Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - January 14, 1975, Lethbridge, Alberta
Tuesday, January 14, 1975 THE LETHBRIDGE HERALD 5 The Rainmaker is living in wonderland By J. Patrick O'Callaghan, from the Ottawa Citizen Senator Keith Oavey, who keeps bouncing back from such career disasters as Lester Pearson's election "Rainmaker" and short term Canadian Football League commissioner, seems determined to recycle his 1970 study of the mass media into a lifetime's work. Flushed from his success as the backroom architect of last June's Liberal election vic- tory, he has decided it is time to remind Mr. Trudeau that his suggestion for a press ownership review board is still gathering dust on a shelf in the prime minister's basement. To be fair to Senator Davey, even he now realizes that it is too late to establish such a review board. Instead, he wants to break up the news- paper groups. To show that this is more than a pious dream, he points out that "if International Business Machines can be broken up, newspaper chains can, too." In citing the IBM case, Senator Davey is snapping the elastic to its maximum. IBM, of course, is an inter- national conglomerate that is basically American in origin. The Canadian newspaper in- dustry, on the other hand, whether independently local or group owned, is Canadian. The only foreign owned daily in Canada is the Red Deer Ad- vocate (circulation: bought some 16 years ago as a weekly and turned into a daily by the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo, Ltd. Southam Press Limited, a public company and owner of 13 dailies, including the Wind- sor Star (and the Calgary has been fiercely Canadian for almost a cen- tury. Company policy forbids investment in newspapers out- side Canada. If Senator Davey wants a piece of the Southam action, shares are freely available on the market. The FP group (the. Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun, Winnipeg Free Press, Montreal Star, Lethbridge Herald, etc.) is Canadian, with no more than four major shareholders, all Canadian. The Thomson group, largest in numbers of papers but smallest of the three major groupings in terms of equity in Canada, is now an inter- national group run by Canadians. It started in Canada, spread out into the Berry's World "Too bad you're not a kid. You'd think of it as a neat-o United States, Britain and Africa, but is still headed by Canadians and dominated by a Canadian family (if one allows for the fact that Lord Thomson of Fleet forsook his Canadian birth in order to qualify for a Be that as it may, the company is Canadian in origin and, presumably, in affection, and certainly no parallel to the IBM, situation. The Irving group, when K. C. himself is not in his Carib- bean haven, is run by independently minded New Brunswick owners and managers. The Desmarais Parisien Francoeur group are French Canadian and proud of it. The famous Walter Gordon legislation has made a takeover of our press by foreigners virtually impossi- ble and one would assume that Senator Davey, who is as anx- ious to dismantle Time and Reader's Digest as he is the Canadian newspaper groups, would at least be grateful for that. Therefore, when Senator Davey sounds the clarion call to break up the newspaper groups, he is obviously looking for Canadians to step into the breach. One wonders where they have been hiding themselves all these years and why they weren't prepared to emerge from behind the rocks as one by one the independents were plucked off. by the groups. Basic reason, of course, why there are fewer independents is simple: Newspaper publishing is not for the faint of heart, and too many independent owners gave up the struggle after be- ing battered in isolation by forces they could no longer control. Once, newspaper ownership was a source of power as well as profit. The newspaper dominated the community and reaped the reward of being the only show in town. (That was before television.) The owner grew rich in pocket and rich in influence, and basked in the sunshine of unchalleng- ed importance. But, for many independents, the fun has gone out of the game. The threat of exorbi- tant inheritance taxes forced many aging owners blessed (or cursed) with many descendants to seek alter- native accommodations in their lifetime to ensure that nobody starved after they were gone. Again, many aggressive and dominant newspaper owners found the blood running thin in their kin and decided to put their properties into safer hands rather than squirm in their graves at the mess their inept offspring might make of their prized possessions. Newspapers are not licences to print money if they ever were. If Senator Davey is concerned over the possibility of still more melting away of the independents, he should ex- amine the economics of the in- dustry. Four newsprint price increases within a year; spiralling labor costs that run as high as 18 per cent per year; a cooling of advertising spending in a recession era; consumer resistance to rate increases; an upcoming, generation that failed to ac- quire the reading habit through the years of being baby-sat by television. All these factors conspire to make the lot of the indepen- dent owner as well as that of the groups an unhappy one. The groups represent the best hope for the Canadian in- dustry. There are news- papers especially in some of the few remaining multi paper cities that would not be alive today if they had stayed under independent ownership. It is the groups that pool their resources to encourage the technological revolution. It is the groups that provide worldwide coverage such as Southam News Services over and above the CP service that is generally all the small independent can afford. Senator Davey says there is no reason why Edmonton, a one newspaper city (the Southam owned Journal) could not support a morning .tabloid similar to the Toronto 4thdraw February More than in prizes FREE is.PRIZE million million 3rd PRIZE I PRIZE Up to winners Buy your tickets NOW! Available at banks, trust companies, caisses populates, credit unions and in which province you live. OR Fill in and cut out the order form below and enclose your cheque or money order tor per ticket (no cash, Olympic Lottery Canada Olympic Lottery Canada PO BOX 4444 STATION A TORONTO. ONTARIO MSW 1 Loterie eOlympique Canada z LU c p SUCCURSALE PLACE DARMES MONTREAL. QUEBEC H2Y 3NI FOR OFFICE USE A L USAGE DU BUREAU NUMERO DE REFERENCE NUMBER MONTANTINCLUS SI.OOP OOP I OOP OOP 500000 750 000 200000 1 50 000 125000 100000 75000 50000 Q D z Sun. In theory, no reason indeed, and there is no reason why somebody wouldn't long since have started one if he thought there was money to be made out of it. In pointing to Edmonton, Senator Davey forgets the ex- ample of Calgary, just down the road a couple of hundred miles from the Alberta capital. There, it is only the resources of the FP group that has kept a morning paper the Albertan from drowning in red ink in the decades since it was wooed back from Aberhart's Social Credit party. We'd all like'to see more than one newspaper voice in every city, but it is the reader and the advertiser who decide by their vote of spending power the future of the second or third paper. The groups, because of their size, are popular targets for politicians currying favor with a population that has been reared on the cynical consumer philosophy that Big is automatically Bad. We should all like to sub- scribe to the opposite theory that if Big is Bad, Small is Sanctified. But, alas, in this age of doubletalk, we all preach the sermon in support of the small corner store and continue to spend our money at the supermarket because the values and variety are better there. -Before breaking up the chains, Senator Davey should tell us whom he perceives as the new owners. The state? -The political parties? The banks? The universities? In breaking up the groups, does he plan on taking the odd lemon off the hands of the groups and showing them how it could become viable and profitable in a competitive situation while still representing its community responsibly and capably? Or does he only want to pluck the oranges from the group tree, full of the sweet juice of advertising and circulation dollars? And we hayen't even asked where the money is go- ing to come from to buy the independence of the press. There has never yet been a Day Sale of a news- paper. Better yet, in this age of government interference, press councils, militant community groups, carriers who give up their routes because they don't need the money, advertisers who are miffed by such features as Ac- tion Line, lawyers waving writs in the editor's face, and subscribers who want a special edition all to themselves, who out there in Senator Davey's wonderland is crazy enough to want to be a 'publisher? J. Patrick O'Callaghan is publisher of the Windsor Star, a Southam publication. Books in brief "House of Ideas" by Bill Baker (Collier Macmillan Canada Ltd., 274 Take one 100-year old house, completely renovate it, install everything possible to make it a more comfortable, con- venient home, and you have the house of ideas. The author, with the help of the U.S. Plywood Corporation among others, created the house, and only after its com- pletion were the designs con- structed. Although very technical, probably everything in the book could be adapted to be useful to either a handyman or a professional builder. For anyone contemplating structural changes, or renovations, this book should prove to be extremely useful, and for once the cost is not prohibitive. JOANNE GROVER 'Peter Gzowski's Book About This Country in the Morning" (Hurtig Publishers, letter-size softback, 229 pages, Two kinds of people will find: this book interesting: those who regularly listened to Peter Gzowski's CBC radio program and want to ex- lerience it again and those who were prevented from istening and knew they had missed something unique, ncluded are interviews, etters, contest entries, )oems, recipes, pictures, nusic a very mixed bag ndeed. Reading this collec- ion not only permits one to sit n on a remarkable radio irogram but to enjoy the ul- imate in Canadiana. DOUG WALKER Improving the journalist By Eugene C. Patterson, president and editor of The St. Petersburg Times and Evening Independent Editor's note: This is part of an address given at the dedication of the American Press Institute Building, Reston, Virginia. At any press gathering, we like to believe Walter Lippmann was talking about us when he attached a sacred and priestly calling to our powers, "the as he put it, "to determine each day what shall seem impor- tant and what shall be neglected is a power unlike any that has been exercised since the Pope lost his hold on the secular mind." But our prideful swelling is immediately reduced when we pick up The New York Times Magazine and find the author Mark Harris urging, with tongue not entirely in cheek, that Americans quit reading news- paper writing because, he says, "it talks too simplistically, lacking emotional depth and range. It lacks not only a sense of history but the memory of yesterday." Mr. Harris went on, "cannot believe things they cannot instantly absorb, jot down, add up and phone in The media treat with cynicism and derision anything they cannot comprehend. The unspeakable problems of society remain, not merely ig- nored, but effectively obscured. he thundered to our readers. "Free yourself of your daily addiction to someone else's idea of where the world is." The chairman of the board of my news- papers, Nelson Poynter, sent me a brief, dry note after he read the Harris piece. He asked: "Shall we I don't think so, quite yet. But before we get on with any self celebration we may as well recall another view from the intellectual sec- tor, this one by Irving Kristol, who wrote that the newspaper profession "is in a critical state of decay, and doesn't know it, doesn't even begin to comprehend it." Professor Kristol said if he were asked to sum up, "in one word, the most notable sur- face characteristic of American jour- he would reply: "Amateurism." "A naive and blithe anti "American journalism is rapidly becoming an underdeveloped said Kristol, "its methods anachronistic, its habit in- jurious, its sloth impenetrable. Each year the American journalist becomes relatively more ignorant And his remedy for this backsliding was for more journalists to "become academically trained specialists equipped to make sense of their subject matter." I can't entirely discount the strictures of Kristol and Harris. There is a third tier of news coverage to which we have not yet risen adequately. The bottom tier, of course, is bland coverage of establishment orthodoxy the kind of complacent coverage that puts a com- munity's newspaper only an AP franchise ahead of a well printed shopper's guide. A second tier to which an encouraging number of newspapers has risen often guided and goaded by this very the skeptical, courageous investigative realm which is just as important to police performance in Indianapolis as it is to presidential performance in Washington. Agnew and company tried to make the American press hunker like a suck-egg hound, but some good newspapers rared up and went over the heads of such government leaders and did a job of informing the folks. That page of journalistic history is a par- ticularly bright one. We have met a terribly dangerous challenge to press freedom in the last five years and met it well. But there is something beyond the current honorable newspaper enthusiasm to catch a thief. There is a third tier which Mark Harris and Irving Kristol with their supercilious im- munity from the real world have irritated us by invoking. It raises a question of our capacity to grow and develop a greater skill. We have not, in my judgment, adequately covered the evolving anatomy of the economic crisis afflicting this nation and the world, and it is surely the biggest news story going, this year and for the indefinite future. We've reached but we haven't grasped, and our readers must sense the story is too big for us. And it has been. We can coyer wars and anti wars, but can we get hold of the implications of the entirely new world role toward which the United States is moving, with diminished power but increased tendency toward accommodation? Are we smart enough? Do we have the political and economic breadth to lay before our readers, plain, the new combinations that may be emerging in the world if, say, Italy and Portugal and Greece and Spain turn to Communist ma- jorities in their governments? Food and population stories are room- emptiers when we take a swipe at them. Have we done our best? There is a reordering of American society going on in marriage, family, youth, religion. Are we capable of catching the large outline? The very institution of a free society is always in question, given history's invariable verdict that authoritarianism finally supplants self government. How good a pic- ture of reality are we making, on which men may act to adjust and secure free systems? These are very large questions, requiring a very long view by the press if we are going to cover the substantive matters affecting our people. The priestly function Lippmann assigned us is going to require a little harder preparatory work in the seminary Dinosaurs in the jungle By C. L. Sulzberger, New York Times commentator PARIS In Europe, the fourth estate on which western concepts of democracy are firmly rooted is sick. Such, at least, is the conclusion of an extensive series of articles published by Le Monde, most influential French daily. And the illness analyzed by its correspondents is obviously prevalent elsewhere. The Paris newspaper examined press con- ditions in France, Britain, Italy, West Ger- many, Switzerland and Belgium, industrial countries with high literacy rates. It omitted presumably as useless analysis of news- papers in lands where censorship prevails. While its scope did not include the Western hemisphere, a similar malaise clearly exists in the United States. One has only to compare the number of American dailies prior to the Second World War maintaining staffs of overseas reporters with the number today; and one seizes the point. Le Monde's study indicates the daily press is' seriously ill for differing reasons. The leakage of advertising to television in the U.S.A. has no effect in France. Likewise, competition by massively imported foreign journals in tiny Switzerland is a phenomenon of little importance elsewhere. Apart from detecting economic sickness, the survey concludes there is a notable tendency toward concentration, depolitiza- tion and an intrusion of big capital into the control of the information business. Everywhere, Le Monde finds, cost of produc- tion has hit. The price of papers has zoomed. Although television's rivalry has varying effects on this side of the ocean (but always less than in the U.S.A.) advertising receipts have diminished everywhere. Le Monde claims the French press, as compared with others, is weakly organized as far as its personnel is concerned and little capable of defending its economic interests. Moreover, it tends to be on the outs with governments of every variety. In Switzerland, despite the fact that news- print prices have not risen because the country is virtually self supporting in paper, 74 dailies have vanished in five years. Most of these were small. Belgian papers are likewise continually folding. The West German press is feeling the effects of inflation and economic crisis. Die Welt, part of the Axel Springer empire and a highly esteemed organ, may have a deficit of 24 million marks this year. Newsprint costs in West Germany rose 65 per cent during 1974; salaries and social security rose 18 per cent; circulation 15 per cent. One major problem of the press is feather bedding old-fashioned methods of produc- tion and employment of too many people to accomplish the required job. This is stressed in the study of British papers which are otherwise anemic because the cost of news- print has doubled within two years. Many London dailies have disappeared in recent years and Fleet Street has three million fewer readers than before the Second World War. But the technical revolution re- quired to make surviving publications .self supporting is bitterly opposed by key labor unions a situation that finds its transatlan- tic echo. In this respect, Le Monde, finds only one truly efficient paper in Europe, the relatively small II Messagero Venetp published in Udine, .North Italy. It says Messagero uses modern printing and composing techniques with a small, skilled staff working in excep- tionally comfortable circumstances This .pays. Nevertheless, Italy has suffered from galloping 'inflation and its papers are ex- pected to suffer a collective deficit of more than 120 billion lira this year. The country's journalists are Europe's best paid, thanks to a law passed by Mussolini in 1928 to keep the press amiable, a law carefully left on the books when Fascism was replaced. But dailies are losing circulation (from 15 to 22 per cent) as their price rises. This, com- bined with increased newsprint and labor costs, squeezes their numbers steadily. II Corriere Delia Sera of Milan, perhaps Italy's most famous journal, is expected to lose nine billion lira in 1974. What conclusions can be drawn? First, daily papers have not met the test of ef- ficiency in a time of economic trouble. Second, they generally adhere to antiquated methods of production and don't hold their own against other media in attracting public interest. Third, as they discover to their own discontent, there are probably still too many of them in a world now accustomed to television, radio and widely circulated news magazines. On the whole, one sadly suspects, many dailies in the free world are becoming un- wieldy outmoded dinosaurs in a jungle of car- nivores from the other media. Super-proof By Doug Walker Our chesterfield is in terrible shape for a three-year old: the fabric is frayed; it has a bulge-where it is supposed to be held in by a button; it creaks and wobbles when sat on. In Elspeth's opinion the chesterfield has been victimized by son Paul. He doesn't sit on the thing; he either hurls himself onto it or collapses into it like a ton of bricks. It is understandable, therefore, that when Isabel Blakeley described their new up- holstery job as being cat-proof Elspeth should exclaim, "Oh, we aren't concerned about that, what we want is something that will be Paul-proof."