15 March 2005

Spin Control: Locally owned news very predictable

This week is definitely the week when everyone should wait and get the Independent for free when it goes online Wednesday.

Yes, I know you hear that every time I write about the Indy, but this time I really mean it.

Page 1: A story about foreign overfishing and how critics say trade relations with the EU are more important than sending out the navy to shoot any foreigner daring to take fish we should rightly be driving into extinction ourselves. What's new: there isn't a quote from Gus "Highgrade" Etchegary. This time the anti-foreigner quotes are from Sheila Copps, since Sheila is in town plugging her own book and demonstrating - via John Crosbie - that not all Newfoundlanders have the talent of Rick Mercer.

Page 1: a story in which Leo Puddester promises a "racket" over treatment his members are getting from government . Yeah Leo. Right. We heard that one last year, when there actually was a fight and well, there was a fight. But that was last year, Leo.

Page 1: A story by Jeff Ducharme telling us that, surprise surprise, Alberta makes way more money of its oil and gas than we do from ours. Try to find a reason for running that story. I guess we need to hear that yet again in order to be a well-informed, thinking person.

Editorial: Condemning CBC for not running the Indy's arrogant, insulting and completely laughable TV spots. (Yes Ryan, they were produced in-house and rather cheaply; It shows.)

Running through most of the editorial are the predictable things: The Indy is the only locally owned paper in the province. Every other news organization is pure shite. Buy us and be a thinking person. Blah. Blah. Blah.

There's another column by Ivan Morgan saying stuff I swear he said to me over a beer at the Breezeway or Ben's 20 years ago.

There's a column by John Crosbie attacking Liberals for corruption. John ignores his colleagues from the old Tory party from Quebec who did hard time for political crimes in the Mulroney years, but I digress.

There's a short-I mean really short - article on the Radar for Goose campaign. Interviews with proponents only. No background. Obviously people who read this blog know more about X band radar than anyone who relies on the locally owned paper for thinking people.

There's a story on page 4 on a road in Quebec that might mean the Stunnel is a living breathing idea. Above that on the page are stories on the crab plan and complaints from Labrador about a lack of kidney dialysis.

Now think about that.

I mean really think.

A hot current story about the fishery that screams for background detail - why did Trevor Taylor cook up this particular crab scheme? - gets buried on page 4.

Ditto a story on health care shortfalls.

Recycled crap makes the front page where, typically one finds...


and the editorial? Well, let me just say this: the more Ryan slags everyone else and claims that his paper is somehow superior, the more I know it is just spin; pure unrefined shite. Every week, I look through the Indy and I have yet to see any story that isn't covered just as well if not better in any other news outlet in the province. Well, almost any. I don't read The Monitor any more.

And when I see recycled flatulent crap, as I did this week yet again, on the Indy front page, no less, I can explain to you why your circ sucks. It has nothing to do with CBC refusing your TV spots.

The basic problem is that you claim to be the newspaper for thinking people. You claim to be informative and a whole bunch of other things. Anybody who has looked at the paper knows that it isn't any of those things. Your ad campaign sets you up for a gigantic credibility gap when they hear the ad and then look at a paper that is more like the Spindependent or, this week, the Windependent than the newspaper for thoughtful people.

If you want to boost your circulation, Ryan, stop telling me how great you are. Try writing a story that proves it. Stop with the grandiose and go back to the basics. Give me solid research, a novel approach, some background and good writing. No one is really interested with the stuff they can get anywhere else, including Open Line. And they obviously aren't really interested in pseudo-nationalist rantings in place of well-researched stuff that draws its conclusions from the evidence, not picks evidence to fit the preconceived conclusions.

In the long run, you'll find that approach is actually less expensive than the in-house ad campaign and it will be more effective in boosting your audience. Boost the audience and you can sell enough advertising to pay the bills.

In the meantime, I'll just recycle my existing bank of quotes from Gus and Sue and Ivan and Ryan and John Fitz.

And I'll keep telling people to wait until Wednesday.

Nothing in the Spindy is so hot you have to read it on Sunday.

And on Wednesday, you can get the Spindy for what it is worth right now.

I sincerely wish it were otherwise.