End of an era

The news is in the news these days. Postmedia cut 90 journalism jobs and conjoined formerly competing newspapers in four cities. The Toronto Star laid off thirteen. The Halifax Chronicle-Herald wants to get rid of 18. And that’s just this month. I was part of the first group laid off at National Post in 2001. There must have been two thousand journalists who’ve lost their jobs in Canada in the fifteen years since. No one wants to pay to read newspapers anymore. Revenues have cratered. Costs must be cut.

But of all the recent sagas, the saddest was the announcement yesterday that the Guelph Mercury will stop publishing its print edition this Friday. The Mercury is one of the oldest broadsheets in Canada, founded in 1867, the year Canada was born. More important, to me at least, the Mercury launched my so-called career. My nine-year-old grandson was asking me just recently how I got started in writing. I told him I put up my hand when an opportunity was announced at my high school for someone to write a weekly news column in the Mercury. I earned about $5 a week but, by way of explanation, I said that was enough to take my then girlfriend on a Friday night to the movies and a restaurant after for chips with gravy and cherry Cokes. The equivalent expenditure today would be about $35-$40. Not bad for one evening’s work banging away on my Smith-Corona about tales of whatever I could remember happened that week.

Owners of the Mercury, Metroland Media Group, said that without a physical paper about 30 people will lose their jobs, including eight in the newsroom. The online version will continue but it’s not clear who will provide the content. Doesn’t sound like the sort of situation where there’s anyone left to put their hand up, let alone write a story. I weep for my profession.

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