstar board

 

This coming from the top person at the largest daily newspaper in Canada.

Newspaper executive can only look in the mirror to discover the culprit. These publications were economic and journalistic giants when the Internet began. They were the leaders in the field.

Editors should have jumped into the digital world with both feet and kept their leadership but they dawdled and could only think of dumping the newspaper onto the web. They ignored the fact that the Internet was different. That it was interactive. That the reason the Internet is so popular is that people have sweat equity in such juggernauts as Twitter and Facebook.  The consumers also provide the product.

One of the few interactive parts of newspapers and their websites was commenting. Some publications refused to monitor commenting so their good stories were followed by vile words and trolls. editors couldn’t spare one person to preside over the contributions of their readers. Editors didn’t care … even if their readers did. Newspaper executives and editors had no grasp of the Internet or, indeed, their own publications.

Honderich’s Star poured tens of millions of dollars into Star Touch, a tablet-based publication. Had the mighty Star called the lowly Bulldog, your agent could have told them that tablet use was plummeting and being replaced by smart phones. Phones were the way of the future. The Star went with a dying technology. Star Touch closed and its employees were laid off.

Also many newspapers didn’t realize their strength. The Wall Street Journal is doing very well thank you behind its paywall because it has valuable financial information readers can get few places else. You buy the WSJ to make money.

Mid-sized city newspapers’ strength was its local coverage. People bought the Winnipeg Free Press, for example, to discover what was happening in Manitoba, not London or New York. The FP had a virtual monopoly on local and regional news. But papers in cities such as Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and, yes, Ottawa didn’t exploit their natural strength.

One senior editor said to me one day that: “The last thing I want to work for is a cheesy local newspaper.” He’s out of journalism. His paper is almost gone. That “cheesy local newspaper” was the mid-sized publication’s salvation. Editors missed their chance through arrogance.

Now they are paying the price for their vanity and stupidity.

If you value local journalism, you have to participate, comment, debate, read and frequent the publication’s advertisers.

If you think it is valuable, use it … or lose it.

 

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