Friday, March 24, 2006

Everyone needs a Log!*

*Ren & Stimpy, in case you missed the reference.

Or, you know, not.

I wish I could say I was shocked when I heard The Humber Log had folded. I was certainly surprised when I read it, but it's not like I thought "Holy Cow, I never saw that coming!" It was more like, "Ah, now's when they've finally decided to pull the plug, eh."

I joined Robinson-Blackmore in 1998, the company that eventually became Optipress which was then bought by the Montreal based Transcontinental. RB ran pretty much all the community newspapers in Newfoundland and Labrador, which I think the number was 16. And even when I first joined, with The Packet, it was common knowledge that the Log was struggling financially.

It's not that it was a bad paper. On the contrary, it has had some great reporters and photographers over the years. During the annual Atlantic Canada Newspaper Association's awards, the three papers from Newfoundland that normally garnered the most plaques were The Packet, The Express and the Log. Even with the national awards, the CCNA (Canadian Community Newspaper Association), the Log used to do quite well in its circulation category.

The problem is that it was an awfully small circulation category. That combined with other factors such as low advertising sales, competing against the Western Star and a declining population base made it a real struggle for the paper. I think that had more of an impact than the Internet, as one former employee in the CBC story said.

So no, this isn't a 'Transcontinental is evil" post. Did they do all they could? I have no idea. I'm sure I could question some decisions. But did they inherit a paper that was struggling mightily when they bought Optipress? Yup.

So I pause a moment, raise a glass and mourn the passing of a newspaper, which is always a sad occasion in my book.

The think that concerns me is that the Log was, in some ways, a twin sister to The Express. Both are/were weeklies in major markets with a fight on their hands against larger media. When Transcontinental bought Optipress, The Express and The Log were the only papers in which they would be competing against existing Transcontinental papers - The Telegram and The Western Star.

The federal Competition Bureau, when it approved the Optipress buyout, put certain protections in place to make sure Transcon couldn't just walk in and fold The Express and Log. Obviously, that umbrella of protection is now gone, or at least diminished.

So yeah, I'm a bit worried about The Express. I spent the better part of four years there. I have friends who work there. She's a good paper trying to make the best out of what can be a hard market with strained and limited resources. And, you know, you hear things. My mother, God love her, says people keep coming into where she works (Shoppers Drug Mart on Torbay Road. Look for Daphne. Tell her you read my blog. It'll freak her out) and saying the paper hasn't been the same since I left.

Which is rubbish. Lovely for the ego and all, but I'm under no delusions that I was essential to the quality of the paper. Far from it. But things have changed at the paper quite a bit since I left, I believe. I haven't seen a hard copy of the paper since I left and the website is no real gauge of how the paper is doing right now in terms of quality of writing, photography, layout, advertising and circulation. But I hear things. And I worry.

It would be a tragedy if something happened to The Express. There is a good, if not long, history with the paper. It has served St. John's well over most of the past 20 years.

I just hope I never click onto the CBC site and find The Express has folded. Because that would be a very sad day indeed.

Currently Playing
All That You Can't Leave Behind - U2


Anonymous said...

What a shame. They had some good people at the Log. It was a good place to work, and I would have been there at its close were it not for my having been abducted by adventures in South Korea a few years ago. The editor took me in even though I had a philosophy degree, on the strength of a just few articles with the Muse.
I still think it was one of the best jobs I ever had, and I learned a lot in a short time.
I hope the journalists find work in the industry elsewhere - they have talent, and experience in a tough market.

regards, cat`

Mireille Sampson said...

This has absolutely nothing to do with newspapers, a question just came to mind as i was reading your blog: what's the new movie Pierce Brosnan is in where he walks through a hotel lobby wearing only cowboy boots, undies, a cigar and a middle-age paunch? I read about it a while back and would like to see it but I can't remember its name and i don't know if it's been released. You get this because you are a movie geek;)

towniebastard said...

It's called The Matador. It'll likely be out on DVD shortly.