Silence is golden

Television reporter Tom Clark parts company with CTV News, and the network issues a public statement to that effect. Kevin Newman steps down as Global anchor, and his network does the same. But what happens when dozens, perhaps hundreds of print reporters in this country leave their jobs, either voluntarily or otherwise? Silence.
Postmedia Network, successor to CanWest, has started cutting jobs at its newspapers. No surprise there. It paid $1.1 billion for the papers, and has to cover its costs somehow. This has been standard policy in the newspaper business for more than 30 years. Whenever publishers run into money problems, they devalue the product by getting rid of staff and then filling up the white space between the ads with more and more wire copy. Mind you, they rarely get rid of senior managers when they do this purging. These are the ones handing out the pink slips, after all. The managers get to stay so they can continue to manage … what, exactly? With fewer and fewer staffers to supervise, they busy themselves with other jobs. I knew a senior editorial manager at one paper whose job it was to check all the signed cab slips that came back to the newsroom after the reporters used taxis to carry out their assignments. The job of checking the slips could have been done by a part-time office assistant, yet it was given to this senior manager who remained at the paper from cradle to grave. How well did he handle his awesome responsibility? Let me put it this way: Every time I used a cab, I signed my name, “Donald Duck.”
You didn’t read about the Postmedia job cuts in any of the Postmedia newspapers. That’s standard newspaper policy, too. Whenever the National Post lays off staff, it leaves it up The Globe and Mail and Toronto Star to cover the story. The Post will write about job cuts in other industries, but it won’t cover any stories that happen under its own roof. The original source for the Postmedia story was an internal memo sent by a company vice-president to staff at the Victoria Times-Colonist. “We must continue to find ways to serve our readers and advertisers in more cost-effective ways,” wrote the VP, Kevin Bent. The memo was leaked to the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, and that’s how you got to read about it in the Globe.
Postmedia has confirmed there are layoffs, but won’t give the numbers. Nor will it give any names. The Globe, citing sources, says about 20 jobs were cut at the Edmonton Journal and 30 at the Calgary Herald. An unspecified number will be leaving such other papers as the Vancouver Sun and Province, the Montreal Gazette and the Ottawa Citizen. Are any of our favourite columnists affected? If they were working for one of the television networks, we’d know the answer.
This posting also appears on , Canada’s online magazine

Occasional blogging

As you can tell from the dates on my postings, I’m not the most active blogger in the universe. I have a life, OK? I don’t have time to spend my days opining about anything and everything under the sun. But get a load of this. Here’s a blog posting from books editor Martin Levin that has been parked on The Globe and Mail’s website for more than seven months. As you can tell from the comments, the Globe’s readers are wondering about this too. Does Levin have nothing else to say about “books, publishing and the world of literature”? Has he taken a leave of absence? Did he accept a package and leave the paper?

The Globe makes a point of saying that comments on its website are not the opinions of the paper; only the opinions of the commenters. But doesn’t anyone at the Globe realize that a blog posting that has been gathering dust since February should probably be moved off the front page of the paper’s online books section? When the Globe’s webmeisters are updating the page with the latest book reviews do they look at the Levin column and say, “Yep, this is one for the ages. This is a keeper”? Levin calls his blog, “Shelf Life.” There’s a certain irony there when you come to think about it.

If Levin’s column had appeared in the print edition of the Globe, it would long ago have been consigned to the recycling bins of the nation. But because it was posted online, it has been allowed to float around the blogosphere forever, like space junk. Is there a limit to the amount of stuff that can be dumped on the Internet before someone has to raise the red flag and say, “No more”? This should be an engaging topic of debate for the environmentalists of tomorrow.