Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Straws in the wind re the direction of media, plus comments - Denyse O’Leary

Toronto Star restores free TV guide?: Just recently, a little drama erupted at my house, when my mother could not find a copy of the Saturday Star with a TV guide in it. That, I discovered via some sleuthing, resulted from genuine, possibly ongoing uncertainty on the part of the Star about how to continue to market the guide.

The trouble is, many people - like my mom - take the Star mainly for that handy guide, especially older people who are not on the Internet. Similarly, many buy it for the crossword, a favourite columnist, recipes, horoscopes, news, etc. Many years ago, pundits suggested that, to save paper, all these products be bundled and sold separately. Actually, they are, in books, collector magazines, and round-the-clock TV news coverage of disasters, such as CNN might provide. My hunch is that the daily paper is just plain losing out in the circulation wars because the big wad of paper is no long filling a niche, just a blue bin somewhere.

Anyway, I would guess customers complained because the guide is now back. One way they will not stay in business is by forcing the customer into knots over the very thing (the only thing, in many cases) that the customer wants.

But newspaper circulation is declining anyway, whether in the United States, Australia, or Canada. The trend is less noted in the developing world, probably due to less Internet access.

Here’s how to spot a bankruptcy coming, if you can do the math, but for my money, it’s when the staff are pestering freelancers like me to write for free. That amounts to saying that the enterprise is no longer a business.

Canadian writers, including Christian writers, will need to look elsewhere for venues. The Internet isn’t bad, as long as you can get clients who can pay you enough to support yur work.

Meanwhile, Raleigh, S.C. editor Paul Greenberg worries that American newspapers will seek a government bailout:

Lee Bollinger confuses the sad fate of failing newspapers -- some of which, let's face it, deserved to fail -- with that of journalism itself. Much like someone worrying about what's going to happen to the buggy-whip business once those awful horseless carriages take over the road.

[ ... ]

Mr. Bollinger can't see that the Internet has moved the press back to the uninhibited, robust and wide-open days of the founding fathers, when anyone with a printing press could publish his own news and opinion, advertisements and manifestos. Today they may be bloggers, or, as one outraged and outdated TV executive called them, guys sitting in their living room in their pajamas. And occasionally taking down an imperious Dan Rather.
I don’t worry about Government Media so much now because previous bailouts of failed businesses have fared poorly. If a business is losing money, turning it into a compulsory charity won’t help, and if people won’t read the newspaper, we had better gravitate to something they will.

London Free Press’s Rory Leishman resigns over canned column: Longtime Christian columnist Rory Leishman resigned recently when the editor canned his column on Islamism, shown here. I wish Leishman had not just resigned, making it easy for editors to keep their heads ensconced firmly in the sand on domestic terror, claiming fear of lawsuits.

In fact, our Supreme Court, like many, has signalled a willingness to protect journalists and news outlets that are genuinely acting in the public interest by making threats known. It is no way to justify a newspaper’s continued existence by publishing anodyne stuff only our potted plants will appreciate when we put newspapers under them to catch water overflow.

Denyse O’Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist’s case for the existence of the soul..


Anonymous said...

If you actually read -- and absorbed -- the reason his editor decided not to run Rory's piece, it was because he wanted the "journalist" to do exactly what he should have before filing the piece: call the people he was attacking, and give them a chance to have their say. This is common journalistic practice. If Rory was interested in hearing them out instead of penning a polemic, then he would not have balked.

By the way, Denyse, I couldn't find the poem, since the entire issue (aside from a few back pages) was in Urdu. However, among the English articles I did find one that celebrated Muslims who had helped Jews during the Holocaust.

But of course, when your religious/political agenda is the tail that wags your dog, that's easily overlooked.

Peter Black said...

I'm sureyou neither need nor expect nice little backslapping comments to make you feel good, Denyse. That said, I thank you for your commitment and willingness to alert others of us to the issues surrounding matters of concern to you, knowing that you share them out of concern for others.

Denyse O'Leary said...

Anonymous and Peter Black,

It was not until the evening, after I had posted the column, that I discovered that Rick Salutin, distinctly a man of the left, had also been fired as a freelance Globe & Mail columnist.

My principle concern is that newspapers may attempt to survive in an online world by trimming outliers, when those may be the columns people read.

I have very nice neighbours,so I never have trouble hearing local opinions I agree with or at least see the point of. It's the others I crave, and sometimes need to hear via a newspaper.

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