|Mario Beauregard/The Canadian Press|
Once die-hard hard-copy readers pooh-poohed online versions stating, among other things, that they couldn’t fold a computer and put it in their pocket. Then along came tablets, and even mini-tablets that don’t need folding to fit snugly in most pockets.My local newspaper, Montreal’s The Gazette, today made public plans to outsource the printing of the paper. I guess it’s a trend, but it seems like another nail in the coffin to me, and can't be very welcomed by the hundred or so workers who will lose their jobs.
It was only a few years ago that the paper, like all print media, with one foot on a very slippery electronic slope, was bragging about building its own printing complex in the west end of the city. The building was erected on an empty site, the equipment was refurbished rather than new, yet after a period of technical hiccups and adjustments, the paper was rolling off the presses and arriving on doorsteps, usually on time.
But I suppose the writing was on the wall as well as on the newsprint. The shift to electronic versions of newspapers and magazines can’t be overlooked. Once die-hard hard-copy readers pooh-poohed online versions stating, among other things, that they couldn’t fold a computer and put it in their pocket. Then along came tablets, and even mini-tablets that don’t need folding to fit snugly in most pockets.
Soon newspaper delivery methods changed from the traditional kids doing local routes on bicycle or foot to adults with cars zipping about under cover of the early-morning darkness, able to cover much more ground in a vehicle. Payment was made by credit card and carriers were never seen.
Next on the chopping block were some journalists themselves. Many through attrition, sadly others just let go. But strangely, as if by magic, many of the ex-Gazette writers continued to appear in the paper. The difference was that their contact information went from to firstname.lastname@example.org . Yep, turf-out the employees then take some of them back as contractors. No benefits, no vacation pay, health insurance and pension contributions gone as well. The paper kind of looked the same, had much of the same content created by many of the same people, but those folks were now freelancers rather than employees.
Yep, turf-out the employees then take some of them back as contractors. No benefits, no vacation pay, health insurance and pension contributions gone as well.Now the latest tightening of the noose at The Gazette is the abandonment of that spanking new printing complex, which is up for sale, in favor of yet more contracting. No doubt come August when the switch is made a hard-copy version of the paper will be on my doorstep, but will it be there before I leave in the morning? Will it be clear and colorful; lined up and readable?
I ask these questions because it has become apparent to me that while the contracting out of tasks that have long been done by “in house” employees may save a company or, more and more often, a municipality, money in the short run, the service rendered is rarely the same. For instance snow removal carried out by contractors may well be cheaper, but certainly isn’t done as thoroughly as when it was done by employees. Gardening, landscaping and garbage collection – don’t even ask! Contractors tend to do a job then move on to the next customer, regardless of quality. Employees aren't going anywhere and are able to get things right.
Is the hard-copy newspaper doomed, or is this a blip in its development?