The Evolution of Journalism

The Evolution of Journalism
Former Editor of the North Bay Nugget 

By Colin Vezina Former Editor The Nugget

With this presentation of Report North Bay via the Web, I have been asked to relate what old journalism was about. What we are missing today with the great fall of major and provincial daily newspapers because of immediate and virtually free access to any manner of opinion or thought, accurate or not by misinformed souls too often with an opinion or everything and the solution to little. Sad.

 Let me go back to the heady days of The North Bay Nugget, which in its heyday in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, largely under Publisher Jack Grainger, The Nugget published six days a week, two editions, District and then replate page one for the City. Audited daily circulation was 25,122 newspapers.

 The Old Journalism included starting out with a Cub Reporter working 50 hours a week and Sunday and evenings off if nothing happened. After five years, The Canadian Press or your newspaper organization, Southam Newspaper Inc. for example,  declared you were a Reporter or some preferred Journalist. That’s five years of hard work and hard training under a demanding but fair City Editor: teacher, organizer and disciplinarian.  And someone you could go to with a concern, a problem, and you would be provided with some sound advice.

 Often, I cringe when I read a provincial or metropolitan daily newspaper and the spelling and grammar at times are atrocious. I wonder where spelling has gone? I wonder what the schools are not teaching when I read the incomplete sentences, the dreadful spelling errors and the grammar or its facsimile in accordance with today’s accepted norms of what is grammar. Television and Radio included!

 Each story written was read thoroughly for any missing facts, for spelling and grammar accuracy. That’s the way we were trained and how we trained when we had greater responsibility. A newspaper belonged to the community in that the community depended on and indeed, demanded full and fair coverage of an event. The community demanded that if someone were injured in an accident and it was reported that the man/woman/child admitted to hospital, then when was the patient discharged? It was called follow-up. If you get someone in the hospital, get the same person out and home. The community wanted to know and more often than not, the injured individual was grateful for relating his recovery.

 One of my mentors at The Nugget, Editor Mort Fellman (who I succeeded in 1979) told the news staff that too often readers don’t remember the good reporting but remember a mistake. I never forgot that and preached it and still do. As Editor until my retirement in 1990, our News/Editorial staff numbered 44 folks from reporters to sports editors, main news desk editors, photographers, assistants, secretaries, etc. The Southam Newspaper policy was that the Publisher should provide the Editor with the funding necessary to put out a credible daily product. In Jack Grainger’s time, he sure provided the funds and encouraged excellence even if it meant going over budget from time to time.

 This is a peep into the past when daily provincial newspapers were very good at what they do, but the Web has grabbed most of the advertising—the financial blood that pays a newspaper’s costs—and too often does little to provide quality news and information for the public.

 I understand that Report North Bay wants to bring back old journalism in news presentations and in English and French. That’s so refreshing and I wish Report North Bay well. I wish them well.

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