Editorial

The slow, painful death of the print journalist

Published: November 29, 2017

BY JENNIFER PARSONS

Each Monday for me here starts the same. Saunter into the office between the 8:00 and 8:30 a.m. mark. Sit down at desk. Take stock of the stories list that is ever present on the corner of my desk. Sigh. Avoid starting on said list by jumping onto facebook and twitter for “media scan”. Surface a short time later and start filing stories for Wednesday’s paper. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

But this Monday felt a little different after coming across a tweet courtesy of Metro Winnipeg’s Ryan Tumilty who wrote earlier that morning “down side to working in journalism, your layoff is announced by press release.”

I don’t know Tumilty personally but it was quite easy to share in his dismay and that of the more than 290 people across Ontario and Manitoba that woke up to find out their jobs no longer exist thanks to a Postmedia Network Inc. and Torstar Corp deal to swap publications that is akin to a coordinated effort of two opposing monopoly players looking to run the table and share the profits. The swap involved 35 community newspapers and free dailies, only five of which have escaped the cut. The other thirty are getting canned to save the costs of production in the face of “significantly declining advertising revenues.”

Community newspapers in print are becoming a thing of the past, which means those of us that are continuing to trudge away under finite space restrictions and not-at-all arbitrary print deadlines need to continue to find ways to present the news of the week with local flavour. A challenge that gets harder and harder as the weeks go by it seems.    

The newspaper industry isn’t the only one facing layoffs and closures but it is probably one of the longest “dying” industries, continuing to undergo massive changes with readers consuming their news online and digital advertising revenue growing. According to the Financial Post the Canadian Media Concentration Research Project says Internet advertising revenue increased an estimated $5.5 billion in 2016 with Google and Facebook attracting nearly three quarters of the spending.

I can tell you that print advertising is becoming harder and harder to come by meaning publications like us and others that are independently owned are looking at the same math Postmedia and Torstar looked at. Budgets are tight and cost savings efforts continue to be needed.

But until someone shuts down the presses on us Mondays will always end the same way. A single desk lamp shining into the late hours of the evening illuminating a workspace cluttered with notes on names, dates and details of sports games, community functions, municipal budget changes or challenges. The light gets shut off when the last of the week’s news is scratched off the to-do list, one item at a time.    

A bright light to these and other print journalism layoffs, I do believe, is that other aspects of media including online reporting and blogging will have a deeper pool of dedicated journalists and talented writers available to class up the on-line joint a little bit more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *