It was bad enough when CBC TV News decided that high quality, in depth coverage of stories in Canada and around the world was not a ratings winner and dropped their documentary teams and inhibited their ability to do most investigative reports. Now, Canada’s “national newspaper” seems to be slowly but surely following the CBC’s lead.
I wasn’t sure what was going on at The Globe and Mail. Yes there was tons more color and several pages of glossy paper. This on its own should be a good thing. Who can argue against a better look? But the changes to the look masked changes that are anything but good news for the serious news junkie in Canada. It seems to me that the news content, especially in the front section has diminished by a great deal to be replaced by large pictures and features that are seldom based on daily news and more often than not, are personality driven. The Kardashians are not yet front page fodder, but it looks to me like that is the direction that The Globe is heading. I hope I am wrong.
I asked a lot of friends and acquaintances what they think about the changes at The Globe. To be fair, a few either didn’t notice the changes or actually liked the new Globe. Most however confirmed what I had been thinking for months and months…The Globe as we knew and loved it is missing in action. There is too little news content, the foreign news, never a big part of the paper seems to be diminishing, and the investigative pieces have all but disappeared.
A while ago The Globe got rid of its editor, Edward Greenspon. Greenspon had many faults that led to his dismissal but his news acumen and single mindedness when attacking the daily news could not be questioned. The paper was solid under his leadership. I heard no complaints from the reading public. I certainly liked the paper and its direction when he was there.
Greenspon was replaced by John Stackhouse. I don’t know Stackhouse but we have a few friends in common and those people have nothing but good things to say about the man and his journalistic credentials. So what the heck is going wrong with the paper since he took it over? The Globe and Mail is getting softer and softer just when we need it to be on top of its journalistic game.
Recently I surveyed a week’s worth of front sections. I won’t include the Monday paper because Monday is generally a slow news day. What I found was a newspaper that was short on news at a time when great stories are happening across Canada and throughout the world.
The front section of the Tuesday paper had 26 pages. More than fourteen of those pages were taken up by advertising. More important, the front page had but two stories and one of them was about “The Marshmallow Test.” All of page two was about the great gnu migration in Africa. The only story on page nine was about the Stanley Cup finals. Pages 12 and 13 were a centrefold story on play based learning. The only story on page 14 was about year round education, tied to nothing in the news. On the international news pages the biggest story was about the fact that India is having trouble finding a hangman. That adds up to six pages of feature stories, and don’t forget that the weather has been expanded to take up almost a complete page with some briefs and the photos are bigger than ever before.
By my count that leaves about four pages of news content including the editorial and op-ed pages.
Tuesday was the worst day but it wasn’t much better the rest of the week. On Wednesday the section shrunk to 22 pages with ten pages of ads. Some of the big stories included “Goalie Head Games,” dog licences, a half page on mid-air refuelling, and a two page pull-out that attempted to explain Syria. The last may have been a strong subject but it had about half a page of real content.
Thursday the front section grew to 28 pages with over 10 pages of ads and an amazing two page pull-out on California prisons that was about 95% pictures.
Finally, on Friday almost the entire news portion of the section was taken up by stories about the post Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver in full color, with lots of interviews and very little light shed on why it happened.
These are tough times for the newspaper business. They are having a difficult time making ends meet. I can’t believe that the answer to their problems is to abandon news coverage. It seems to me that two page pull-outs and gimmicks based on numbers and polls are not the answer. If I were running a newspaper in today’s world I would be all over the most important stories of the day. I would demand the answer to the only journalistic question: why. Depth and investigation are what newspapers can do better than television and the internet. Breaking new stories and getting to the truth are what will keep newspapers selling, whether in print or on the internet. Features on gnus and goalies, no matter how interesting, will not sell a single paper.
I should mention that The Globe’s ROB (Report on Business) and sports sections continue to be outstanding and remain for me, the only reason to purchase The Globe anymore.
I live in Toronto so I don’t see the local dailies from across the country. I do want to point out that The Toronto Star is getting stronger and stronger since John Cruickshank took over. They have led the country investigating the G-20 and G-8 summits and their investigations of Toronto and area police forces have been excellent. It is now my go to news read every morning.