Sunday, February 01, 2009

Diane Francis, National Pravda

I was buying a copy of Pravda one morning and as I took out my money to pay for it, an old peasant woman leaned over and spat on my paper. I tried to swap it for a clean copy but the shop clerk wasn't having any of that. I was stuck with it.

Diane Francis, "Newspapers: rescue us too," National Post. 29 Jan. 2009.


The media business model has been imploding globally and the fallout has grave ramifications for democracy, business transparency and, selfishly, grave impacts for those like me who practice journalism.

The old model has been that news, both print and broadcast, is subsidized by advertisers who want to peddle their wares to our readers or viewers. Now the audience is fragmented across the Internet and other media platforms, a negative factor in addition to the current credit crunch.

Every network and newspaper in the world is suffering. So we all are casting about for a better business model while fighting to keep our audiences and advertisers happy.

While over-stated, there is some concern in journalistic quarters, such as those I occupy, about this higher purpose or the protection of democratic freedoms.

There is some validity to this anxiety. Frankly, specialty channels, reality TV and the blogosphere are very entertaining but they are hardly bastions of our freedoms, values nor are they purveyors of facts that have been well-tested and curated by professional content-providers who occupy editors' and producers' chairs.

All of which has led me to conclude that perhaps, for a change, France may have come up with the absolutely best business model for my business: Nicolas Sarkozy has given France's newspapers a €600 million subsidy over three years—including a free subscription for every 18-year-old Frenchman—on top of the €280 per year it gives them now. He's also directed governments to step up their advertising.

Britain is considering similar measures for regional papers and there's talk even in the U.S. Meanwhile, Canadian taxpayers support the CBC and perhaps should prop the rest of us up too.

Just kidding? Only sort of.

Somehow someone who wrote this opinion piece above seems to like the idea of a hostile public being forced to pay for state-sponsored propaganda. Nice trick if one can get away with it. Ah, some do. As Ms. Francis points out, it happens even in Canada. Here's my point: If I have to buy the Canadian version of Pravda, please don't spit on it. I use it wrap my lunch in.


truepeers said...

maybe only a greater freedom than she can imagine can protect our freedoms... she needs to cut a deal with the bad blogger...

reliable sources said...


I have only read Diane Francis' column two or three times but I found her to be a defender of free enterprise.

I recall reading a column she wrote about then Governor General Adrienne Clarkson being subsidized by millions by the taxpayer to go to northern places to take samples of things Canadian that these people already had plenty of. I can't remember many of the details of the column, but there was something about how Clarkson was going to take samples of Canadian whisky to Finland, where they were already drunk on vodka. Francis had me in stitches.

But now Francis wants to be Adrienne Clarkson.

Doesn't Francis believe in the free market anymore? Surely, the internet market can fill any gaps she fears will be created with the demise of newspapers.


I noticed that in the last budget, Prime Minister Harper did throw money at the dying newspaper industry. I read in the Arts funding segment -- he threw something like $428 million dollars at the Arts -- that some of that money is earmarked for "community newspapers".

Harper isn't Harper anymore. And Diane Francis isn't who I thought she was.

Dag said...

It's not surprising that someone in Francis' position or Harper's would "sell-out". What do they have to gain by holding firm to anything? An idea is just an idea, easier to change than to change ones socks. And if one is at a risk of loss over a thing like an idea, why waste time before changing to something more comfortable?

Religious people, not the Anglicans, thank you, but real ones have what we refer to as convictions. So too did the Communists. Today we have opportunists and nihilists and few of any real conviction.

Conviction cuts both ways: one is free if unconvicted; but one is convicted if one believes. If we believe in your gilt, off you go to incarceration. If you believe in your guilt, maybe off you go to freedom. Conviction is a word similar in that way to "passion."

Yeats writes: "The best lack all conviction; while the worst are filled with passionate intensity."

Is the government going to throw money at me for this? Not today, but maybe someday if I befriend someone in a position to throw money at me. Your money, by the way. That fills me with passionate intensity.

reliable sources said...

Diane Francis is definitely an opportunist.

Dag said...

She's definitely better at it than I; bit I'm way cheaper. I'll sell out for next to nothing. Please feel free to try me.

"Bloggers? Oh, I hate them."

(We can negotiate for more.)

reliable sources said...

I don't get how Francis of the National Post and others can argue that putting newspapers on the government payroll will further democracy. It's sounds like a giant step toward totalitarianism to me.

I remember a Marxist instructor at College explaining how the newspapers were actually interfering with democracy because they were part of vertical integration of corporations. And now we're supposed to believe that they'll preserve democracy if we integrate them with the gov't.

The National Post is not "too big to fail" just like Conrad Black was not too big to go to jail.