Home > Columns > Why The Province’s theft of a Jeff Nagel’s story matters

Why The Province’s theft of a Jeff Nagel’s story matters

March 23, 2011

The Province’s theft of a story from Black Press’s Jeff Nagel is certainly hilarious, but it also underscores problems with Postmedia as a whole, and the interaction between Postmedia dailies and community papers in particular.

Postmedia has laid off 500 workers, saving $35 million, since it was bought up by some (evil?) hedge fund comprised of its debtors last year. At the Province, that has meant diminished staffing levels that have resulted in multiple errors, some very, very obvious, in recent months.

Every time I pick up the paper, I spot something that has me saying, “did anybody actually read this before it went to print.”

Now I’m not one to throw stones unnecessarily. But I’m not. I make plenty of mistakes myself. Like those found in The Province, many of them could probably have been prevented by reading my copy or a page over a second time. Indeed, given enough resources and enough time by editorial staff, all mistakes should be able to be eliminated. The problems arise when staff doesn’t feel like they have time to meticulously go over the next day’s paper. And that feeling crops up when you’re dangerously understaffed (11 editorial staffers have taken buyouts in the past year). The danger comes when innocent mistakes occur in a way that has not-so-innocent repercussions. Only then do the true effects of cuts become clear.

Second, the paper editions of The Province and the Sun (to a lesser extent) regularly and sometimes gratuitously pick up stories produced by Postmedia’s community reporters. The websites are even bigger thieves.

Of course, this runs both ways, with community papers using relevant daily copy, and for many community journalists, it’s a tad gratifying to see your byline in one of the country’s largest papers.

But it’s easy to see how this cross-pollination can create problems. First of all, the big dailies are using cheaper community reporters to cover outlying cities and towns instead of hiring their own journalists.  That substantially reduces the opportunities that exist for those community reporters hoping to make a leap to a daily—including the Postmedia reporters whose copy is plucked up by The Province and the Sun. Meanwhile, those reporters are paid community newspaper rates for stories and photos that appear in a daily paper. That would seem a tad alienating.

Then there’s the whole lack of freelancing options available to reporters and photographers with both Black Press and Postmedia. But that’s an issue and a rant for another day.

Leave a comment.

Photo by Rebecca Wilson via Flickr.

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This blog has had more visitors in March than any previous months. It’s still a one-person show, though, so any help would be great. It’s easy, quick and the pay is shite. E-mail bclocalreporter (at) gmail (dot) com.

Have I made an error? It wouldn’t be the first time. Leave a comment and I’ll shamefully update the post.

We’re making inroads into our census of B.C. community newspapers, but there are still a lot of blanks in the Journo-lust Spreadsheet. How many journalists work at your paper? How often do you come out? Who’s your publisher? Participation is free! The benefits unlimited! The exclamation points boundless!

 

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  1. March 23, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Interesting that in the following edition, there is a correction notice for a story about sprinklers but no mention of how the hell a story from a competitor came to be published.

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