Pursuit of profits colours public perception of media

We don’t often comment on or criticize other news media in this space but there have been events in recent times that impact negatively on the news-gathering community, of which The Expositor is a part.

The announcement last week, for example, by the Sun Media organization that over 250 jobs were being eliminated nationally, some old papers closed down completely, working hours cut back, and three of its mass market publications also eliminated completely may well serve to lead the public with the notion that the newspaper industry is in trouble.

The fact is, that Sun Media has taken these drastic measures (with these cutbacks the total number of jobs eliminated by the Sun Media organization rises to about 500 over the past year) in order to boost its profits. No news media is profitable as it was in the 1970s and ‘80s and when a return of 20 percent or greater on sales was retained in the daily newspaper industry. This was in the hay-day of the Thomson newspapers era and it was this industry that made the late Roy Thomson the richest man in Canada and the first native-born billionaire by the early 1970s.

It seems that the new Sun Media model is to attempt to recreate those affluent times by means of cutting costs i.e. staff and wages. It’s hard to imagine that a business which, by its very nature, is labour intensive can be as affective in doing its job of providing timely news to its readers (in print and online) with fewer people.

This, unfortunately, will impact to some extent on the entire newspaper industry including those of us like Manitoulin newspapers whose main mission is to provide news for and about the people of this place and not to reach a particular predetermined profit point in a given year.

A large corporation like Sun Media, which is very diversified and includes massive commercial printing interests, cable television services, radio, community newspapers, magazines, as well as daily papers is of course a massively different operation by any measurement than the handful of community newspapers that are still family owned in this province and across this country. But the concern among the independents is that the public will tar us all with the same brush when they see the Sun Media operation is probably providing less service with the intention of greater gain.

Newspapers have been important in the development of Canada and indeed of every civilized democracy and it is important that people not lose faith in them because of profit motives of some of the proprietors.