Wednesday, 18 April 2007

A point of view

Winnipeg writer Mike Warkentin e-mailed TSF to say:

Hi there,

The following is the text of an article I wrote for Uptown Magazine in Winnipeg in response to Quebecor's policies and their effects on local journalism. It was published April 12, 2007.

It is not online at present, so I thought you might be interested in a copy.

I used your site as a resource for the article, and I'm glad someone is sounding some alarm bells out there.


One nation, one view?
Warkentin says Quebecor's policies limit local content in the Winnipeg Sun

"Who is Bruce Kirkland, and why am I reading his movie reviews in the Winnipeg Sun?

"Do I care what some Toronto Sun columnist thinks about Will Ferrell's latest movie?

"No, I don't. I want to know what people who share my city think about a movie. We are not Toronto, and people here view things differently than they do in the Big Smoke.

"Quebecor, which owns the Winnipeg Sun, the Toronto Sun and a stack of papers scattered across the country, sees things differently. Quebecor seems to think it can provide me with national news, sports and entertainment stories written by non-local reporters and edited and laid out in London, Ont., to be sent in PDF form to Quebecor's papers all over Canada - a vast nation, you'll remember, which has a variety of very distinct regions with very distinct interests.

"According to stories in the Winnipeg Free Press, the Toronto Star and blogs such as, this is happening as part of a streamlining process that began back in 2001 and was continued in 2006.

"Over 400 jobs were lost - and now Quebecor wants more.

"To cut the (Winnipeg) Sun newsroom of 45 by six positions, the company has recently offered some nonsense called a "voluntary termination incentive program."

"The Sun is currently battling the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union over the cuts, but the stories and pages are nevertheless being piped into Winnipeg because Quebecor thinks no one will care.

"Well I care. I get pissed when corporations offer me less so they can make more, and I get pissed when local voices are silenced to turn a profit. I get even angrier because this is part of a growing trend in media across the country.

"The cuts at the Sun haven't affected its local news department, but they don't have to. While the Sun says the cutbacks will actually result in more focused local coverage, newsrooms across the city are already grossly understaffed and stretched to the limit, and I believe the reporting suffers accordingly.

"What is even more concerning is that these cuts represent an attack on local journalism and local perspectives.

"The tendency in media today is toward cheap and easy reporting regurgitating press releases, writing about Britney's skull and offering nothing that will offend advertisers, either current or potential.

"Good journalism costs money, and it requires many skilled people to do it. It costs money to dig up stories, offer locally relevant analysis on national and international events, keep government and business on its toes, and ensure citizens are informed. Media outlets are seldom willing to invest in such journalism these days, and they are asking your journalists to do more and more with less.

"Remember back in 2002 when 240,000 gallons of chemicals leaked out of a train wreck near Minot, N.D.? Did you know that none of the six local radio stations, including KCJB, which is designated the official emergency station, broke into broadcasts to inform people about the accident and the health risks it posed?

"According to Democracy Now, the stations, all owned by media giant Clear Channel, continued to broadcast music that was programmed from somewhere out of state, and phone calls to the stations by residents and local officials went unanswered during the crisis. As a result of the spill, about 330 people were treated for health problems, and one person died.

"Winnipeg is in a similar state of emergency, but this time it is local journalism that is dying."

Thank you for your e-mail. You are not alone.

1 comment:

  1. The few remaining folks laying out the canned pages emanating from the Quebecor Bunker are at their wit's end. The pages come in the form of PDFs which can't be opened for editing. This wouldn't be so bad -- if the pages weren't riddled with blatant typos, messed up geographical references and the like. Rim pigs tear their hair out and all the while, the so-called national comment editor - squirreled away in Bugtussle-on-the-Thames, aka London, Ont., doesn't seem to care. Or perhaps there's just no one to edit the canned copy before it is shipped out. All of which makes a sad product look worse.