This week, my job has taken me closer to cars and driving, which is ironic since I don’t have a driver’s license.
Sunday night was the last night of production of the Gazette’s Grand Prix special section, much to the delight of exhausted sports editor Stu Cowan, who worked tirelessly for eight straight days putting together sections that were anywhere from six to 26 pages long. (At last report he was at home in the fetal position mumbling something that sounded like “need another sidebar Randy”)
Yesterday, I spent my shift working on the regular Driving pages, which appear three days a week in front of the classifieds.
Some might wonder why newspapers focus so much on cars, but one look at the Grand Prix section gives the obvious answer: Ads. Lots of them.
It’s one of those subtle pressures that advertising places on editorial. No direct dictation of content, but the understanding that if a newspaper focuses on a certain subject, advertisers will follow.
Unfortunately, as newspaper budgets shrink, the power of this advertising force becomes stronger. As the news holes are shrinking for foreign news, feature stories and books sections, the cash cow sections for cars, homes, employment, electronics and movies are maintained.
That means pages of stories lauding the new Ford Focus and very little talking about global warming (unless an oil company has a new marketing campaign about it), poverty, fine arts, science, religion, or anything else that can’t be used to sell people overpriced stuff.
It’s a problem not just here, but across the entire newspaper industry, and will spread to the blogosphere once that industry matures.
The question is: Where should the line be drawn? How much should the money-making sections be used to subsidize the money-losing ones?