Toronto Star publisher John Cruickshank on how the recent travails aren't the end of the business, but they are the end of business as usual.
Newspapers are going through a major shakeout – just as they did when television demolished the old print news business model 50 years ago. In short order, virtually all North American afternoon papers shifted to morning or died as 6 p.m. national TV broadcasts redefined the news experience.
Over a somewhat longer period, the hard news orientation of newspapers of the past began to be complemented with contextual and background material. Reporting became much more sophisticated and big papers opened bureaus around the world. Feature writing and entertainment reporting gained more prominence as newspapers reached out to women and younger readers.
Editorial sections were invented to chase revenue opportunities around readers' interests in automobiles, travel and real estate.
The death of newspapers turned into the next Golden Age.
Today, the movement of advertising dollars onto the Internet and mobile devices, plus a deep recession, has sparked a business crisis.
Cruickshank said the core of the Star's business is news:
In fact, while we've been shrinking in some places, we've been investing in investigative reporting, coverage of the Canadian North and Toronto-focused business journalism.
Cruickshank then talked about the hard bargaining with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union over the moves to cut production costs — which means bodies — in advertising and editorial.
As a result, we have reached an unprecedented agreement for change in the Editorial Department though we were unable to accept the proposal for advertising production work. It is a model for how co-operation can maximize savings and other benefits while minimizing the loss of jobs.
We all see both of these results as great wins for our company and the industry. The biggest investment for both sides was trust. The union has shown trust that the company really is seeking to create a new business model for the great journalism of the future.
Management has shown trust that it has a reliable partner in making change. It was a resounding statement by Star people that our news business that is still so fundamentally strong in print and growing rapidly in new media is very much alive.
As previously reported, the Star cut jobs in editorial production but didn't outsource.
If this puts the Star's cost base on a more sustainable level but allows it to continue to produce great journalism, then good for the Star — and Toronto.