Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Media meltdown - the other shoe drops

Please accept my apologies in advance for a bit of a rant...

It's always hard to see hard times hit home. It's especially hard when such moves are driven by ignorance and shortsightedness.

Today's news is not good. 'A' Morning, the morning show that I've been occasionally appearing on under the Tech Talk banner, was abruptly cancelled this morning. Staff were informed in a hastily called meeting just after the show went off the air. No goodbyes, no advance notice...just sliced, just like that. This is a time-honored tradition in media, and something that's happening with increasing frequency on both sides of the border as the economic downturn's grip tightens its grip on already-suffocating conventional media organizations.

This comes a day after I spoke on national television (click here for video) about how conventional broadcasters have done themselves no favors by maintaining the status quo long after the Internet made their old strategies obsolete. They've kept their heads in the sand for so long that I wonder if they still know how to connect with today's audiences and advertisers.

In the morning show's place, they will now be running six back-to-back reruns of the half-hour news package from the night before. Yup, they'll serve their local community by running multiple repeats of old news. Please excuse my lack of enthusiasm for what's clearly a deliberate gutting of whatever's left of the station's business model. Can you see advertisers going for this? Um, not so much.

I'm selfishly sad because I really enjoyed doing Tech Talk with 'A' Morning host Cheryl Weedmark. But I'm massively more upset for the folks who devoted their entire careers to the station and the show. Cheryl and the morning team are some of the brightest, most focused people you'll ever meet in media. It blows my mind that they can be swept out the door without so much as a thank you.

I know the economy sucks. I know these stations have struggled under their national chain ownership. We've heard time and again that the model is broken, but no one in conventional media's ivory tower seems willing to break with conventional business practices to build a broadcast/narrowcast/Internet-embracing means of connecting with audiences and advertisers no matter where they are. They've let the online world take their lunch, and instead of fighting back they're choosing to walk away. Wimps.

Interestingly, CHCH just down the road from me in Hamilton, Ontario also finds itself under the gun. Newscaster Donna Skelly is spearheading a campaign in the community to get the station's license transferred from its current owners to a community-based board. Maybe it's time to turn back the clock on media conglomerates and return ownership and stewardship of local media resources to the communities that know them best. Maybe it no longer makes sense for leaders in glass-walled offices in distant cities to be making pivotal decisions about servicing regions they've likely never visited. Maybe it's time for folks who understand new media to take over from those who don't.

Just sayin'...

Your turn: Something tells me this discussion is only just beginning. Where do you stand on today's imploding world of media? How does it affect you?

This just in: I'll be speaking with Kathleen Petty on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:15 ET. I'm also chatting about it on my Twitter stream, and on Facebook.

11 comments:

jinksy said...

Here in UK there seem to be new digital TV stations still popping up all over the place, but BBC Radio and local staions are still broadcasting the same as ever, as far as I can tell. Haven't heard any rumblings of change. Sounds bad where you are though.

Wendy said...

I'm not surprised. Anybody who clings to the "old ways" of doing things will be left in the dust. Times are a-changing - and fast.

You look good on camera! Got your point across. Too bad about the Tech Talk Morning Show.

Lyn said...

This is not unlike what occurred in the cable tv industry 15 years ago when hundreds of community based cable tv companies (who all had community tv stations and programs) were swallowed up by a handful of large corporations. People who lived and worked their entire lives in their small town cable companies instantly found themselves out of work as the offices were centralized in a handful of distant cities. I suppose it was deemed economically prudent to do so, however it was devoid of corporate responsibility and morality. No warnings. No appreciation. Times are tough right now however I would love to see some creative solutions sought and implemented moreso than simply wielding an axe.
Good rant Carmi!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I can say the same things about publishing...

dianne - bunny trails said...

The long-running newspaper (100+ years) in Denver, the Rocky Mountain News shut down this week.

It's all so sad, really. Between a lack of willingness to move forward and the economy tanking, there's soon to be little, if anything, left of times past.

Breeze said...

Oh Carmi, I've got a lot to say and no time right now..but I'm coming back.

This is not new either..it's been this way ever since big business got a hold of all the independants. Oh the days when the Motz family in Kitchener ran the Fairway Group...then along comes Hollinger..bam...I'll be back Carmi...

Carolyn

Cheryl said...

Wow. I just blogged about the same thing (http://victorialocal.blogspot.com/2009/03/local-media-tailspin.html) on the other side of the country. Our 'A' has instead parked a camera in the radio newsroom and is broadcasting the talk radio morning show.

kcinnova said...

Carmi,
I couldn't get the video to run, but I did just listen to today's interview - you did very well.
Every day I am thankful for my husband's secure job. And then I consider college expenses for our 4 children. In that vein, I guess I can understand the "head in the sand" mentality that has gotten so many into trouble: when the future is overwhelmingly bleak, it's hard to look!

Debbie @Like a Rose said...

I'm afraid all of this is just the beginning. Sorry it hit home for you.
Thanks for your thought-provoking post.
You might want to check mine out on a similar topic at
http://likearose-deb.blogspot.com/2009/02/another-one-bites-dust.html

jinksy said...

I owe you an apology - today on the BBC news they were talking about 600 redundancies at ITV, plus a cut back in their programmes. So UK media is being hit too.

Anonymous said...

Carmi: Posted earlier on wrong item. Meant to post on this one, regarding media.Sorry for any confusion. (but not any Confusious)
Bradley B