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BC Reporter dead at two (updated!)

March 4, 2013 17 comments

UPDATE: Because I’m an insensitive asshole, I neglected to mention and thank my co-blogger, the Northern Reporter, for his/her  contributions since joining on. That was really idiotic of me.  Anyways, NR brought some good insight and some additional momentum that kept the blog circling the drain a little longer than it would have otherwise. So kudos is deserved.

After circling the drain for several months, it’s finally time to take the plunge.

This blog is dead.

Mainly it’s because I’ve lost interest. The response from journalists has been great, but covering community journalism — if that’s what you can say this blog did — is both exhausting and dispiriting. It’s bad enough to have to work for companies that either don’t care about the journalism, or illustrate institutional stupidity. To write about it just gets boring. Sometimes it also seems needlessly risky, especially considering the lack of results, or possible results. (You don’t need me to tell you Glacier’s stab at Layar is doomed.) Writing about the good stuff just isn’t as fun. It requires time that right now I’d rather be allocating elsewhere.

The blog was useful and fun in many respects. I think it did function as a place where you could learn about the wacky new editor of the Nanaimo Daily News or how the local hockey team was playing hardball with the Kamloops Daily News. But the less work I put into it, the less it functioned that way. And unfortunately, I just don’t have the time to do so. I’ve found that reading — fiction, non-fiction, newspapers, whatever — is a hell of a lot more satisfying that writing about community newspapers. Sorry.

I was also lucky to have reached most newspapers and newsrooms. I know I’ve seen oblivious colleagues reading my work. That was gratifying. It also, unfortunately, meant that my ambition for the blog had been achieved. That’s great, but when you have nowhere to grow, and when you’re not going to “make a difference” in the teenage-idealist’s definition of the phrase, then motivation can flag.

I did learn a lot from this, though. First, I now know there are some community journalists out there like me who are ambitious but otherwise not inclined (I think) to wade into the daily newspaper world. I’m also more convinced than ever that there are strati of reporters and editors out there, some who are very good at their jobs, and some who aren’t, either because they haven’t been trained enough, because they lack the talent, or because they just don’t care anymore. All in all, I think that’s good. It means community journalism has a lot of room to grow, and it has good reporters and editors who can hopefully help spur their colleagues on to bigger and better things. If only their bosses will let them.

One more conclusion that I might as well get out now: the Internet is not going to be a big money-maker for community newspapers in the next decade. I hope they prove me wrong, but the readership of community newspapers still consists of people who didn’t grow up with computers in their schools. Unfortunately, the people who run newspaper chains don’t realize that most of their customers do not spend the day at their computer looking at news sites. And they also don’t realize that the type of news their newspapers specialize in is ideally suited for print, not the web. The web is great for covering quick-developing news stories, or issues of provincial or national relevance. But there isn’t really all that much need-to-know-now news that happens in your average community; it’s not in the mandate of community newspapers to cover non-local issues; and when something regional happens, people are more likely to head to the website of news organizations with more resources and a bigger name.

Local newspapers can seek page views all they want, but the internet is not going to bring home the bacon anytime soon. At best, it’s a place to play defence against competitiors. (So why, if Castanet, in Kelowna, can make a profit why can’t newspapers’ online divisions? Mainly because of investment of resources. Glacier Media and Black Press are never, ever, ever going to give, say, their newspapers in Langley or Port Alberni two more reporters devoted solely to creating content for their website. Ever. AND, even if they did it would still fail because Kelowna is probably the only community-newspaper city, because of its size, economy and distance from other major population centres, that could support such a business at this time. Even then, I think, it took the Kelowna wildfire to give Castanet the brand-name boost that it needed.)

So newsprint is dead. Long live newsprint.

Also similar reasons, this blog is over. So it goes. I’m gonna keep the Twitter account and, hopefully, use it more. Less characters, means less work, which will hopefully encourage me to re-engage with the purpose of this site, if not in this medium

Categories: Housekeeping Tags: ,
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