Source: Ian McDougall, Journalist, via Debby Lo-Dean (thanks Debby for sharing)
From: Ian McDougall
Sent: Wednesday, December 16, 2020 12:40 PM
Subject: SAD TIMES
As an old print hack, it gives me great sadness to cancel my newspaper subscription, due to:
A. the bias
B. the poor quality of journalism/editing
C. lack of decent meaningful coverage
D. the bias
I reckon a local newspaper - and especially so in a one-paper town - should be free of bias. Cover big issues, yes, but more importantly basic human yarns, stories of real people doing everyday things, people whom readers can relate to, not business/social identities/"influencers", those with a sense of trumped-up (yes, in that sense, too) self importance, favoured businesses (bugger Joe and Judy Blow running small operations).
If I want a news source that panders to right/left/whatever leanings I will seek it out.
Locally, I want a newspaper that values its readers, treats them with respect, listens to them, knows their needs - much like the scores of papers now shut down or being shut down by the country's two main proprietors. They cast them, and their staff, aside with nary a thought for the effects on communities already facing significant challenges.
Newspaper groups have been for too long run by bean counters so far up themselves they don't need a boy/girl friend and with no understanding of or respect for the industry. The papers have cosied up and to career politicians with similar attributes: educated, yes, but mostly with legal or political party experience, not worked behind counters, on retail floors, in the heat and dirt and flies, in low-paid jobs caring for others (aged, infirm, disabled, mental), even hardly teachers any more etc. Cosied up to big business. Only the publications with great advertising revenue were kept - the weekend real estate liftout alone here at the GC would cover the rest of the week's costs, and then some - with a page or two of token regional content once a week deemed sufficient to service those areas.
Blatant incorrect facts in letters and the increasingly popular low-brow Txt To Editor sections go unchecked and uncorrected. Like social media, statements which woulda brought slander/libel upon journos in yesteryears are allowed in and go unchallenged, especially those that align with the company's attitudes. Pool sub-editing - even from Noo Zillund FFFS - is appalling, often done with people with no knowledge of local people/places/geography/events (much like the 000 call centre, but that's another story/concern).
I had a few examples but the ether has claimed them. But look how this reader was treated recently. Instead of calling him and pointing out his error and giving him a chance to correct and resubmit, or read/send an edited version for approval, the editor chose to run it then embarrass the poor bugger by pointing out his misunderstanding FFS!
When the ever-decreasing-in-size local free weekly was still going, I complained to the group editor-in-chief that many houses in our neighbourhood were not getting them. She did follow it up but her response staggered me.
The contractor was not delivering - ie throwing on footpath - to those places which had a "no advertising/junk mail" sign on their letterboxes. I said while a newspaper does contain advertising it is not junk mail and that surely the contractor could be instructed to deliver. She passed it off, saying it was the contractor's decision. But I'll bet he/she was getting a per delivery rate based on the number of residences etc in that area, even though many were not delivered. Every time I went into a local business - especially one which I knew advertised regularly - over the next few months, I made sure I told the proprietors this paper was not being delivered to many houses. That attitude is what killed it off, not COVID.
I can comment on all this because I was editor of a tri-weekly newspaper which increasingly failed its community. The reasons are many and varied: no budget, under resourced, remote production issues, unrealistic demands to raise advertising revenue in a struggling rural area and corporate interference among them. I became worn down by the pressure, lost touch with readers. I wore the blame, took the fall and still bear the guilt. This was the trigger of my ongoing anxiety and depression. I even wrote to the local council some years later to apologise for my undue focus on its operations and councillors - it was easy pickings for a time-poor journo.
In spite of all that, the paper and I won numerous awards - even topping all other media outlets in NSW to be honoured with the Tidy Towns Association State Media Award.
When the paper's owners were scooping up little and not-so-little papers across NSW for tuppence to build their empire (but in reality to stop others doing building their own), I was within a pubic hair of being sacked for writing an editorial about the need to retain independent newspapers in those communities. I think my ears are still ringing from the blast I copped from the big kahuna down south. The parent body, Fairfax, sold out to Nine last year and those papers are gone or going. On a bright note, sacked journos, advertising staff or other people in towns are starting their own publications and doing pretty bloody well in most cases. On yas!
All that aside, I did set up and run the online Southport Star, reporting on local and some citywide issues, for a few years after I left government in 2011. Gawd I miss making newspapers and dream of it every week. My psych says I should get back in the trade somehow. Too burned out, I said.
Overall, the relentless 24-hour news cycle has a lot to do with lack of quality. Stuff of very little consequence - a road accident in Germany, a sick chook in some'kenwhere, handbag snatcher in Baltimore (hello!!) - being printed/broadcast/uploaded to fill in the gaps between equally other significant stuff. Bored journos made to stand out in rain/sun/smog, near courts/buildings/accidents/crime scenes to do the same cross every 20 minutes.
Hallelujah - that's got the shit off me liver, eh! Here endeth the rant.
Cheers to all me journo mates, and others.
Merry happy, happy merry.