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COLUMN: Cuts to local media affect us all

'Having multiple news agencies ... helps make us all not only better at what we do, but also better informed,' writes reporter Nikki Cole
2021-09-20 TV remote crop
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It’s been a pretty lousy couple of months for those who work in the media.

Last fall, Metroland, which published the Barrie Advance and also operates, announced that it was seeking protection from its creditors by filing a notice of intention "to make a proposal under the provisions of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act." 

Not only did that move include ceasing publication of its more than 70 weekly newspapers immediately, it also meant the layoff notices to 605 workers — nearly two-thirds of the company's workforce.

Locally, that included two of Metroland's unionized editors and five unionized reporters — many of whom I worked with during my time with the company and am still in touch with today.

Last week, Bell Media announced that it was cutting both jobs and programming, including all weekday noon newscasts at all CTV stations, except Toronto.

The company, which owns the CTV station in Barrie, also announced plans to scrap both the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts on weekends at all CTV and CTV2 stations, except Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.

As is the case with Metroland, I have several friends who work in various roles within Bell Media, and while some have managed to escape the ax, so far, not all of them have managed to come out unscathed.

I have heard the feeling in the different offices has been described as “attending a funeral, but one where no one knows who is in the casket.”

After the Metroland cuts last fall, one person asked me if I was “happy” with the news, since that could mean less competition and more scoops.

My immediate response, which seemed to surprise them, was a definite ‘no.’

Having worked in smaller communities in the past, where there were no other sources of local news, I can confirm that it can definitely make a reporter lazy if they let it.

For some, there would be no real sense of urgency to get the story first, or even do it better than the guy who did it first, because you are the only one. 

Personally, I think having multiple news agencies — as we have had in Barrie — helps make us all not only better at what we do, but also better informed.

There are stories reported on at BarrieToday that my colleagues with other news agencies were unaware of, and vice versa. 

Sure, we all can maybe get a little bit competitive and celebrate when we’d scoop someone else on a great story, but the bottom line is that we are all in it for the same reason: To tell the stories of our community, good and bad. 

Both companies cited the reason for cutbacks as being due to difficult operating environments and a result of unsustainable financial losses stemming from the changing preferences of consumers and advertisers.

But one has to wonder how much effort these companies put in to try to make things work. 

I have yet to hear if, or how many of the folks over on Beacon Road were given their pink slips, but for the sake of local news, I truly do hope that I see all of them in coming weeks as we wrangle for the best position at the next press conference.

Nikki Cole is a staff reporter at BarrieToday.