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.

Comments (3) Add New Comment
Neil Cave
All readers benefit from articles written by good journalists, whether it's solid analysis, in-depth research, or just a new point of view. Good journalism seems to be a dying art as newspapers cut costs (present company excluded of course). I hope newspapers figure out how to make money, I'm happy to pay for well-written articles.
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Hazlit
Newsrooms need good reporters. White collar crime is especially important. Maybe a reporter could uncover some corporate malfeasance and we could fire the corporate person and give his/her money to the reporter and the paper.

Any healthy society needs people who can make good money biting the hand of profit. Making money by f*ing the money people is the very definition of a healthy society.
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Rod Smith
Print media is a sinking ship like the Titanic, and no one in the industry can admit this. News will not go out by print if it's a low advertising week as shown by the Globe and Mail, so the democracy argument is transparently bogus. Print editions are outright cancelled if not enough revenue is brought in by advertising, which shows us as a society that the newspaper industry was one big fat hog gorging at the dollar trough. So much for getting the news out to the people, who by the way, are happy not to have bundles of flyers and newsprint thrown at their door. The tablet now rules and the web is here to stay. When the internet came into play in 1992, newspapers ignored the warnings not realizing that band width and tablets would make reading news so easy for the next generation. They always said hautily that everyone loved the tactile feel of newsprint and pages in their hands and that would never change. What dinosaurs! The newspaper industry is paying the price now for their past gluttony, having charged a small ransom for classified ads and retail ad space for decades, because advertising that way was one of the only games in town. Surprise, it's a new era now. The horse and buggy are giving way to the car, the video killed the radio star, and print media is dead in the water. Pretty soon there will be no one left in newsrooms, production rooms or print plants, from the constant slashing good employees
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