Who Benched Raeside?

Once more my old Alma Mater the Victoria Times-Colonist is making news. For blog readers in foreign parts the name dates back to two newspapers born in the mid 1800’s as serious rivals in the business of packaging news for settlers in a new country. The Colonist was born in 1858, the Times came rattling along in 1884. After more than a hundred years of battle for the market the pair united in reluctant wedlock in 1980 and the slide, from publishing news because news is important, to selling news for handsome profits, began.

The shift in focus wasn’t immediately discernible outside the newsroom but was felt quickly within. A reporter, copy editor or photographer retired or moved away but no replacement would be hired. Existing, maybe better described as “surviving”, staff was expected to fill the gaps.

The product suffered, circulation suffered. At its peak The Colonist alone could boast around twice the number (49,343) of readers The Times Colonist has today. It is true the digital explosion has hastened the decline in readership, but the seeds for a downward spiral were sown much earlier when newspaper owners and their publishers began to lose sight of original aims.

The decline in quality continued this week when Adrian Raeside, the local T-C cartoonist was quietly shown the door, thus ending 30 plus years of consistent political commentary. He will be missed – especially as this year advances into federal election high gear and readers will be looking for comprehensive insight on candidates and issues from skilled observers as distinct from over-the-fence chatter of the twittering class.

Times Colonist readers will also be denied the penetrating commentary of Iain Hunter, former member of the Ottawa press gallery and, prior to his years, “on the hill” a member of the BC Legislature press gallery. Like Raeside, Iain was always informative, clear in analysis and highly skilled in preferring a needle to a hatchet to pop political balloons.

Iain “couldn’t be afforded” little more than a year ago – along with several other regular contributors including yours truly. The reason was always the same with the “can’t afford you” decision relayed one way or another by Editor in Chief Dave Obee, the man who pulled the trigger but didn’t load or aim the gun.

At the time of my “print” demise he told me he had fought hard to keep me in my usual Islander spot. At one point he e-mailed to say he could now, again, offer me my spot but only bi-weekly. I believed him, thanked him, but declined because I wasn’t interested in playing uncertain future games with the shadowy figure orchestrating staffing decisions.

Who would that be? It has always fascinated me that David Radler is listed in Wikipedia as Times Colonist publisher for owners Clacier Media, but that his name doesn’t make the A-team list on the T-C editorial page. It could be that he’s shy, although a Google of his name indicates he’s been far from that in his newspaper career past.

In recent weeks the Times Colonist has been demanding the provincial government come clean on the issue of the eight heath workers who were fired, rehired (some), compensated, (others) or just moved on with life. It’s a good cause. The newspaper rightly argues “the people” have a right to know which ministers, deputy ministers or associate deputy ministers were involved in disgracing eight innocents.

I wonder if I might ask on behalf of other TC readers who also might like to know: Who’s running the Times-Colonist newsroom show? Maybe chief editor Obee could write a Sunday piece for us explaining what his duties are and what role he played in deciding Raeside was no longer affordable?

He could add a sentence telling us where Mr.Radler lives (some readers might like to send him a birthday card) – then list him on the editorial page as the man who’s really in command.

It’s that “right to know and transparency” policy all good editors cherish and should, in good conscience, observe. “Can’t afford”

.

Post July 19, 2015

Fragments from a tattered notebook on curious attitudes:

First a local newspaper attitude related specifically to my old Alma Mater the Victoria Times-Colonist. For blog readers in foreign parts the name is a link with two newspapers born in the mid 1800’s as serious rivals in the business of packaging news for settlers in a new country. The Colonist was born in 1858; the Times came rattling along in 1884. After more than a hundred years of battle for the market the pair was forced into reluctant wedlock in 1980 and the slide from publishing news because news is important to selling news for handsome profits began.

The shift in focus wasn’t immediately discernible outside the newsroom but was felt keenly within. A reporter, copy editor or photographer retired or moved away but no replacement would be hired. Existing, maybe better described as “surviving”, staff was expected to fill the gaps.

The product suffered, circulation suffered. At its peak The Colonist could boast around twice the number (49,343) of readers The Times Colonist has today. It is true the digital explosion has hastened the decline in readership, but the seeds were sown when newspaper owners and their publishers began to lose sight of original aims.

The decline in quality continued this week when Adrian Raeside, the local T-C cartoonist was quietly shown the door, thus ending 30 plus years of consistent political commentary. He will be missed – especially as this year advances into federal election high gear and we shall need all the insight we can obtain on candidates and issues from skilled observers as distinct from over-the-fence chatter of the twittering class.

Times Colonist readers will also be denied the penetrating commentary of Iain Hunter, former member of the Ottawa press gallery and prior to his years “on the hill” a member of the BC Legislature press gallery. Like Raeside, Iain was always informative, clear in analysis and highly skilled in preferring a needle to a hatchet to pop political balloons.

Iain “couldn’t be afforded” little more than a year ago – along with several other regular contributors including yours truly. The reason was always the same, the “can’t afford you” decision relayed one way or another by editor in chief Dave Obee, the man who pulled the trigger but didn’t load or aim the gun.

At the time of my “print” demise he told me he had fought hard to keep me my usual Islander spot. At one point he e-mailed to say he could offer that slot bi-weekly but not weekly. I believed him but declined because I wasn’t interested in playing future games with the shadowy figure pulling Obee’s strings.

Who would that be? It has always fascinated me that David Radler is listed in Wikipedia as Times Colonist publisher for owners Clacier Media, but that his name doesn’t make the A-team list on the T-C editorial page. It could be that he’s shy, although a Google of his name indicates he’s far from unknown in the newspaper game.

In recent weeks the Times Colonist has been demanding the provincial government come clean on the issue of the eight heath workers who were fired, rehired (some), compensated, (others) or just moved on with life. It’s a good cause. The newspaper argues “the people” have a right to know which ministers, deputy ministers or associate deputy ministers were involved in disgracing eight innocents.

I wonder if I could ask on behalf of other TC readers who might like to know: Who’s running the show? Maybe chief editor Obee will write a Sunday piece explaining what his duties are and what role he played in deciding Raeside was no longer affordable?

He could add a sentence on where Mr.Radler lives (some readers might like to send him a greetings card) – and list him on the editorial page as the man who’s really in command.

It’s that “right to know and transparency” policy all good editors cherish to explain major editorial decisions to their readers. “Can’t afford Raeside” from a newspaper as jammed with advertising as the Times-Colonist in its newspaper edition, revenue rich occasional glossy magazines and never-ending “flyers”, is not acceptable.

6 comments

  1. I liked Raeside because he lent character to the TC in the same way you and Hunter did as columnists. Newspaper proprietors faced with inaffordability are making a serious mistake by purging those who have something distinctive to offer readers.

    They complain that internet competition is responsible for their dire straits but get rid of features the internet doesn’t offer. When I open my local daily every morning I find I’m already familiar with much of the news because I’ve either heard it on the radio or read it online.

    So I turn to its columnists, cartoons, opinion pieces and letters, items I have not seen elsewhere. If newspapers want to survive they should be expanding their stable of Raesides, Hunters and Humes. They can’t afford not to.

    1. Quite agree! T/C will be down to publishing old Nellie Mclung writings. There comes a point where the T/C becomes irrelevent.

  2. Thank you Jim. Now we miss both you and Raeside. It’s getting closer and closer to me pulling the plug on my TC subscription!

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  3. I agree with al the comments already made. If we weren’t sharing the cost of the T/C with our neighbours (we’re all pensioners) we would have cancelled long ago.

  4. Hi Jim – the paper is getting to be a mess -I phoned this morning after looking at the Obits and the Islander. The colored pictures were all miss printed some how. One colored pic in the obits was unreconcilable. I hope they phoned and get a reprint. I was taking to the News room and I asked if they ever look at the print -before going with the major print…………… Think I will start getting the Sun. Somethng to read . I will also miss Raeside – couldn’t afford them – who pays for the things that have been in lately. Hope you are well. I talked to Nic one day at Dr.MacNaughton’s office and he was looking upddresses to send Wedding Invits. out. Hope it went well. Take care…Joan

    : jlmartins@shaw.ca Sent: Saturday, July 18, 2015 8:09 PM Subject: [New post] Who Benched Raeside?

    theoldislander posted: “Once more my old Alma Mater the Victoria Times-Colonist is making news. For blog readers in foreign parts the name dates back to two newspapers born in the mid 1800’s as serious rivals in the business of packaging news for settlers in a new country. The C”

  5. Jim Excellent piece, as always. Little things, but this version says “Clacier Media” for “Glacier Media”and the transition between the two versions (around “Post July 19, 2015”) is perhaps not what you intended. Does not take away from the analysis and points made. Thanks for all your great work Patrick

    Date: Sun, 19 Jul 2015 03:09:40 +0000 To: pore@live.ca

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