It has been a tough month for journalism.
Reports of mass layoffs and (select) publication suspensions at Postmedia engulfed the twitterverse late Monday afternoon, the second such round of job cuts for Postmedia, who earlier this month opted to close their wire service, returning to the content produced by the Canadian Press.
It was just weeks ago that Globe & Mail was asking staff to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave in an effort to curb expenses over the summer months.
And now that both Postmedia and the Globe & Mail plan to erect a paywall around a given portion of their content, similar to the one successfully implemented by the New York Times, the predictably vacuous back and forth between the stalwarts of ‘new’ and ‘old’ media has again erupted.
Now, it’s hardly a secret that I’m a media/news junkie; addicted to information, advocating for quality journalism. The reasons for which I stumbled into the realm of politics/media I have never widely discussed. And for the purpose of this post, will continue to refrain from doing. In the wake of Monday’s news, however, I wanted to take moment to briefly touch on my experience with the industry, including the people whom I have come to admire, respect, and in some cases, to know as friends.
It was 2005 that I suddenly found myself with hours upon hours of vacant time (previously occupied by a gruelling training schedule (35 hours/week), work (20 hours/week), and school) and I was in desperate need of a distraction. Or more importantly, a purpose.
Having always had an interest in politics and the media/journalism, I used my circumstances as an excuse to immerse myself in both, and pursue a curiosity I had previously sidelined when I opted for a an academic path more closely related to my athletic career.
Admittedly, when I began my quest to discover as much as I could about the world of journalism and how the media worked, I held a certain level of disdain toward ‘the MSM’, and a few organizations in particular – one of which happened to be Canwest, now known as Postmedia.
Due to my ignorance at the time, I based my view of an entire organization on the workings of a handful of asinine columnists/editorial writers who’d managed to infuriate me on a daily basis (Gunter, Corbella, Martinuk, to name a few). However, once I had sufficiently acquainted myself with the various sources (and platforms) of information, I began to look at Canwest (Postmedia), and ‘the MSM’ as a whole, in a different way. Rather than associating a given piece of written work with a given media chain (which, as a neophyte, I had foolishly been doing), I instead focused on who was doing the writing. (Quite the ‘revelation’, I know … )
I compiled a list of editors, columnists, and reporters whose work I most enjoyed, who I found to be the greatest source of information and informed analysis/commentary. In doing so, I quickly shed the stereotypical view of ‘the MSM’ as overly biased and/or untrustworthy, and found a good number of those on my ‘favourites’ list were those at Canwest (Postmedia).
I closely followed the work of my ‘favourites’ for years, using what they had written on a given matter as a base from which to embark on hours of research on the issue at hand, for no reason (aside from the ongoing glut of time to fill) other than to satiate my desire to learn about that with which I was unfamiliar. I gained an appreciation of the amount of work required for a single piece of (exceptional) writing, and though I still followed (and supported) various ‘non MSM’ news sites/writers, I began to value the content produced by the traditional print media/journalists at an entirely different level.
I joined twitter during that period as well, and it (obviously) became my network of choice, providing the ability to share what I had read with others, the chance to discuss/debate issues with experts on various matters, and the opportunity connect with the very people whose work I’d followed for years.
Shortly thereafter, I wanted to begin writing about politics and the media (and eventually did, via this blog) but felt like an impostor of sorts; I had no formal journalistic training (read: no J-school), and as far as I was concerned, had no business in the area whatsoever. But with the help of some fine political bloggers and journalists who’d embraced me on twitter, I mustered up the courage to begin to write publicly.
Not that I was (or am, for that matter) particularly good at it, mind you, but I was confident in my ability to research and seemed able to find the words necessary to form seemingly coherent finished products.
And much to my surprise (and delight), I wasn’t mocked; wasn’t shunned by the political/journo community for not being ‘one of them.’ In fact, I received many messages of encouragement, and as the years pressed on and death was no longer the final prognosis, I found I had a new passion outside of the life I had previously known, and the very ‘MSM’ I found suspect back in 2005 had not only become my most trusted source of information (and wicked smart analysis), but a handful of those journalists had offered advice/guidance. Others, friendship.
In addition to the remarkable work they do and the unparalleled in quality content they have a hand in producing, those in print media are some of the finest people I’ve had the fortune of getting to know.
It’s for these reasons that I’m more than willing do my part in keeping their industry alive.
I subscribe to my local Postmedia paper (Calgary Herald), and pay an additional monthly fee to access Postmedia archives. I do the same with the Globe and Mail (Globe Plus), and the Toronto Star. I subscribe to numerous political magazines/weeklies as well, including The Hill Times, Embassy Mag, and Maclean’s, and U.S. publications Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, The Nation, and Mother Jones. (Yes, I still consume news at a ridiculous rate. I very much enjoy it, though don’t quite have the glut of time I relied on to do so before.)
People are quick to complain when the media (in their view) fails to do its job. However, it’s those same people are the least willing to pitch in and ensure there are journalists employed to do the job they are demanding be done.
In my view, there is no question as to the importance of journalism in the traditional sense. That standard of journalism costs money. Though I don’t have the solution for what ails the industry, I will continue to do my part in sustaining it for as long as it’s around, and hope others will soon come to the same conclusion.