More media layoffs, this time at the Globe and Mail and National Post
Earlier today, I was reflecting on how much expertise has vanished from local newspapers over the past year as a result of layoffs, retirements, and buyouts.
The Vancouver Sun lost a very knowledgeable energy reporter (Scott Simpson), a stellar education correspondent (Janet Steffenhagen), and an experienced white-collar crime investigator (David Baines).
The Vancouver Courier recently said goodbye to veteran columnist Fiona Hughes.
Rod Mickleburgh, B.C.'s undisputed king of labour reporting, left the Globe and Mail. Another veteran, Petti Fong, moved on from the Vancouver office of the Toronto Star, finding a new home at CBC.
There were many others who joined them on their way out the door of local newspapers.
That wasn't the end of the bloodletting in this industry.
Today, the Toronto Star reported that the Globe and Mail will cut another 18 positions. The layoff victims will receive formal word on February 5.
The Globe's rival, the National Post, has chopped approximately six editing jobs, according to the same Toronto Star article.
The latest announcements came a day after international media consultant Anette Novak wrote a column cautioning executives about forcing talented staff out of newsrooms.
Writing on the International News Media Association website, Novak declared that publications cannot solve their problems "by serving your audience the content equivalent of candy and liquor".
Problems arise when the best employees depart because they can become a newspaper's worst competitors.
"By offering those who leave voluntarily severance packages, you get a natural selection," Novak writes. "Chopping this argument roughly, the bold and the entrepreneurial people leave."
These people have already cultivated personal brands, plus they have time and starting capital in the buyout.
(Frances Bula is an example of a bold Vancouver journalist who struck out on her own.)
What's left, according to Novak, are "the stable, security-thirsty folks".
She says the real problem facing newspapers isn't costs; it's raising revenue on the digital side of the business.
She concludes that this can only be accomplished when newspapers take their role seriously as "democracy builders" and as tellers of stories that inspire and change society.