Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Bad News for Newspapers, Good News for Québec Solidaire

These are parlous times for newspapers, and that is bad news for democracy. Monday that the Tribune Company which publishes The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune filed for bankruptcy. The same day The New York Times announced that is going to borrow $225 million against its new building in Manhattan “to ease a potential cash flow squeeze as the company grapples with tighter credit and shrinking profits.”

All the stories I’ve read about these financial difficulties list a long series of staff cuts that these newspapers and others have already put into effect. Advertising revenue is down, competition from Internet sources is great, newsprint cost is up: the media giants have now choice.

Or so we’re told. Actually, given the low Canadian dollar Canadian newsprint is costing newspapers in the US much, much less than it did a year ago, so that argument shouldn’t be trotted out. As for advertising revenue: hard times mean tighter advertising budgets for lots of companies—and yet aren’t the automakers still running big ads?

The Internet presence of big papers is growing, and I just don’t understand why advertising revenues from it can’t grow substantially too. There is no reason why a newspaper can’t use cookies to track the hits it gets and guarantee advertisers coverage in target audiences. Political parties are doing that: this fall when I visited Zimbio.com to post my blog entries on their wikizines, I’ve been getting ads for the Bloc Québécois (during the Canadian federal election campaign) or the Parti Québécois (the provincial election which ended yesterday.) Surely a bright advertising department could bundle up a bunch of local ads and do the same for newspaper sites.

But newspaper are not about advertising really. They’re about information, and when newsrooms shrink so does the ability to track important debates, do in-depth reporting, uncover the corruption, give voice to vices that would otherwise not be heard. Without newspapers of quality, we’ll all be losers.

And the one good thing that’s in the news of my world today stems directly from hard work in the field and not being dissuaded by impossible odds: the victory of Amir Khadir for Québec Solidaire in Mercier. A little party on the left has elected a really top notch guy. Bravo to all who were involved.


Martin Langeland said...

Putting on my old f--t hat:

in the Sixties we decided that history (and dead languages)were irrelevant. That Film was cool.

In the Seventies we discovered that non-fiction could be creative.

The Eighties lauded greed and soundbites as communication.

The Nineties brought the internet:free as in thought, but free mostly as in beer. And more greed.

The Oughts made us reap what we have sewn.

Do I see a pattern here? Or do I fool myself yet again?

Anonymous said...

We weren't quite as succesful in Gouin just north of the tracks, for Françoise.

Yes, Amir's election was wonderful. May in Outremont was among the others who got good scores.

And I do confess I'm happy to see the back of the xenophobic, patriarchal and demagogic ADQ.

Chicago Tribune bit of a shock, with all the local stories they've had to cover recently from Obama and Oprah to the sad story of Jennifer Hudson's family and now - a classic tale of political corruption out of what, 70 years ago?

Mary Soderstrom said...

Yes, Martin, there are times when we all feel like old farts!

And Lagatta, didn't I meet you at the Mile End talk on Saturday? Always interesting to put a face to a voice, or a comment.



Anonymous said...

Yes, that is me, the middle-aged fart who (still) rides her bicycle everywhere - I was in Le Monde à bicyclette alongside Robert (Bicycle Bob) Silverman and the late and regretted Claire Morrissette, two people who have done a lot for the cyclable, walkable and liveable city.

We need a tram on Parc. Yes, there are snowy cities with successful trams nowadays. And the return of the tram on St-Laurent... entre autres. Amsterdam's trams are as great as its cyclability and walkability. And yes, cyclists who usually obey traffic signals - well, those are disciplined Germanic types.

But not today, as I wrote on today's instalment. I hate snow. Grrr.

Not too miserable, though, as my lost cat has returned - after 36 days! Skinny, but alive and otherwise well, so it seems...