Sometimes losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth

It’s been said that losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth, and over the years I’ve found that to be true more than a few times.

On my journey from blogger, to Huffington Post featured political blogger, to Duel debate columnist at 24 Hours Vancouver and then moving onto become the new City Hall columnist, I’ve gained thousands of wonderful readers, critical experience and wisdom. And it’s been an incredible experience.

But I’ve also lost some admittedly youthful naiveté and more than a handful of illusions about democracy and journalism. I’ve changed and grown and so have my views. In a world that’s recreating itself faster than the human mind can sometimes process, the ability to adapt and move forward into new, progressive ways of thinking and dealing with challenges is essential. And that was why I left the Duel even though I had developed an incredible relationship with our readers. I knew by perpetuating and contributing to the polarization of political left and right,I was part of the problem – and I wanted to be part of the solution.

Starting on the City Hall beat was an eye-opener even for someone as politically engaged as myself. If you think the antics of provincial or federal politics is contributing to voter malaise and cynicism, you’d give up entirely if you saw what goes on, largely without examination, at the civic level.The manner in which some city halls conduct their business is definitely worthy of a municipal auditor’s office and I’m not just limiting that to Metro Vancouver.

But I digress. Back to that lost illusion, one that lead to my handing in my resignation at 24Hours Vancouver several weeks ago.

Over the last year in particular, never ending cuts to newsrooms of papers big and small across the country, have taken a toll. It’s not just Postmedia- all corporate media outlets are feeling the pinch-but Postmedia cuts have been extensive.

Some senior members have been offered buyouts, some have just  been laid off. With the availability and preference of many to get their news for free through a variety of means online, newspapers are slowing dying a rather painful and visible death. And that isn’t a good thing for anyone, least of all you, the reader.

Why? Because these cuts and closures combined with a concentration of media ownership means you, the reader, are going to lose out in the end. Postmedia competes largely with itself now. Fewer reporters and feature writers mean fewer expose’s and features, and more assignments for those left. It’s watered down,syndicated content that is beginning to look the same no matter where you go or which paper you pick up.

And  the upper management? While they are actively trying to re-work an unworkable business model thanks to the internet, they continue a downward spiral. It’s frustrating to watch talented local writers and reporters that  subscribers and buyers will actually make the effort to read,have to make the choice to leave. Uniquely talented journalists like Chad Skelton, for one. 

It doesn’t end there either. As more reporters, pundits, and columnists see full well the insecurity of their profession,they are leaving to pursue greener, more secure pastures. Not because they don’t love what they do – each of them will tell you how hard it is to make that step given the chance-but because the writing is on the wall.

For some strange reason the suits back east just don’t seem to see that they are contributing to demise and continue backing themselves into a corner. The value of the paper is inherently found in the people at ground level,working day and night to get the news out every day. Cut the content, and you cut your own throat.

For me, something just went ‘Ding!’ when the National Post/Margaret Atwood kerfuffle occurred. Which is kind of ironic because although I greatly respect the body of work Atwood has created,I’m not a huge fan personally. If you missed it, here’s an overview: 

The National Post has reposted a column written by famed Canadian author Margaret Atwood criticizing Stephen Harper after accusations of censorship.

“Um, did I just get censored?” Atwood asked on Twitter Friday evening after her column disappeared from the Post’s website, several hours after it had been posted. “For my flighty little caper on Hair?”

The celebrated Toronto author’s column, which remained available in a cached versiononline, used Stephen Harper’s repeated attacks on rival Justin Trudeau’s hair as a lead-in to pointed criticism of the prime minister himself.

“The column was taken down because the necessary fact checking had not been completed,” said the Post’s senior vice-president Gerry Nott in an email. “Senior editorial leadership at Postmedia also had not concluded whether the column was aligned with the values of the National Post and its readers.”

The vanished Post column, minus three sentences, was posted later Friday night on the website of The Walrus magazine. Soon after the lightly trimmed Walrus version appeared on the Post website as well.

Atwood, 75, questioned the original decision to remove the column.

“I am still puzzled,” she told the Star by email after the column has been reposted, adding editors had her piece for nine days before it was posted.

She also questioned the “values” being considered by the Post before it went back online.

Now,it’s not unusual for columns to get fact-checked although in my experience if that happens it does so prior to publication for obvious reasons.

The kicker for me was Gerry Nott’s emailed statement: “Senior editorial leadership at Postmedia also had not concluded whether the column was aligned with the values of the National Post and its readers.”

The values of the paper and it’s readers?

In just that one statement Nott revealed one big issue that in my opinion, is contributing to the fast demise of these chain publications. The only value a paper worth reading should place in high regard, is that of bringing forth content that encourages balanced and fair comment, without having a bias of one direction or another.

They need to bring forth comprehensive news of local and world events that are relevant to society as a whole. That is what readers expect. They want local content. They want diverse commentary. They don’t want a political agenda or content designed and or cherry-picked for a specific audience target.They don’t want to be told what to think either. Let them make up their own minds.

Postmedia executives can run their business any darn way they like, even when it doesn’t work.

National Post senior Vice President Gerry Nott and senior editorial leadership at the Post most certainly have the right to pull a column while they discuss if it aligns with their values or not.

And I have the right to say I don’t want to be a part of that anymore. That my values do not align with that mindset.

I am all about progressive values, about creating and building new ways to move forward in business, in communities and in news.  I write often and interact daily with my readers to try and engage them and get them back into the process, into realizing why it is so important. This is where newspapers can wield tremendous influence.

If I could see any indication those executives in towers far removed from you and I and every other reader out there had any inkling that they are largely the masters of their own demise, perhaps I would feel differently, but I don’t see that.I know they value the bottom line, but do they value the people who help them do that? To them, newsroom staff are simply numbers on a budget line.

I let my publisher know, and she asked me to think about it for a bit- and I did. But she and my editor respected where I was coming from and my decision.

Ironically,just two days after I handed in my resignation,we had an unannounced lay-off in our office that only served to reinforce my decision that PostMedia is headed in the wrong direction.

Perhaps not surprisingly, even ‘good old Conrad Black’ *written with serious sarcasm there* has taken issue with the direction Postmedia has taken,catching everyone off guard when he called into a Postmedia financial results conference call and tell CEO Paul Godfrey he felt the standard of some of the papers have slipped. 

Former media baron Conrad Black expressed his dissatisfaction Thursday with Postmedia’s turnaround effort as Canada’s largest newspaper chain reported another punishing quarter that left it swimming in deeper losses.

Black made an unexpected appearance on the Postmedia’s financial results conference call to tell CEO Paul Godfrey that he felt standards at some of the company’s papers have slipped.

“Please build the quality, otherwise you’re going to retreat right into your own end zone, if you’ll pardon the sports metaphor,” Black said.

“I care very much about these assets. I have nothing but high regard for you and your colleagues, but I’m very concerned we’ve got our feet stuck in cement here,” he added later.

Now Conrad Black wrote the book on meddling with papers,but now that the decline is impacting his shares,he whines. But the point remains – he is right, as late to the plate as he is in stating so. Readers tell me all the time they don’t want re-hashed national content in their local paper that they can see for free online elsewhere and most people have figured out how to get beyond any paywalls. They want to see their local longtime favourite writers and reporters bringing the content they are used to.

(And if you end up reading this Mr. Godfrey, that might be something you can talk about at your next meeting while you huddle in the end zone playing defense with a quarter of the players you used to have…try cutting  some suits in management instead of cutting the very people you need to supply your content. The irony of not accepting a political bias in stories reported,yet maintaining one as a corporate value eludes no one.)

I have nothing but high regard for my soon to be former colleagues at 24Hours.  It’s a solid team that works well together and always has – I urge you to continue to enjoy the paper as I will. Our team is why reader numbers grew significantly under our local publisher and editorial leadership, and we celebrated last April that we were the 2nd most read print publication in Western Canada, right behind The Province and ahead of The Vancouver Sun.

What’s next for me? Right now, I’m not sure. I’ve had some interest expressed elsewhere and I am always open to explore opportunities, but I won’t be jumping into anything quickly. I have an unquenchable desire to see change happen in the political process, and in engaging people to understand why they play a critical role in how our communities and nation moves forward and is shaped. 

There are so many stories out there waiting to be told and I’ll  bring them to you here for now. There is much discussion that needs to be had on policy making in this province and in this country. I’ll  also continue to hold politicians feet to the fire they way they need to be, and is happening less and less as those cuts continue to happen elsewhere.

We need to raise the bar and depth of discussion on all these issues and more.  And I will continue to write stories that might make some change happen here in there, because that’s what I love best. With the same dedication I brought to 24 Hours Vancouver. 

Thank you, all of you, for making this such an incredible experience. You’ve shared your stories with me,your outrage and your inspiration,your disagreements and debates! And I value that,more than I can say.

So welcome home, pull a chair up and grab a cuppa. We’ve got some work to do here. Check back Monday when I have a new post for you I am working on now!

-You can still follow me on Twitter too @LailaYuile where my new bio states: ” Progressive blogger & commentator – Passionate about people,politics & policy.Advocate & activist )

-have a story idea or tip? We like brown envelopes! Get in touch securely via my contact page above for further info.

42 thoughts on “Sometimes losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth

    1. Laila

      I think it’s a good thing to. If every agreed all the time we’d stagnate and never learn anything new. Change is good. And even when we don’t agree I find value in your addition to the conversation!! I look forward to more of that in the future!

      Like

    1. Laila

      Haha – thanks Johnny. I can’t speak for other writers but I feel like I have really loyal readers, and as Stephen mentioned above, we don’t always agree but we get the tough conversations started. And I like that. My readers and followers are such a diverse group from Christians to athiests, seniors to teens, moms and college kids to executives and politicians that the feedback is always great.

      So, while you won’t see my byline in the paper every Thursday, you can come see me anytime here. And I’ve heard from some of my senior readers who don’t have computers and will be trying to think of a way to keep them in the loop here too.

      Like

  1. Teresa C

    Laila, I have truly missed reading your blog. You have a true talent for investigating then presenting all sides of an issue and always with decorum. Your passion, “I have an unquenchable desire to see change happen in the political process, and in engaging people to understand why they play a critical role in how our communities and nation moves forward and is shaped.”, is desperately needed by so many people. The issues are so complicated and the news clips or tweets are to short.

    I look forward to reading your in-depth articles on this blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. And this is why we love your Journalism! Rarely miss your blog- follow your Twitter. Your Ethics & Willingness to put Yourself on the ‘line’ by Fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves has my heartfelt respect. I think people prefer to get their News Online these days because so many papers HAVE been compromised. We can compare and see what the truth is. Thanks for your Integrity! Good Example!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laila

      Thank you for your support and your kind words are appreciated. I think the time has long past come to examine what the role is that news, and news outlets play in society. Should we have clearly biased papers who lean left or right?

      Like

      1. I edit an environmental news magazine (www.watershedsentinel.ca) and tell myself that we are no more biased than the Financial Post. I think “Objective” is a bit of a problem but it is essential that readers know where you are coming from, sot hey can evaluate that quality of info for themselves.That said, we never knowingly print untruths or misleading copy. That also said, we would be delighted to carry anything you find about the municipal shenanigans and their eco-impact. (which is huge)

        Like

        1. Laila

          Thank you for the offer Delores – anyone is free to share my posts here, and I only ask that if you wish to re-publish something on another site, that you ask and credit back. Certainly there will be more to come on municipal government too. Have you seen this bit of ridiculousness? http://www.peacearchnews.com/news/328085341.html Truck parking is desperately needed here in Surrey,but this is the most asinine idiocy I’ve ever seen.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. John

    If the shareholders of Postmedia had any sense they would take this post seriously as a sign of things to come.

    What Godfrey and crew are doing is akin to taking away a carpenters tools and then whining when he can’t build a house.They make money from advertising and paper sales, but then water down the content with syndicated crap and full page crap ads no one reads.You touch on concentration of ownership and we see that with the community papers in most cities now owned by the same corporate unit, resulting in one of them being closed.A few more were just shuttered.

    I don’t even hold any online subscriptions anymore.I miss the days of a good old weekend paper worth the newsprint it was printed on.

    I’ll keep reading you here if you don’t get snapped up somewhere else. Always enjoy your solid work and I’ll get the coffee ready.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laila

      Pfft. I don’t think the executives at Postmedia will pay much attention to this, I’m a very small cog in one giant wheel, albeit a squeaky one 😉

      Concentration of ownership is a killer, absolutely. When nearly all the local dailies are owned by the same corporate entity, it’s not a good thing. Not unlike Loblaws trying to clear out competition by buying so many other smaller name stores.

      Thanks for the support, appreciated!

      Like

  4. Debbie McBride

    As always Laila, your integrity comes shining through in a way that puts you in a class of your own. Every word you wrote is true. I still maintain a daily subscription to both dailies but only because I thought it would help keep journalists employed. Sadly that hasn’t happened and I will be canceling. Both papers run the exact same stories, often from the same reporter. Even the “in depth” articles and exposes are never followed up. It’s a headline and then they’re done. Remember the reporting that was done on the firing of the researchers? The reporters must have got a bit too close to blowing it wide open and making the Provincial Liberals very uncomfortable, thus the follow up has dried up.
    Please let us know how to help keep your blog alive so we can help keep the bills paid. It’s a financial hit you took for integrity that I, for one, want to help with.
    My hats off to you, your courage and willngness to take on the hard stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laila

      I know a lot of the local reporters and I can say with full assurance that the people I know have not had stories pulled or squashed.
      What does happen is that there is so much news and only so many people to cover it. Readers often have no inkling of how much work one reporter does covering this or that all day long. Everyday some new drama or new outrage takes the place of the old. Going back to an old story for a followup just doesnt happen often unless something new comes up. So sometimes people think the story is killed but in all reality,there is something new to take its place.

      That’s not to say killing stories and letting them die quickly doesn’t happen,I’m just saying I’ve seen another side of it being a columnist and talking with more reporters.

      Thank you so much for your concern Debbie but everything is fine.Losing one column a week is not a huge loss and I’ve a backlog of stories with some FOI’s here to get to that are always relevant. Lots going on in Delta too, to write about 😉

      Like

  5. cucciolo

    “The only value a paper worth reading should place in high regard, is that of bringing forth content that encourages balanced and fair comment, without having a bias of one direction or another.”

    I think a little bias in the right direction would be a good thing.

    “Balance” and “politeness” have been and are being used as excuses for non reporting.

    It’s time the dirt got raked again and historical accuracy and honesty were added to the “motto”.

    But, as always, look who benefits from having an under performing press.

    Unfortunately, I will expect nothing better from print or television.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laila

      You are missing the point-in many cases the muck can’t get raked because the budget isn’t there for it. Investigative stories take time to research and can be-speaking from experience- costly. One can spend hours at a lead only to have it result in nothing… or something amazing. In many cases there is nothing more being done than re-writing press releases.Is this due to sheer volume? I don’t know.I’ve seen a lot of stories reported in various papers that I’ve actually taken and gone further with here on my blog, simply by asking the right questions.

      Readers also need to distinguish between reporters and columnists. Reporters are to report the news, flesh out the stories. Columnists are paid to offer their opinions on news, situations, commentary. It can and should have a bias – that’s the idea. Some are right leaning,a few are left. By and far more papers are right leaning and in fact if you look at upper management in some cases there is a strong political affiliation. The National Post is thought to be a very Conservative paper. Sun Media was very Conservative.

      In the end you can’t please everyone. But I’ll tell you this.Conrad Black was right. Water down the content,cut the people who make that news happen in your paper and you back yourself into a corner. Which Postmedia has effectively done in a continuing vicious cycle.

      Like

      1. To some extent all media is right-ish in that they ‘sell’ their product and pander to customers whoever they might be. And, given our capitalist system, they try to make a profit while doing it. I am not saying they should or should not but they do. And that simple bias gives everyone playing that game a nudge to the right. In effect, going left seems anti-capitalist and inherently stupid – as if the lefty lives in denial of the REAL world. But the real world is NOT real. It is just the current agreement we have (make a buck off each other and destroy the planet while doing it). We can alter that perspective with a more enlightened form of capitalism. Read Natural Capitalism some day (Lovin/Hawken). And blogs like yours are actually doing that. Right now you are NOT making it pay. But if it paid just enough to sustain you, you would be ecstatic. Right? Well, that is enlightened capitalism and you are aiming for it. It can be done.

        Like

  6. I think local newspapers should receive an automatic public subsidy for every 10,000 people in the communities they serve. And they should be run by a triumvirate of managers, journalists and readers, with equal voting weight for each.

    Other than that, there should be no government interference in what they do.

    By the way, I thought it was “Chad Skelton” and not “Chad Skeleton” so i clicked on the link and I was right.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Scotty on Denman

    Good work, Laila.

    In some ways the print medium has reverted to a former time—when 85% of Canadians lived on farms, the weekend newspaper was savoured all week or read aloud at the dinner table, hardware advertised was made to last a lifetime—and each paper was known for its extreme partisan bias.

    The idea of balanced journalism coincided with the post-war baby boom: broader literacy from higher education, an urbanization boom, and the advent of mass-consumer culture. Print medium competed among each other for the more sophisticated, expansive society where people preferred to understand both sides of an issue while wading waist-deep through lucrative advertising. Papers were interested in what people thought, and advertisers likewise with intimate consumer psychology; Today, as consumerism’s gone global and advertising revenues slacken, papers have regressed to the biased political pamphleteering of old, the tool of partisan interest.

    Except today, unlike six decades ago, natural population growth is almost sub-flatline, and the rural/urban ratio has gone reciprocal: 85% of Canadians live in the concrete squalor of post-modern urbanism. The biggest difference is that, in the old days, papers valued readers as much as readers valued the quality products advertised, cultivating long-lasting loyalty, whereas today’s papers, once again partisan rags, only value readers as much as readers value the products advertised—that is, as throw-away, just like the intentionally obsolescent crap advertised—and reverted to telling us what, not how, to think.

    It’s a cinch readers flock to new media: it’s full of great sites like this one. Big print-medium isn’t interested in what its readership thinks, and has thus become as interesting as the indiscernible distinctions amongst page after page of low-end plastic trinkets that now makes up the bulk of the physical hardcopy. New media has offered relief, and we gratefully accept.

    Thank you, Laila, and all the best,

    Scotty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laila

      What an excellent comment as usual Scotty. And you are bang on.

      Which reminds me, I wanted to ask readers what they would like to see here, not see here etc. I’ve had some interest in putting sponsored posts up by local small businesses but it isn’t something I would undertake without reader feedback. if the experience isn’t enjoyable for you, then it’s not worth it.

      Like

      1. Scotty on Denman

        Thanks, Laila.

        Here’s the feedback: Recall Sean’s Public Eye experience: thousands of hits on his “go-to site for political scuttlebutt”—but after sincere and respectful solicitation for donations were ignored, and he introduced a little bit of advertising, some accused him of “selling out”—you know, “to the ‘Man’.” I thought it was pretty unfair reaction, thoughtless and knee-jerk. And then Public Eye hung it up, and he pushed on to new horizons in teaching—and a regular paycheque. I thought he deserved better treatment from his old site’s readership. And of course I’m not the only one who misses Public Eye.

        I don’t need to tell you about ethical journalism, disclosure, perceived conflict, et cetera; you’ve built up a mountain of trust with your readership, and I know you’d never compromise that—but you know how cranky some people are. If you’re confident you can demonstrate your work is unbiased by the advertisers you carry, I say go for it.

        Personally, I have no problem with advertising, especially for local businesses; and, even if it’s someone you know personally, and you endorse their product or service, I don’t mind hearing about it. You know what they say: small business is the backbone of commerce—I’ve been involved in small businesses over the years.

        I actually find ads interesting (betcha some gonna say I’m nuts! But I do). I just don’t want them to pop up, interrupt the read, distract the eye, squeeze real reporting off the page, or—the big one– raise suspicion that advertisers are somehow biasing your reportage and opinion.

        I have every confidence in your ability to manage it well. With the integrity you regularly demonstrate, I expect it’ll be easy for you. Besides, it don’t work out, you can deal with it—what would a probatory run hurt?

        Good luck, you got my vote, for what it’s worth. It’ll be interesting to hear what your readership has to say.

        Like

        1. Laila

          Thanks Scotty, I’ve already decided not to do it. No ads, no sponsored posts, not even for small businesses.I’ve invested a lot into these stories over the years, readers have supported that too, and that’s the way it will continue.

          Like

          1. I have no ads on my blog (but very few readers, either, hmmm……) so I would not advise you to do it. It DOES seem cheap. Having said that, I have learned that some products are head-and-shoulders above their competition and my few readers are looking to learn about just that kind of thing. So, I have a neglected page where credit is given where it is due. I like Honda gensets, for instance, up to 6000 watts but then Yanmar for above that. No ads – just endorsements. No revenue, either. I guess what I am saying is that if someone of some product or some company is doing good work (from your personal experience) I say, “Go ahead and say so.” You can do some good that way, too.

            Like

  8. nonconfidencevote

    Laila, I totally understand your decision.
    I was employed by SNCLavalin for a few years( a company buy out dragged us into the SNC morass) and eventually decided I had enough.
    Incompetant, autocratic, managers shovelling dumptruck loads of manure for the plebes to compliantly regurgitate for unsuspecting customers seemed to be the order of the day.
    The former and current lawsuits against the company and its top managers for bribery and corruption have since confirmed my decision to leave.( But that hasnt stopped the BC govt from signing multi year contracts with then for BC Hydro, BC Ferries and Translink ….gee and all those govt agencies are in the red. Coincidence?)
    I digress.
    My sanity and my ethics forced me to walked away from a very lucrative salary and more than 20 years of employment. My coworkers thought I was nuts but then they too had enough and now, several years later, all the experienced employees are gone. It seems to be the norm there, a huge turnover in staff ….even SNC’s Human Resources dept seems to go through people like a hot knife through butter.
    Like your experience.
    Corporate death by a thousand staff cuts.
    Engineers and accountants, excellent at math and not much else.

    Like

    1. Laila

      Sounds horrific. Might be time to write the biggest story I’ve never written about SNC and how they handled bids in BC during the glory days of some of our big transportation projects. I think you’d find that interesting….

      Like

  9. During the last federal election, of the 20 biggest papers in Canada that endorsed a prime ministerial candidate . . . . 19 endorsed Harper!
    “If you don’t read newspapers, you are uninformed . . . if you DO read newspapers, you are MIS-INFORMED!” S. Clemens
    I look forward to the day when there are NO privately-held media sources in this Country.

    Like

    1. Laila

      I think there is a place for privately owned media stations and publicly owned media stations and papers.

      I have never agreed with major dailies endorsing candidates, in fact I think it’s a travesty. I would prefer to see a full page feature on the voting record and actions of the parties so that voters have a one stop resource to compare.
      Newspapers aren’t all bad.Editors are not all evil. Where the issue lies in when there is interference with reporting or opinion pieces of columnists from overhead, and where budgets are decimated to the point where not much but fluffy news can be reported on.

      And speaking of fluffy news, do not underestimate how many people just would prefer to hear nothing but fun and fluff all day long…. 😉 Reader demand plays a big part of it too.

      Like

  10. Pingback: 2015 ends with a bang… so it’s time for the Top ten posts of 2015, from LailaYuile.com | No Strings Attached : Laila Yuile on politics and life in B.C.

  11. Laila

    And… here we go again.

    Godfrey is the wrong man and so is his executive team. Invested in themselves instead of investing in what works.

    The unannounced lay-off I mentioned in the post above, was my publisher, who had brought 24Hrs into the black and made it a profitable paper in a chain where profits were falling. She lead the team to that success under her direction. Those kinds of stupid decisions are part of why Postmedia keeps failing. Death by a thousand cuts leads to watered down content that people have no interest in. Combine that with leadership that endorsed Harper.. well good-bye Postmedia.
    Mr.Godfrey, time for you to go, and that overpaid executive team. Those are the cuts that should be happening.

    http://www.j-source.ca/article/memo-paul-godfrey-postmedia-cuts

    Like

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