Our subscription to the Guardian came due last week and Robin and I have decided not to renew.
Local newspapers are dying all over North America and while the Guardian may be the last to go maybe my decision has some relevance. Why did I drop my subscription?
- There are few real stories in the paper - The local news is recorded but not REPORTED. There is no effort to get to the bottom of stories. For instance - Polar Foods, the real debate about energy on PEI, the real story behind healthcare or farming are all missed as stories. No one explored the story that Polar was doomed as it its reason for existence was to provide processing jobs for a product, frozen canned lobster, that no one wants. Where is the story about why doctors will not come to rural Canada? Where is the story about who uses healthcare on PEI? Where are the stories about why PEI can become energy independent? Where are the stories that get to the heart of why farming does not pay? Instead of stories that demand journalism we get events. Press releases are printed verbatim. There are endless photo ops of elected officials "studying a plan for a new building etc. So there is no insight into what is going on here in our community just events. News events are only a commodity and have no pull on a reader. The paper does not do its job of getting behind the headlines.
- The paper has no opinion and hence no edge - The Guardian is neutral and seems afraid to rock the boat or to ruffle feathers. I don't mean that it should take sides in a party sense but there is no edge to it in its leader writing. By trying so hard not to offend it has little attraction. It has no personality. Good papers have people who like them or hate them. Both are OK and stimulate circulation and power. In a world that is full of information, bland does not cut it.
- The paper invests in the past and not in the future. The paper's bias is to community reporting - the cake sale type of event. While this attracts a certain readership, it precludes again proper reporting of say what happens in local politics. What is really going on in the city hall of Charlottetown or Summerside? What is the background to what is going on in the legislature? The readers who love the cake sale are dying off. There are few young people that read a paper anymore. Why would anyone under the age of 35 read the paper? By not investing in the future, the Guardian will die.
- Much of the future is in the web. The paper has made a minimal attempt at moving online. In 10 years nearly all news and opinion will arrive online. Starting to deal with this then will be too late - the New York Times already has 3 times more readers online than the print edition and now has 300,000 subscribers at $50US a pop. I would pay for a good online edition if there was some good journalism in it. An online classified ad section would pre-empt competitors. Print also ties the paper to an expensive distribution system and to paper. As it is a major reason for canceling was all the waste paper that is the end product. It is not that paper will go away but to have no beachhead in the new frontier is to have given up and will condemn the paper to oblivion soon enough. A great online edition could attract a large expatriate readership.
- The gravy train is over. For soon someone will take most of the ads away from the Guardian. - Online alternatives are killing local papers all over North America. It will happen later here but it will happen. There is no sign that the Guardian is preparing to cope with this inevitability
So I am not a typical reader. Many will take the paper unchanged until it folds. I am however an early adopter and organizations that miss the message of the early adopter die as the Guardian will unless it wakes up and looks at what is really going on in the world of media today.
It is not too late my friends over at the Guardian. There are lots of people on PEI who can help and would like to help you not only survive but thrive. Look around you at what is really going on with media today. If you rely only on your traditional reader, you condemn yourself to death