Thursday, 18 February 2016

Dead Journalist Walking







When I was a little kid reporter in the late 70s, I spent hours sitting around various Boards of Education, municipal planning meetings, and the cop shop acting as the eyes and ears of the public. I also went out on weekends and chronicled fishing derbies, 10ks, and pancake breakfasts along with my photogs who took pretty pictures of the winners, losers and local characters.

People ate this stuff up. They showed up at these meetings to rail against The Man, and they got their views covered, as a reward. Back in the day, this is how people made names for themselves.

Cooling my heels wasn't exactly exciting but I always felt that I was acting in the public interest. Taxpayers needed to know how their money was being spent, parents needed to know how the educators were teaching their kids, and so on and so on.

With the exception of small fry newspapers, media doesn't cover the local stuff anymore. They don't even cover the mid-level stuff. There's no room for these stories, and there is no real public appetite for them. Thanks to social media, people and not-for-profits cover themselves. They post pictures of their runs, fish count, and medalling and they share them with family and friends, really, the only people who care about their escapades. Even the cops and fire guys are covering themselves, and posting on Twitter so that people in danger get to see what's happening in real time.

Thanks to the cutbacks and job losses in the print media, there are only enough people to cover the basics: changes to infrastructure that have an impact on everybody, big events that have a lot of community interest. They also still run large sections on house and home topics because these garner a lot of advertising. But there's not much else to read because there's no staff, and no advertising. The only person I know who spends her sheckles on the print version of The Ottawa Citizen is my friend Jennette who only gets the Friday paper because she's old fashioned and considers the Friday television listings her "Bible". (She has yet to clue into the online TV guide, but who am I to spoil her fun?)

The little papers are still chugging along, God bless them, reporting on neighborhood news. I get my copy on Thursdays, delivered by a real person pulling a wagon. Sometimes I look at it, mostly it goes into the recycle. I think I'm typical.

I admire their gusto even if I don't read those little papers.

One of the interest groups that cares the most about local news is politicians -- Members of Parliament and the provincial legislatures, and local councillors. That's because they use them as free personal advertising. And that is why the heritage committee of the House of Commons is launching some sort of an enquiry into the sad state of the media. This move is in reaction to the fact that the Canadian media has imploded, leaving the desiccated corpses of hundreds of journalists in their wake as the big corporations try to figure out how to get the last drop of revenue out of them.

Never heard about this enquiry? I heard about it yesterday on CTV's Power Play minutes after CFRA talk radio made kebobs out of the last, best, on air personalities it had left. Mark Sutcliffe, a widely respected voice in this community, was given his pink slip right after his show. He joins dozens of reporters, deskers, on air personalities in Ottawa alone who have recently become our reality version of the Walking Dead. -- Dead Journalist Walking.

You'll find them sitting at Starbucks pouring over the ads on Indeed.com.

It will be interesting to see which news organizations will actually cover the enquiry, led by longtime Liberal MP and family doc Hedy Fry who wants to get to the bottom of it all. Just like Keith Davey and Tom Kent did, back in the day. I tried to find information about it today on the Internet. All I got was information on the Committee that is two years old. Even Hedy hasn't updated her website.

The committee wants to hear from Canadians who probably won't know about the committee until it has tabled its breathless report. Really, they just have to ask me.

I can tell them everything they need to know, and I have news.

That ship has sailed. The only thing that the government can do about it is give more money to the CBC because that's the only place where they have any jurisdiction whatsoever.

And it's not like we didn't see this coming back when Keith Davey and Tom Kent were still alive.

Bell Media warned the CRTC a couple of years ago that if taxpayers didn't pony up cash to subsidize its hair and teeth, lacquered heads would roll. Guess what? The CRTC blew them off and introduced pick and pay (which nobody is covering, BTW).

The guillotine was brought out of storage.

Newspapers warned that if people didn't buy their newspapers, if they didn't toss a few coins out to get past their pay walls, there would be consequences. Guess what? Instead of reporting the news, their best minds are scouring the Internet for call centre jobs.

Fact is, the only people who care are media types, politicians, and people who want their news covered. The rest of us stopped paying attention years ago.

Viewers and readers have reacted by cancelling their subscriptions, their cable and their home phones.

Led by the millennials, even old people are learning that they can get pretty much everything, all the information they need, for free on the Internet. Why should they pay a newspaper subscription when they can get Obit Messenger online?

And they seem not to notice the news hole created on television news broadcasts because it is being filled with cat videos, crime footage captured by citizen journalists, and cooking segments.

That's what people will tell Hedy and the gang.

It's over. Move on. Find a new way to connect with your constituents.





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