Posts Tagged ‘Bob Hall’

The $30,000 question

February 7, 2012 1 comment

Chris Shepherd is hardly the first reporter to get fed up with his pay and strike out in search of greener pastures. I’m sure he will not be the last.

But his criticism of the lack of money to be made will sound different depending on your Facebook info. In particular, I’m talking about your age, your relationship status and, perhaps most importantly, your location. It also probably depends on who your parents are and what you consider a comfortable life. I’ll explain.

We’ll assume that you have a little journalism experience, but not a lot. Say, two years. Most reporters seem to stop changing papers once they hit the five-year mark, or so. If you work in the Interior, two years of reporting experience is going to get you around $30,000/year (If I’m wrong on this, please correct me. It’s more or less a guess). Whether it’s more or less depends on what size of paper you work for. But go to the Lower Mainland, and you’ll get a hefty pay bump. The papers are larger, but you’re still looking at an extra $8,000, give or take some cash. That is huge and more than makes up for the higher cost of living. It also suddenly puts you near the provincial average wage of $42,000. One shouldn’t underestimate the importance of reaching an adult wage. I remember growing up and asking how much my dad made. My mom told me $40,000, which at the time was just a little above average. To make as much as your parents is important. If we tend to look up to our parents, then making as much as they made is a major milestone, even if it’s just average.

To not be able to get there, and to see no prospect of ever making as much as your parents, would be hugely dispiriting. And that’s before you even consider the actual tangible benefits that come along with making money.

That’s why your marital status and whether you have kids is so important. If you have a girlfriend or wife who has an average-paying job, then you can still look forward to a good life even if you’re never going to make more than $50k by yourself. A family income of $75k is pretty good. But if you’re single and a new journalist making $30k a year in the interior, then things become markedly more difficult. You’re no longer looking forward to the future. Instead, you’re merely subsisting in a basement suite and eating pasta. At that point, when you look to the future, you start looking at life elsewhere.

But even reporters in the exact same situation may have starkly different opinions on what a good life entails. I knew a reporter who was very good at his job and very passionate about the craft. But he dreamed of owning a cabin on a little lake and his job didn’t seem likely to ever be able to pay for that. So he left and is now working elsewhere, working at a job that uses some of his journalism skills while at the same time being not at all journalism. He was probably making more than he made at his old paper. But I doubt that he likes his job as much.

Then there’s the age thing. If you start at a paper now, you should know that any raises you get are probably going to barely match the rate of inflation. So unless you move in with a sugardaddy or momma, your standard of living isn’t likely to dramatically rise. You may still be relatively comfortable, but you may start to question whether you’re succeeding at life (if such a thing is possible).

There are a million other factors, but if you’re in a small town at a paper that will never pay you more than peanuts, of course you’re going to consider your options.

Of course the papers themselves are in a bind. “Pay your reporters more,” is easy to say until you see budgets and realize that you can’t do so without also either increasing revenues or cutting back in other areas. The Bob Halls of this world are important because of the long and continuous journalism they provide to their communities.

But what is to become of our newspapers when all the editors our there who are now in their mid- to late-50s retire? The question is not just whether there is a crop of younger would-be editors able to step into their shoes, but whether those editors will have the financial wherewithall to stick around and become the repositories of community knowledge that longtime reporters and editors provide.

In communities with one- and two-person newsrooms, those crusty old editors are already gone, replaced instead by reporters with bigger and better things in mind. One cannot blame the reporters and editors in such positions. And you can’t necessarily blame the papers. It’s simply a fact of life. But I worry that unless something drastic happens, larger communities will begin seeing a similar process begin to take place. Maybe, in such cities, the reporters won’t aim to leave town but instead pursue different career opportunities inside their own communities. But the result will be the same: a structural loss of knowledge and experience that damages both the papers and the communities they serve.

I apologize for the tortuous and circuoutous reasoning contained within this column. I know it may be hard to read and I suppose I could have hacked it up and recomposed it. But I didn’t. Sorry.


Chris Shepherd explains why he’s quitting as Nelson loses another journalist

February 2, 2012 1 comment

On Monday, Inthekoots/Nelson Post managing editor (and, as Stephen Colbert would declare, friend of the blog) Chris Shepherd filed a bitter farewell column in which he more or less tells (professional) journalism: “I’m quitting you.”

It begins:

I think journalism is in trouble. So much trouble that I’m leaving, rather than go down with what I see as a sinking ship. There is a way for the community to have a vibrant media however, and I’ll tell you what I see as the solution.

I hope that doesn’t come across as bitter, but the fact is I’ve stopped being a journalist because there’s no money in it.


Chris talks about the extremely high turnover rate in certain small (and not-so-small) northern and interior towns, how it is linked to the lousy pay, and why it’s bad for the communities themselves. He singles out a rash of new reporters at the Nelson Star to illustrate his point, on which Star editor Bob Hall weighs in. But more on that later.

Chris also notes that the community itself needs to step up to the plate if they want continued coverage. (I could echo his sentiment: this blog won’t exist for much longer unless readers start pointing me towards interesting stories). Chris says that community members need to start telling their own stories, instead of waiting around for others to do it for him. (It’s a sentiment I repeat often at my paper. How can I know about your event,  your problem, if no one tells me about it.)

Chris explains that while he’s exploring other career options, he’ll continue to be involved with Inthekoots in a limited, voluntary way.


In the comments section, Nelson Star editor Bob Hall bids his competitor goodbye:

Chris, it’s unfortunate that you have decided to leave journalism. From what I could tell over the last few years, you have some pretty solid skills and it was a pleasure to work in the same community for the time we did.

What I find more unfortunate about the above is the way you have decided to go out. You write about ideals and then proceed to only tell a sliver of the story as it suits you. The facts you are spewing about the Nelson Star are weak and skewed.

Bob takes exception to Chris’s comments about the Star. Frankly, I think he takes a little bit too much exception. Chris didn’t exactly attack the Star; he just mentioned the amount of new reporters who have come through the town in recent years. And, he does it in such a way to underscore the importance of keeping journalists happy and well fed, which I think is a noble goal. That said, Bob does have a point when he notes that sometimes it’s good to have reporters with ambition to continue on to bigger things. We all know of reporters or editors who start to mail it in after X number of years at a good enough job. But it still annoys me when journalists get defensive after being subjected to mild criticism.

The pair have traded comments in the days since and Nelson Star reporter Megan Cole has chimed in to bid Chris a fond farewell. Others, including other reporters, have done the same and the comment stream on the story is well worth a view.

Whatever the case, Chris’s departure is most unwelcome. The news industry has taken a thumping in Nelson in recent years. It’s pretty obvious that there is less journalism today than there was five years ago. There are, clearly, some structural problems. Perhaps Nelson simply isn’t big enough to sustain more than one news organization. I’d like to think otherwise, but until something structural happens with the online news industry as a whole, I think that’s probably the case.

Leave a comment.

January? That happened.

February 1, 2011 Comments off

Is this a new feature? Maybe, if the blog survives another month.

Here’s what you may have missed in January if you haven’t been following the J-lust religiously:

Nelson Star editor Bob Hall penned a must-read column on what it was like to be the final editor of the Nelson Daily News when Black Press made the decision to send the newspaper to a farm in the country, and then to be hired by Black Press to edit the Star.

Kamloops Daily News sports editor Gregg Drinnan was banned from speaking to members of the Kamloops Blazers after team management took offence to his reporter. Outrage ensued. The WHL were taken to task for being out to lunch on the issue. The Blazers were ridiculed as the ban blew up in their faces. It became clear that the WHL didn’t know what the fuck was going on. The Blazers met with the paper and the league. The ban was lifted, the Daily News promised to not change a thing, and the Blazers have continued to suck.

The aforementioned Nelson Star drove another Nelson paper out of business as the Express closed up shop, blaming aggressive competition from the Star. Meanwhile the Nelson Daily, an online newsite, took a swipe at Black Press but needlessly ignored the Post.

Former Prince George Free Press Reporter Michelle Lang, who died while reporting for the Calgary Herald in Afghanistan, was remembered a year after her death.

A Trail Daily Times reporter had the means to retire at the age of 54. I expressed disbelief and envy.

I criticized Black Press for sponsoring the lamest award ever: the CCNA award for best holiday edition.

A video of a cop kicking a man under arrest that was shot by Castanet reporter Kelly Hayes on his iPhone sparked an investigation and nationwide news coverage. He later shot an exclusive interview with the man, Buddy Tavares.

Mounties began an investigation into whether the Nanaimo Daily News and reporters Danielle Bell and Derek Spalding breached a publication ban with a recent article. But the Daily News pushed back, saying the cops were just bitter because the story left them with “egg on their face.”

Penticton Herald editor James Miller wrote about his brave turn as a transvestite on stage. In a strange sort of synergy, the aforementioned aforementioned Bob Hall also confessed to growing muttonchops and a moustache for a pantomime role as a snake oil salesman.

I asked “Why is there so much bullshit in community newspapers?” in an expletive-filled column.

Derek Bouchard, a long-time radio news guy with CHBQ 1280 (about which I can find little information) in Powell River, is running for city council. Derek no longer works in radio, according to the bio on his “Derek Bouchard for City Council” Facebook page. Instead, he’s now working for a company that maintains Canada Post mailboxes.

Good news for any Postmedia editor who, for whatever reason, would want to be publisher as Marlyn Graziano was named publisher of the Surrey Now. Marlyn was the editor of the paper until 2000, when she took over as editorial director of Canwest Community Publishing. She’ll keep those duties too.

Alaska Highway News reporter Ryan Lux fought off “a drug-addled delinquent” who burst into his Fort St. John apartment uninvited and threatened to kill him. Then he wrote about it in a gripping first-hand account you’ve got to read.

And Burnaby Now editor Pat Tracy gave all aspiring journalists a cheat-sheet for finding work in a newsroom with a terrific post on her blog. I added my two cents.

To recap the recap:

Shame on you award: Kamloops Blazers.

Editors on stage (and in drag)

January 17, 2011 Comments off

In the Okanagan Sunday weekend paper, Penticton Herald editor James Miller writes about his brave turn as a transvestite. On stage. Now, he can actually put “transvestite” on his resume or maybe even, he asks, his American Express card.

For those fortunate enough to catch one of five shows this past week of Chess: The Musical, you may have noticed me. I wore a dress, fishnet stockings, brassiere (filled with bird seed), makeup and high heels for a 45-second cameo in the Soundstage Productions musical that played at the Penticton Lakeside Resort.


I now have an even greater admiration for women. It was painful. I started with a bad-ass pair of high heels, something Elton John would have worn in the 1970s, only to fall twice. They were replaced by a pair of stilettos. It‘s tough to find stilettos in size 13, so costumer Kerry Younie cut the back out of them to make them more of a sandal.


Very funny.

And egads, what’s this? Another editor involved in a theatre production? Nelson Star editor Bob Hall recently confessed to growing muttonchops and a moustache for a pantomime role as a snake oil salesman.

Shortly after my facial transformation, I was walking through the Chahko-Mika parking lot when a big dude with a massive handlebar moustache gave me the head-nod and “heh” greeting. I happily nodded back, but having forgot about the handlebar I was rocking was a bit puzzled by this stranger’s acknowledgment.


On a less cheery note, the homeless in Kamloops are drinking hand sanitizer, reporters KTW’s Dale Bass. This, it turns out, is dangerous:

One of the components of most sanitizers, however, is a chemical that has a medicinal use treating angina patients.

It does this by lowering their blood pressure, Salter said, but, in homeless people — most of whom are in poor physical health already — this can compromise their health.

The type of ethanol used is also toxic, affecting the central nervous system.


Apparently students elsewhere have turned to the “booze ooze,” leading the Vancouver school district to not install sanitizer in their washrooms.

Please, if you, like the Merritt Herald, publish a column by a local politician, make sure the politician’s name (and position) is on the page on the website. Otherwise it looks like an editorial you would never, ever want to write yourself.

Nelson Star snow photo kicker: “Oh Snow You Didn’t.” Oh, NO they di’int.

Finally, this photo illustration by Vernon Morning Star shooter Cory Bialecki is pretty rocking. Story by Kristin Froneman is also well done. (I’ve noticed a common theme: good photos tend to be accompanied by good stories, written by a reporter not responsible for the photography).

Photo by Annie Mole via Flickr.


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Bob Hall on a crazy 2010 in Nelson

January 1, 2011 Comments off

At the close of 2010, Nelson Star editor Bob Hall penned a must-read column on what it was like to be the final editor of the Nelson Daily News when Black Press made the decision to send the newspaper to a farm in the country — and then to be hired by Black Press to edit the Star.

About the weeks after first being told that he would be out of the job, Hall writes:

I never did in those two weeks was blame Black Press for the closure of the Nelson Daily News. The company may have been on the list of 15 reasons why the Daily News ultimately failed, but it certainly wasn’t near the top. All Black Press did was compete in a local market and did it very well by producing a quality newspaper. A lagging economy, dried up advertising revenues, an unaffordable workforce and a rapidly changing society had much more of an impact on the demise of Daily News than did its strongest competitor.


You really should read the column, which closes as follows:

When the Nelson Daily News closed its doors this past July it was a sad for the community. Unfortunately its time had come and it died of natural causes. RIP.

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