Print Is Dead – But Not Quite

I am thankful my daily newspaper appears to have changed its ways and no longer urges me to put down the print edition I am holding in my hands and switch to the on-line, electronic edition. I must be careful with my praise for the disappearance of the sometimes banner headline offering me a free electronic replica of what I had already paid for “in the flesh”. It could be a temporary respite to make more space for revenue generating Christmas ads.
My latest scan of the printed pages – with real not electronic eyes – revealed only one mention of the electronic marvel I could read on screen. It suggested that should I be travelling in far away parts and needed maintain contact with things at home, I could as a regular paid-up subscriber to the print edition, tap into the electronic edition for free.
That’s an improvement over the old invite which insulted every paid up subscriber to the print edition by suggesting what he or she had bought wasn’t sensible or fashionable; that relevant people no longer sat in café or home kitchen with a coffee, or settled in a comfortable fireside chair to “read the paper”. “The daily” could now only be properly read on screen with clicks or finger taps to make page turns look real.
Stupid, but not the only things modern newspaper publishers are being stupid about.
My own modest daily The Victoria Times-Colonist has a core of good reporters and writers – but it’s a core so reduced in strength over the years it can no longer claim to provide comprehensive local news coverage for its readers.
There was a time when, as separate, competitive entities the Times and the Colonist were staffed, with reporters, columnists, photographers and editors with one goal in life: to beat their rivals in the breaking news game with better writing, tougher editing, pride in being first to bring important community news to their readers. Whether you were working the Legislature or covering the municipalities of Victoria, Saanich, Oak Bay, Esquimalt or any of the smaller community governments, the “beat” reporter had high, self-imposed and editor demanded, standards to meet. ”How come you missed this?” was more than a simple rebuke from an editor when the opposition won one.
Then the “suits” began to take over. The Times and Colonist ended their historic news-beat battles by amalgamating and layoffs in every department followed. Higher profits replaced demands for ever-better news quality for readers. And each year the diminishing group of newsroom survivors took another hit when a reporter or editor died, retired, or moved. Rarely were replacements hired.
And the gentle push continues to wean us from print to commuter screen because the suits believe print is dead or soon will be.
To prove how serious it is about the death of print the Times Colonist has launched a new, glossy magazine devoted to the praise of local stores and businesses. The magazine, looks sharp, the writing and editing is sharp, the display ads smart. It’s powder puff writing, but here’s the thing – why is the TC launching a new glossy print supplement while trying to persuade its print newspaper readers to read on-line?
Writers of the magazine puff pieces are TC staff writers, several of them award winning journalists who while writing to entertain have less and less time to display their skills in writing to inform. And for those who wonder about such things I recently asked a senior editor how much extra the writers were paid for their new magazine glossy word spinning. “Nothing” he said.
But not to worry, you can search for what they haven’t written but should have in your daily limited-news print edition. Then search again – for free – in your electronic edition.

2 comments

  1. A sad tale but one that can be told in many North American cities. I am a victim of a similar lust for profits at a prairie newspaper. The details of your column apply to it, right down to the glossy magazines.

  2. I was so angry when they let you and The Major go. At least we have your blog. Have you any idea what The Major is doing. He used to make me laugh about relaxing at the club with a martini to get away from his wife’s cats. Miss you both in Sunday’s.

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