The trend is not good for newspapers. Ad revenue is down, circulation is down, the number of stories are down, employment is down. Newspapers are starting to look like vinyl did when shiny new CDs showed up. So old-fashioned, a refuge only for fuddy-duddies and luddites. Record buyers everywhere ditched their collections for the convenience and allegedly better sound of the compact disc. But, of course, vinyl is suddenly storming back in popularity. Having kept my hundreds of beloved vinyl discs, I suddenly find myself back in fashion. (My checked, polyester pants await a similar return …)
Now, it’s the turn of newspapers to be shunned as “Oh, so yesterday.” As attention spans shorten and the seductive appeal of social media sucks increasingly more of us into abandoning the daily rag, they struggle to maintain their long hold on public attention. While it’s often forgotten that newspapers still have millions of readers every day, there are fewer than there used to be. Even more worrisome, advertising revenue, which basically pays the bills, is on a steady decline.
I worked on mainstream newspapers for 40 years, so no one has to remind me of their faults. Yet, for all that, we will lose something valuable, should they cease to be. Access to good stories won’t disappear. The citizens of Kamloops can still go online and find great, wondrous tales from all over the world with the ease of a click. But who is there to tell them about goings on in Kamloops? Who is holding the local powers-that-be to account? Bloggers or websites with followers in the hundreds? I think not.
Your daily newspaper still provides news, information, good writing, analysis and opinion in a single, easily-digestible package. It’s far from perfect, but at its best, it tells you things you’re glad to know, with a fair and accurate context. I also like the fact that you don’t know what you’ll get when you turn the page. Sometimes drivel, but sometimes terrific stories on a subject you might ever have accessed online, where we tend to cherry-pick. Most days, I feel better informed about my community and my country after reading the Vancouver Sun and The Globe, however much they are not what they used to be. In the rush to embrace the new, and I love the Internet, too, I think we sometimes forget there is still great value in the old.
Here are some stories and columns I’m glad I read in recent editions of the Sun and Globe. I hope they’re not blocked by the paywall. (Also note, these cover only the local news sections. There was also lots of good stuff in other sections — even the Business pages.)
In the Sun:
1. This tragic story continues to haunt me. That poor woman. Please, somebody, do something to end the complete lack of accountability and secrecy of the all-powerful Canada Border Services Agency. Mexican woman lived like a “ghost” in Vancouver, was despondent after CBSA arrest
2. A very powerful story by the Sun’s veteran sports writer, Mike Beamish. This is the first time the much-loved former Canuck Gino Odjick has opened up about the trauma he faced acting as the team’s enforcer. Haunting. Ex-Canucks ‘Algonquin enforcer’ Gino Odjick opens up about post-career, concussion-related struggles
3. A useful update on a continuing, positive story (also covered by the Globe’s Mark Hume). Conservation groups, timber companies reach deal to protect more of Great Bear Rainforest
5. Good information. Arcade Fire, Eminem top expanded 2014 Squamish music festival lineup (with video)
6. Interesting update on a controversial project. Mid-rise developments eyed for Oakridge Transit Centre
7. An excellent column by the Sun’s treasured Vaughn Palmer. On education, it’s time B.C. Liberals stepped back from brink
8. An interesting opinion piece that argues that LNG is not the road to follow to reduce the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Opinion: Is LNG B.C.’s big favour?
And now the highly-esteemed B.C. section of The Globe and Mail, where I toiled in the vineyards until last July. I also note that the Globe is a national newspaper, so the B.C. section makes up only three pages of the entire newspaper.
9. Sunny Dhillon continues his vigorous investigation into some highly questionable activities of the B.C. Civil Forfeiture Office. It’s easy – perhaps too easy – for B.C. authorities to seize property worth less than $75,000
10. Good story by Frances Bula on east side property speculation (referred to by Toronto headline writer as the “east end”). Property boom in Vancouver’s east side yields calls to rein in speculation
11. Strong column by Gary Mason on the absurdity of the province ordering the infamous transit referendum and then demanding the mayors come up with the question. On transit, Lower Mainland mayors can’t do it all themselves
And, of course, I’m not arguing one whit that the Internet isn’t the most marvellous of inventions. It is truly wonderful. But a better world, in my humble opinion, is the Internet, with newspapers, rather than the Internet, without newspapers. Long may they live!
First published on Mickleblog