This week dozens of experienced, dedicated and skilled journalists across the country will be walking out of their newsrooms for the last time as the latest round of Postmedia buyouts (aka cost cutting) takes effect. This time they’re chipping deep into journalism’s quick.
The bylines departing are some of the most recognizable in their markets. They’re the pillars of their papers who’ve been telling the stories and taking the photos in their communities for decades. They know every nook and cranny of their beat, they know exactly who to call, where to dig. They are trusted, by sources and by readers.
But for the corporation that employs them, they are a drag on the bottom line that is plummeting further and further towards the abyss. They are senior staffers, and that means they’re expensive. It’s much cheaper to fill the ever-shrinking spaces between the fewer and fewer ads with quick-hit stories pumped out by disposable J-school grads who will also find themselves cast aside when they’re deemed too expensive. That is, if their papers even last that long.
Because as much as newspaper publishers like to think their august front page banner is their brand, the relationship with readers and advertisers is forged by the reporters, photographers and editors who toil for that banner. Diminish them, you diminish the brand, weaken your connection to the community. Until one day readers wake up and decide they’re not getting much for their subscription dollar anymore. And advertisers realize they’re being sold empty promises.
Almost to a fault, the departing journalists are putting a hopeful face on the future. They’re writing all the right things about an industry turned upside-down, struggling to figure out a way to turn itself around, trying new things, forging new paths to retain their relevance.
Their colleagues who left before them wrote similar words. So did those in the round of buyouts before that, and so on.
Yet here we are, with no end to the cost-cutting in sight. Until there’s no-one left to cut.
This round of names I grew up with, bylines I sometimes encountered on the job during my own 31-year career as a journalist that was truncated by the closure of my paper, is feeling perilously close to that end.
Good luck to everyone walking out of their newsroom for the last time. You dedicated yourself to telling stories that might not otherwise get told. You informed and enriched your communities. You made us smile and wrenched our hearts. Thank you!