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Journalism vets and student figure out what's becoming of journalism

From left, Anita Murray, Patrick Langston, Gabrielle Van Looyen, Russell Mills and Joe Banks

Veteran journalists in Ottawa Saturday looked for ways to fix the urgent ‘news desert’ where readers are stranded. Last fall Postmedia Network Canada Corp. and Torstar Corp. swapped 37 community newspapers and four free commuter papers – and then shut most of them. Low advertising income has killed others, and the government won’t help. They can’t go back to an old business model and the advertising industry has troubles, too. Absentee chain-store owners, not the shop keepers on Main Street now make the buying decisions.

Revenue, Content and Awareness
“Some start-ups succeed,” Algonquin College journalism professor Joe Banks told the panel of four and audience of 20 hosted by the Media Club. Assuming you have no external sources of revenue, here’s his formula for “How to Make a Print- & Online-Newspaper without Breaking the Bank‘:
1. A staff of you, at least to start, or volunteers
2. Understanding of your readership
3. No office overhead (just your cell phone, your home and your car)
4. Locally provided content, freelancers (paid for at fair market rate of 25 cents a word or more depending on experience), or contributors (members of charitable organizations)
5. Revenues strictly from subscriptions, local advertising, Google AdSense. Display advertising service requires sales staff, unless web-based
6. Design templates found for free online
7. Adobe Creative Suite (includes In Design, Photoshop) and a Content Management System as tools
Ryerson University in Toronto is mapping the ‘desert.’ Although Post and Torstar said they would close only those papers competing with existing papers, the wide area of West Carleton, for example, has none.

Veteran journalists discuss how to fix 'news deserts' in Canadian communities with no newspapers

From left, Miss Gower; panelists Glen Glower, Patrick Langston and Theresa Fritz

Panelist Glen Gower is owner/editor of StittsvilleCentral.ca (pop. 26,807), an independent news and information source that attracts 20,000 visitors monthly. Its mission is to focus on the people who care about the community. He started it as a blog running two or three articles a week Unlike a print newspaper, it never runs out of space. FaceBook posts his good visual material and content prominently. But he says, “You have to be in their face” around town so I put up posters, particularly in the ‘hub,’ a local coffee shop.” He put $1,000 into the site and buys sponsored keywords on Google to get advertising.

2018 Predictions: More Social Media, Audio & Uncertainty

“You can’t ignore FaceBook,” said panelist Anita Murray, a career journalist at the Ottawa Citizen for 25 years. She and Patrick Langston, a freelancer at the Citizen and for a number of magazines, invested $50,000 in building and designing an Online website, All Things Home, a process that took a year. “We post daily to our FB page and find their ads cheap ($10.)” But they also rent a booth at the Home Show and are trusted members of their community. “We wouldn’t get big construction company advertisements without a sophisticated website but we also get in the door to talk to builders and suppliers who know us and where we live,” panelist Langston said.

“If you’re too lazy to read the paper, we will read it for you” is the FB etc. promo for Carleton University’s one-hour radio show and pod casts that have started coming out at the same time as the campus newspaper The Charlatan. The show has hosts, a narrative, guests, music and background analysis, senior student and Media Club award winner Gabrielle Van Looyen told the group.

Banks said FB no longer runs news and social media can be dangerous. Journalists must be careful not to libel anyone; the insurance is expensive. In his village, a man posted an accusation about a neighbour with whom he’d been feuding. Banks told him to take it down but it was too late. People worried they were no longer safe. Banks looked up statistics proving Osgoode was the safest place anywhere and posted them with the message that there was no danger.

Tossed out of her position as managing editor of 11 Metroland community newspapers in Almonte, Arnprior, Vanier, etc., with a staff of 21, Theresa Fritz is surviving by freelancing but still is passionate about community newspapers. She thinks you can survive if you have a local connection with a local business (in contrast to distributing flyers.) She thinks a proposed venture for a chain of four papers to be brought out twice a month has dim prospects. “People have an expectation of what they’ll get. What is their long-term viability? How do you ask people to pay for something you’ve been giving away?”

New Models as the Way out of Media Mistrust. Who’s going to save society?

Why not have a community radio station? Create a community hub. Libraries are starting to lose their way but could play a new role. In Weare, New Hampshire, the people approached the librarian after its newspaper closed. Mike Sullivan responded to the people who came, all of them interested in the community. He became a podcaster so they could stay connected with it.

Whom can you trust?
Seventy-three per cent of Canadians trust their media, in contrast to only 47% of Americans. 78% of Flippinos and 77% of Cambodians are also very trusting of their newspapers. Align yourself with the community association. They have infrastructures you can build on.

What builds trust?

“At a community newspaper you get involved in a whole bunch of stuff, all the things that don’t involve you personally but are going on. If you are seen at them, it builds trust in people, said Fritz. They know where you live and will call you at home. You become their best friend and a hand to hold. You can go out, walk the streets and see pictures of people you know in the newspaper. If you see 200 people, they see you too. One man who went to the strawberry social and got his picture in the paper told me, “I mailed it home and now I feel like part of this
community.”

Lay-offs hurt journalism itself. The Ottawa Citizen used to employ 200 newsmen and is now down to 50. That’s that many fewer journalists out being seen with their families in the community.

Murray: Does the buzz you get from seeing someone you know’s picture in the paper build trust? Does it transfer to the Web?

What is the ideal sized community for a newspaper?
Banks: I suspect trust in the media is more rural than urban. Urban people have much more media to consume. Rural people go more for tradition and urbanites more for what’s new.

Student: I think you’re saying people have less trust in bigger media.

Banks: I think a population of 400 – 150,000 has the right mix for the distribution of the product.

Prospects for Unemployed Journalists

Banks: Young journalists are in huge demand from corporations to work as social media co-ordinators and analysts. They are offered twice as much as they would get as journalists.

Regrets (in Jest) but Resolve

Banks, looking at Russell Mills, his former boss and publisher of the Ottawa Citizen when the Internet was formed: “You should have grabbed the Internet. You could have but the journalists were too afraid of change to do it at the time. Then we would still be in control of the news. Right now we are losing young graduates to corporate non-journalist jobs and veteran journalists to abrupt unemployment.”

Murray: But don’t forget, websites will always need news-gatherers too.

 

Happy Reading & Writing from Cozy Book Basics!

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No good concerts were on in Ottawa when we celebrated our Diamond Jubilee last week, so we put our savings into a Magic Circle and dinner at Hy’s Steakhouse instead. Both were well worth it, for ever.

magiccircle

A custom-made Magic Circle by Iris tenHolder

An artistic photographer and friend who is vice president of the Media Club of Ottawa also designs and knits mini rugs while others sleep. Her husband William tenHolder, former owner of upscale Café Wim and author of the book by that name, hosts open houses in Iris tenHolder’s heritage studio where her work is shown. As a memento of our sixtieth anniversary, we asked her to make a Magic Circle for our home. It’s the perfect gift for people who love to have something unique.

Starting from scratch, she and Wim came to our house with samples of designs and yarn colors to see what blended into our rooms and what we liked. It was completed on time and delivered in person.  Now our ugly little coffee table/footstool is a gorgeous focal point admired by all, a constant reminder of our big day. The price, based on the size, the yarn and the time it takes, is right too.

A serving of Beef Wellington at Hy's Restaurant

A serving of Beef Wellington at Hy’s Restaurant

The Citizen of Sept. 10, 2015 ran a front page headline, “Hy’s Steakhouse Closing in February”. We were shocked to see this hub of the capital’s political life was mortal, like Café Wim. The story said the owners had been unable to come to an agreement with the landlord over the lease.

We discovered it in 1985 after Arthur Mantell asked me and Tom to be his and his wife Kitty’s partners in the Aylmer Bulletin. A weekly newspaper has to hold an annual meeting of shareholders. This meant the four of us went out for dinner at Hy’s and charged it as a business
expense. Since the Mantells ran the business side and we did the editorial side, the decision wasn’t ours to question. From our curved, upholstered couches, we just ate and gaped at the beautiful guests, open fire chamber, fabulous decor and competent staff.

We headed to Hy’s near Parliment for our sixtieth anniversary dinner and dared to order what we really wanted from the menu, i.e. Beef Wellington. It tasted heavenly but the occasion was bittersweet for some. Our waitress said they received news of the closing a few days ago. She had worked there for 29 years and her colleagues were like family. We asked her what she would do and she said she didn’t know but she couldn’t afford to retire. After we finished eating, we lingered to soak up the atmosphere which was not as crowded and upbeat as in 1985.

The Hy website is sweetening the blow for customers by announcing an online contest worth $1500. If you win, you might be able to plan having a blast there before February and inviting all your friends! The contest is Hy’s way of celebrating their Diamond Jubilee, since the company was founded in Calgary 60 years ago and none of its other stores is closing down.

Ironically, part of our family too is closing down. We reach this milestone just as a child of ours goes to court to settle a divorce after 17 years. So life goes on. We celebrate our big occasions as exuberantly as we can while remembering others are not so lucky.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

http://www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany

http://www.margaretvirany.com

A Canadian Pacific Railway freight eastbound o...

A Canadian Pacific Railway freight eastbound over the Stoney Creek Bridge, British Columbia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is easy to assume that Linda Kay’s book The Sweet Sixteen is about women’s rights. Instead, it is about camaraderie. The 16 journalists on board the luxurious, private coach provided to take them to the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, MO bonded closely. However, they did not all agree, for example, that it would be a good thing if women got the vote.

Although they led lives different from the traditional pattern, the 16 were unanimous in believing the role of the housewife and mother was sacrosanct as the underpinning of society. In their writings for newspapers, magazines and religious publications, they used pen names and became revered as fountains of sound advice and views.
The housewife was commander-in-chief in  the areas of  child-raising, morals, education, health, charity, the arts and much more. If well informed, she  could influence her man’s decisions on political and economic issues. Beneath the facade of home, family, cooking, fashion and etiquette was a social theme of facilitation, empowerment and national sentiment. 
Col. Ham, the first public relations man for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), was aware these working journalists had big jobs to do. A reason for granting their request for a free trip, a perk routinely granted to male journalists, was the CPR’s aim to populate Canada’s western and northern expanses. What better way to influence a major family move than to get the message out to the housewives?
After the Fair, when the women had formed their club and made Ham honorary president, the CPR underwrote travel expenses and free rail tours of the northwest for delegates to the CWPC triennial conference.
The personal lives of many of the 16 were difficult and fell well short of ideal. If Kay had chosen to, she could have highlighted juicy morsels, such as Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King’s mutual feelings  for one of the 16. But this is a work of scholarly discipline, research and fact.
This club lives on today, under the name of the Media Club of Ottawa. It has retained its original basis of a bonding of women who want to improve their writing craft and see the working  journalist as having a literary function and a role to play in building a good society.
As a member, I was present at a meeting in 2003 where a professional facilitator was present to ask each person’s views. His role was to nudge us to the sensible, inevitable decision that the time had come to fold. Instead he found this club still had a strong will to live and attract younger members working in the new media.
We celebrated our centennial in 2004 with an offstage re-enactment of the trip to St Louis at the National Arts Centre. Linda Kay, Chair and Associate Professor of the Journalism Faculty of Concordia University, attended and was inspired to write The Sweet Sixteen
It is a fascinating account of the accomplishments of extraordinary women and I hope it will not be the only  book Kay writes on the subject. The last of the 16 died in 1963, and the club has preserved a  mound of archives since then. A sequel about more extraordinary lives is waiting to be written.
What is your favorite social biography? We want to hear about it how you identify with it. Drop us a line or two in the comment box!

Thank you for visiting. This blog for all lovers of life and language aims to be useful and entertaining.

Happy Reading & Writing from Cozy Book Basics!

 
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