12.27.2015 08:32 AM

Ink-stained

More than anything, I wanted to be a journalist. I started creating my own newspapers – ironically enough, about professional wrestling – when I was 10 years old.

During law school, I had the privilege of working for the Calgary Herald before Conrad Black and his henchmen gutted it. Before, during and after being called to the bar, I had the privilege of working at the Ottawa Citizen before things got bad there, too. 

While at the Citizen, I wrote something about how Brian Mulroney’s free-trade agreement would possibly place Canada’s health care system at risk. It wasn’t a big deal, particularly.

But it was refused. It was sent back to my editor, Randy Denley, by the paper’s then-editor, Keith Spicer. “We have to be nation builders,” Spicer wrote on a piece of notepaper. I can still see his hand writing. 

After that, I didn’t really have the stomach for daily journalism. Politics and law weren’t exactly paragons of ethics and virtue, but at least they didn’t pretend – unlike journalism – that they were. 

In 2016, I anticipate the end of the Sun chain in the first quarter, and the end of the Postmedia chain in the third. The reasons will be legion, but horror stories like this will figure prominently in the Post post-mortems.  It will be bad for a lot of amazing people – and for our democracy, too. 

I always find it ironic (and revealing) that I left journalism while it was still profitable, and I’ve been getting back into it when it isn’t. Shows you how much I know. 

In any event, my lovely wife got me an amazing Christmas present, one that starts today: home delivery of the New York Times

Everything else in journalism may be going to shit, but at least there’s one paper left that makes me remember how extraordinary it all was, as far back as when I was a kid.

  

20 Comments

  1. Steve T says:

    I agree that journalists should not be stifled, nor should a “news” agency have a particular political leaning. This is systemic around the world, unfortunately, and permeates both the left and right.

    Another problem is that every journalist thinks they are the next Woodward or Bernstein, and thinks every interview is their big opportunity to break a scandal. Sometimes (usually, I would argue), a journalist just needs to report the news – not turn everything into an investigative expose. I have been interviewed about very benign subjects, and often the journalist asks very awkward or bordering-on-offensive questions, which suggest a conspiracy around every corner. In these cases, I feel like saying “Get over yourself.”

    As you point out, reporting under the pretense of “news”, when it really is an editorial in disguise, is just plain wrong and dishonest.

  2. LarryG says:

    Newsprint is made from trees which soak up CO2, a GHG, and should be preserved, not cut down for newspapers…. not to mention the garbage end. End of story.
    30

    • doconnor says:

      The nice thing about a landfill is that it securely sequesters the carbon in the ground and makes room for new trees to absorb more carbon from the atmosphere.

      • LarryG says:

        Okay, how about this: If you are committed to reading newspapers you should also be obliged to help recycle the newsprint. How about having a cardboard box that can store a month’s supply of newspapers and when it’s filled you return it to the newpaper? Surely politically and environmentally correct patrons of newspapers could at least do that to preserve their love for newspapers. And if that’s too inconvenient for them, then impose a nasty Carbon Tax on newsprint to punish the lazy laggards!

  3. Russ says:

    My personal favorite rag is the Financial Times. Worldly, insightful and a very cool colour 😉

  4. Ridiculosity says:

    The great paradox? At a time when both the newspaper industry and newspaper audiences are shrinking, the New York Times keeps getting larger.

    Why? Because it’s filled with big, fat juicy stories; the kind of stories you want to devour in one sitting.

    • nobonus4nonis says:

      and lots of boots on the ground around the world. also… check out movie Spotlight if you like newspaper themed movies… hoo boy.

  5. gyor says:

    This reminds me of how Andrew Coyne resigned from the national post after being censored for political reasons.

  6. Lance says:

    PRINT journalism is dying, but journalism isn’t. Only the medium is changing, as well as the players. I daresay modern day consumers with their 10 second attention spans have been part and parcel of that as well.

    • LarryG says:

      Yes… kill off paper newspaper and put it all on line and for FREE. Let the advertisers pay for the news and journalism.

      As for ‘journalism’, most of the stuff is just one-line twitter-blurting paragraphs…. because the modern mind cannot broach a full paragraph of words, complex sentences and challenging thought.

      You know what they say: “A selfie is worth a thousand votes!”

  7. Jack D says:

    The thing about journalism is that its a lot like paper; we still use it, but its value is significantly decreasing with the growth and access to electronic devices.

    Journalism was great, when there were great things to be written about. The problem now is that in a world where the hottest news is broken to the world in a matter of 140 characters or less, journalists have to find value and meaning in the pieces they write. A lot of journalists succeed, due largely to the fact these individuals have insights much deeper than the rest of us. But many fail and chose to pander to the desire for informational satiation. I’ve noticed that some journalist stir up controversy on matters of non-relevance just to give their articles some weight. Instead of commentary they provide a pretext to their feigned concerns.

    All in all, people (particularly younger folk) are looking towards newer sources for their information. Places where succinctness is valued over conjecture and where a certain degree of disdain for the established media comes off as refreshing in comparison to the self-importance of the other guys. I think people want less of the typical Monday morning article bitching about something someone is saying or doing and more of the content-rich, informational articles that don’t tell people what to think.

    • nobonus4nonis says:

      sorry guys but i think you are all wrong. i believe newspapers began to die the moment hi rez 27 inch computer monitors could be bought at staples for 180 bucks. same width as a newspaper.

  8. Jean A Paterson says:

    I had a summer job in the sixties at the Montreal Star, at a time when it was still respected. I agree with the melancholy in WK’s essay today.
    Maybe the start of the rot came when advertising standards went downhill so as not to lose the ad revenue. Mr McConnell, owner of the Montreal Star, tried hard to prevent false claims by advertisers (“lose ten pounds in one week” ; first ten customers get a free television, etc etc) and he even did not allow Brewers and distillers ad space. The latter was the first rule to be abandoned out of necessity.
    Thank goodness there are still journalists like WK who understand the difference between fake news and real news, partisanship versus objectivity, news versus opinion.

  9. The Doctor says:

    Whenever I’m travelling, my constant reading companion is the International NY Times. I am continually blown away by how good and interesting it is, compared to anything in Canada. I love my country, but this is one area where we fall short. I still read the Globe and like some of the writers and features, but I guess maybe Canada just doesn’t have the financial and demographic critical mass to support something like the NYT or its British comparables.

  10. LarryG says:

    People who read a lot are not ‘normal’… they are abnormal based on the norm in our current mediadome … i.e. the global media in cyberspace.

    Incessant ‘readers’ are not mentally ill…. only mentally challenged to conform to the real world of news media which offers words plus news videos.

    They find comfort in the written word on archaic newsprint…. a black and white world so to speak. They are a dying breed.. and I count myself in that too.

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