Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Some commitment to local news!

Citytv, the station that's synonymous with local news, is slashing its news operations across the country.

The reports vary but they all point to today's announcement by Rogers Media, which owns the stations. One report says there will be no newscasts tonight on Citytv stations in Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton. Another from the Toronto Star says BT (Breakfast Television), CityNews at Six and CityNews at Night will continue to be produced in all five Citytv markets, but notes the Rogers statement makes no mention of the noon newscast.

About 60 jobs will be lost in Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton.

Ironically, the move comes a day after a group of three people announced they were heading a bid to buy three of the Canwest newspapers up for sale because they believe in ... you guessed it...local news.

This layoff makes no sense. It comes at a time the economy is rebounding, when people are putting their money into local news, and when stations such as CHCH and CHEK are trying to make it on their own with a reliance on local news.

Once again, it proves two things: 1. Local news is always expendible when big media companies get bigger and people in all the affected cities should be complaining loudly. 2. That cable and satellite campaign over the summer and fall about their commitment to local news was just what we all thought -- misleading words aimed at making sure someone else pays for it, if it has to exist at all.

Monday, January 18, 2010

New buyers who actually want to talk about content!

For the first time in a long time, some good news about the fate of Canwest. The Toronto Star and others are reporting that a group of investors led by former Senator Jerry Grafstein is preparing to make an offer for three of the Canwest newspapers -- the Montreal Gazette, the Ottawa Citizen and the National Post.

What's so encouraging about this news is that not only does the group have background in the business (Grafstein was a founder of Citytv in Toronto, Ray Heard used to be an editor at the Montreal Star then he was an executive at Global TV and Beryl Wajsman is editor of a weekly newspaper in Quebec), they are actually talking about content!

The three are not talking about "synergies", not making this about bottom-line cost-effective delivery of news on all sorts of platforms. That's the kind of talk that led to Canwest's troubles.

Instead this group is talking about how newspapers would benefit from local involvement that would produce timely, informative, well-written stories and grassroots journalism reflecting the priorities of Canada's diverse communities.

Wow! No matter what happens with Canwest up for sale, the injection of this kind of interest -- interest for all the right reasons -- can only be good news for the news business.