Consolidation

Across the pond, British MPs have put forward a motion calling on the government to support local journalism. It’s garnered the support of 100 MPs, the Guardian’s Roy Gleenslade reports, mostly Labour representatives but also a handful of Tories.

The motion is partly in response to the formation of an alliance of regional publishers who want the government to relax merger restrictions to help them get through these difficult times. The motion points out that local journalism has suffered cutbacks and asks that any government action “ensure that state support, either in the form of deregulatory measures or financial help, is given only where firm guarantees on investment in local journalism are secured.”

To further bolster their argument, I would ask those MPs to also take a look at Canada, where two of our largest media organizations, Canwest (which owns my paper, plus 12 other dailies and the Global TV network and a bunch of specialty stations, etc. etc.) and CTVglobemedia (which owns CTV as well as the Globe & Mail and other stations etc. etc.) are floundering in this economy despite their flurry of mergers and cross-media acquisitions.

Both companies have either put smaller (locally focused) TV stations on the block or are in the process of shuttering them (the E! channels for Global and the A channels for CTV). Both companies have slashed jobs and spending. All those mergers didn’t help them and actually made the situation worse because of the debt involved in the initial acquisitions.

In other news…

Gannett Co. is consolidating copy editing and page production for four New Jersey papers. This is also something my parent company has tried (in terms of page production), with direct effects on my department.

It’s yet another example of the dilution of local papers. If you have a copy editor editing copy about a city council meeting who isn’t familiar with the council members, let alone the geography and history of the city, you lose that extra layer of fact-checking. In terms of page design, how much control will be lost at the local level about what gets featured prominently in the pages and what’s shoved to the back? What happens when there’s breaking news and there’s no one around with the authority to make the call about what to move around?

I wish them luck in their transition.

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