By Mark Bulgutch and Peter Mansbridge
Summer beckons. This web site isn't going dark, but it will be updated less regularly, and churning out new columns every week definitely isn't on the agenda for the next two months.
So it seems like a perfect time to review some of the essays that have appeared since we began Inside the News. Let's see what's happened.
In October, the NHL season was on hold because of a lockout. Though a lot of media types were moaning about it, I wrote that I wanted it to go on a bit longer. I said, "I find it difficult to get too excited about missing some regular season hockey games. The season is too long. There are too many games."Read the essay
Got my wish. When hockey started up again, the season was reduced to just 48 games. People were enthused about a sprint and not a marathon. There was talk about every game being important. About the players having to play hard from the get-go. How it would be impossible to let up even for one game. How there would be a playoff atmosphere from beginning to end.
I know it won't happen, but shouldn't we want that every season?
Just before Thanksgiving I predicted that police forces across the country would be taking part in road safety blitzes. I said it had become part of every holiday weekend, complete with horror stories about stopping seemingly crazed drivers. My lament, "It's fine to catch those people. But I wish someone would figure out a way to keep them off the road for good."Read the essay
No one has. There was the usual blitz over the last long weekend for Victoria Day. Same result. In Ontario, for example, there were 15,000 charges laid. And Manitoba provided a pretty good horror story. Two drivers were stopped twice over the weekend. One was nailed burning up the road at 155 km/hr and then an hour later was stopped zipping along at 139 km/hr. Another was caught at 138 km/hr and just 18 minutes later was stopped doing125 km/hr.
I wrote a column about newspapers getting deeper and deeper into financial trouble. I noted that much of their business had moved to the internet where aggregators of news made money because they spent almost nothing actually gathering it. "We need our newspapers," I wrote. "They investigate. They explore. They explain. None of that is free." Since then it's been mostly downhill for many North American papers, but two big Canadian newspapers have embarked on major experiments.Read the essay
The Globe and Mail erected a pay wall. It still offers a lot of its content free, but unless you subscribe it makes you pay to read more than ten articles a month. The Globe says it has 100,000 subscribers. Is that enough to make up for lost revenue on the print side? Not yet.
La Presse, in Montreal, is on a much bolder mission. It says people have decided that news should be free. Asking them to pay for it is futile. So it spent $40 million dollars to develop an app that lets people read a daily digital edition on tablets. That edition is produced by an entirely separate group of journalists. To make money, La Presse is betting that advertisers will pay close to the same rates they paid in the past to be in La Presse's print edition, which is a lot more than regular web rates. The experiment began in April so it's too soon to see if the gamble is paying off.
In November, I wrote in praise of war reporters. Men and women who risk their lives to tell us what's happening in very dangerous places. To that point in 2012, the war in Syria had killed 16 journalists. By the end of the year, the number had risen to 28. So far this year, 8 more journalists have been killed. The war goes on, its brutality increasing.Read the essay
December brought us the sadness of Newtown. The media made serious errors reporting on the shooting. Wrong names. Wrong numbers. I wrote that most errors are caused because journalists are going too fast to double check information. "Inside newsrooms the idea of being first with the news is so ingrained, it's very difficult to hold back when you think you're right."
There were more errors in April when bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon. A few weeks later, Scott Pelley, who anchors the CBS Evening News, delivered a speech that went over some of the same ground. Part of what he said: "We have entered a time ...when the first thing a reporter hears is the first thing that she reports.Read the essay
That's not journalism. That's gossip. Journalism was invented as an antidote to gossip." So we all know the disease. We all know the cure too. But is anyone strong enough to apply it?
One week I tiptoed into the world of reality television and discovered someone named Honey Boo Boo. She's a 7 year-old girl, part of a family who millions of people watch every week. I said I'd never watch, and I've kept that promise. But apparently someone ran over the family's dog earlier this month. Gotta be impressed with the ability of a 7 year-old to tweet. "Some1 2day hit& killed our dog China& left her to die #sadday #ripchina #willbtrulymissed."Read the essay
The most popular essay on Inside the News, judging by the number of people who shared it on social media, was one about teachers. When I wrote it, teachers in Ontario were in a major confrontation with the provincial government over new imposed contracts. I was completely neutral on the labour issue, but I thought teachers were taking unjustified criticism from some media outlets about their value to society. My view was that teachers work extremely hard, grooming the next generation of Canadians, and running down teachers was wrong.Read the essay
Though the essay was written in early March, there was a comment posted seven weeks later that many of you may have missed. "I am a young teacher and though I love my job, it has been heartbreaking to listen to everyone, including my own friends and neighbours, be so negative about what I do and do with all my heart. For some time, the negativity has made me so angry that I just wanted to walk away. Your words meant a great deal to me and helped me to remember that what I do is important."
That's the kind of response that will get me through the summer, and make me look forward to September. In the meantime, enjoy each and every day.