Casual commentary about political, cultural and economic issues with a particular interest on the city of Winnipeg by John Dobbin
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Winnipeg Free Press Fires Seven News Staff
Winnipeg Press Offices on Mountain Avenue
It is the paper of record and rightly or wrongly takes it on the chin when they gets things wrong, overlook things or take a position that someone is not going to like. the Winnipeg Free Press has the largest news gathering force in the city. It still does but it is minus some of its most junior staff as of Tuesday.
Seven in the newsroom were let go.
John White, online editor Melissa Martin, reporter Alison Mayes, reporter Adam Wazny, sports writer Rob Williams, music columnist Lindsey Wiebe, social media reporter
And one web position not named.
It should be noted that some of these latest hires are the most active in multiple media platforms, especially Twitter, blogging, radio and elsewhere.
Unions protect senior employees first. Always have. With some justification the fear is that companies will dump older workers for ones paid lower wages. However, the problem with removing new and younger workers in a downturn is that they are the very people to build for the future.
I can say about some of the above writers that some were truly innovative and exciting to read. They will be missed.
This lay-off represents 8% of the news staff. I think it is devastating. It comes on the heels of 15 people let go earlier this year. The Free Press and its partners such as Canstar, Brandon Sun and the Steinbach Carillon employ around 570 people. Employees had a 2% wage increase in the year and revenue was down $500,000 in the second quarter from last year.
Like many newspaper companies, the Free Press is trying to figure out how to increase advertising revenue and profit.
Some say that newspapers are a declining business as people get their news online. However, getting news online also entails people writing it and the best writing is that which comes from people who make their living on it.
The Brandon Sun is mostly behind firefalls now. I am not sure how the paper fares compared to its larger counterpart but I'd wager the fact that the previous cutbacks of 14 jobs at the Free Press and 1 at the Brandon Sun were not an accident.
We are seeing more firewalls going up for newspapers all the time. Content has to be paid for somehow. We have gotten used to the idea that things are free and they really aren't.
I think the Free Press has no choice but to go behind a firewall so they can create exclusive content for the local area. The trick will be to create content so that is affordable and unique. That won't be easy without the writers that were let go.
I am wondering if a new model of newspaper by owner/operated news reporters might not work in this city. The big corporate format seems to be driven by management and union issues that won't go away too soon.
It may be that the future job security for journalists is multi-platform like Gary Lawless with the Free Press and TSN or finding reporting work with Shaw cable like Marty Gold on City Circus or Scott Taylor and Goldeyes broadcasts. The first writer likely does well with two strong commercial enterprises paying him. I am not sure about the other two writer/broadcasters but I hope they are self sustaining with their work.
I want strong newspapers and media but fear the corporate and labour structure that seems to put them in conflict.
To the writers who are out of work. Please keep writing! And hope upon hope that jobs are there for you.