Staff reductions at The Gazette

The Gazette

The news hit the fan today thanks to a CP story about a Gazette memo which indicates the company wants to reduce the size of its editorial staff to save money.

Publisher Alan Allnutt said in a memo to employees that management is doing all it can to avoid layoffs (which it’s required to do under its union agreement), and is offering another round of buyouts for those who want to leave voluntarily. (The formula offers a lump sum payment based on how long an employee has worked for the paper: 4.5 weeks per year of service, which works out to a year’s pay if you’ve been there 11.5 years).

Still, most people are looking at this story with disappointment, especially considering recent job cuts at TQS and Global, as well as a general feeling of a decline in quality at mainstream publications due to budget cuts.

It also puts into perspective moves like this:

The Gazette: “Send us your news”

First appearing last week, this new page on the paper’s website encourages visitors to “share your news” by submitting text, audio, photos or video in the hope that such an action will either get a story written about a subject or that your submission will be posted online.

Just about every major media outlet is doing this (see CNN’s iReport for another example, or the Ottawa Citizen version), because it preys on people’s desire to get their 15 minutes of fame, it sounds all Web 2.0-ish and pleases their marketing departments who can say they “get it”, and of course it helps the bottom line because these amateur reporters aren’t paid a cent for their work.

I’ll be looking into some of these issues of “user-generated content” for upcoming articles in this same newspaper (can you feel the irony?), so stay tuned.

In the meantime, what do you think of all this? Should newsrooms be squeezed even further? Are journalists not working hard enough? Are TV, radio and newspaper news departments destined for extinction? Is free, user-generated news the future? Feel free to comment below.

UPDATE (Nov. 4): Deborah Jones of J-Source has some thoughts on the CanWest situation in general.

12 thoughts on “Staff reductions at The Gazette

  1. heri

    when one or ten bloggers can do the work of a journalist, then journalists are useless.

    however, we are talking here about news that are easy to pick up.

    bloggers don’t do investigative journalism, they don’t travel to other countries/cities, they won’t seek interviews or go to press conferences. so for those kind of news, journalists are here to stay.

  2. blork

    The big outlets are worried that they’re losing readers to “citizen journalism” (e.g., Orato, etc.), and they are right. So this is their attempt to try to lure some of those readers back.

    I hope that we find a way for the two to co-exist. Mainstream, established journalism has one thing that most citizen journalists and blogs don’t have; authority. There are rules, editors, codes of conduct, and other checks and balances in place in order to create and preserve that authority. That authority, however, can be called into question when the outlet’s business interests become too obvious.

    Blogs and citizen journalists don’t really have that authority, but they make up for it by presenting freshness and immediacy, and in some cases a sense of “authenticity” that you don’t usually find in mainstream journalism.

    Both are necessary. The trick is finding a way for them to co-exist.

  3. Zoey Castelino

    It seems more and more these days that freelancing is the way to go for both writers and newsrooms. It costs the publication less and there’s always a supply of writers looking to get their name in ink. Sadly, gone are the days of newsrooms like the one seen in “The Paper”.

  4. princess iveylocks

    Some of the laziest, dullest, and least-verbally-inclined people I know are journalists. However, working alongside them are sparkling archetypes of talent, diligence, and aptitude.

    Perhaps the questions we should be asking are: where do stories fall apart during news production? (e.g., writing, fact-checking, editing) How does this differ from in the past, when free [online] content wasn’t available? How have audience expectations changed, regarding timeliness, accuracy, and originality, and what are the best methods of meeting these?

    I’ve formed my own opinions on the matter, and automatically rubber-stamping bloated newsrooms isn’t the answer. heri’s right; as you know, some journalists are unable to pick up the goddamn phone and call a source, let alone keep informed about current affairs, read widely, or, hell, even spell someone’s name correctly. It’s not even because they’re lazy — it’s because editors, publishers, and even readers let them away with it for years.

    Are you surprised that readers now look elsewhere for media that suits their inclinations? I’m not. Why should I pay someone to copy-paste a CP story (errors intact or inserted as bonuses) into a newspaper when I can skim it online, obtain the primary documents myself, even call up the parties involved (who are probably delighted to offer clarification, particularly if the first carbon-copy interview was bungled), and draw my own conclusions? Egotistically, I’m positive that readers don’t need someone to digest baby formula for them, thanks. Reporters who shy away from obvious uninformed generalizations and present the facts wall, or import novel insight into the issue from their own experiences or research, win my readership. Frankly, most journalists just aren’t up to snuff.

  5. princess iveylocks

    present the facts *well*; sorry, I get paid to think in numbers and notation… lash me with the indignant whip if you must, but *I* am not a journalist!

  6. JL

    Be careful submitting stuff this way. Read their contract:

    You give CanWest and all its properties the “non-exclusive and royalty-free right and license, (but not the obligation), in perpetuity, throughout the world, in any and all media now known or hereafter devised, to communicate to the public by way of unlimited public broadcast use of your Content or any part thereof”

    You hereby expressly waive, to the fullest extent permitted by law, any so-called “moral rights” which may now or may hereafter be recognized by legislative enactment or otherwise at law or in equity with respect to the Content.

    “…shall have the right to use your Content in any manner in its sole discretion within the terms of this license, including, but not limited to the right to edit your Content to accommodate broadcast, broadcast distribution and publishing requirements and/or policies; and to add to, delete from, edit, alter and otherwise combine the Content with other content in any manner and in any media whatsoever.”

    In other words, submitting anything by this form gives them all rights to it, including the right to strip your name from it and sell it to other companies without offering you a dime.

    All this for the possibility that what you upload might be used on their crappy website?

    What fucked-up pot are they smoking that makes them think people are going to flock to this?

  7. Abby West

    I work at the Edmonton Journal. I am one of those being offered 3 weeks for every year worked, to a maximum of 78 weeks. Content providers are not the ones they want to leave. It’s “deskers” – copy editors who put content on the pages, choose and crop the pictures, edit the copy and cut it to fit the space available, write the headlines and subheads and add creative touches like pull quotes and art elements. Day shifts are most affected; pages featuring wire copy not likely to be updated are to be done remotely in Hamilton, On., Local news pages will still be done locally. Night deskers are still needed, but not as many and very few day copy editors will be required. Professional reporters and photojournalists who provide quality news coverage are still more important to the paper than “amateurs”.

  8. matt radz

    Under a ukase from head office to trim budget, Gazette is making an offer they can’t refuse to 20 or so longtime “editorial grunts”? Is there a higher principle than money here?
    Check the Journalism Project article, re Canwest finances. Read the Edmonton comment and then consider this line from a recent John Fogarty song about what’s really going down, from his Revival 2007 album:

    “Wreck the paper;
    close the school …”

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