Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The LFP, Sun Media and Quebecor are letting down the team.

Media companies like The London Free Press, Sun Media and Quebecor love to take credit for the work they publish. I think we can all understand that, but in truth the publisher only publishes. Without the work of an excellent staff, they would have nothing. Their presses would sit silent.

I think it's a safe bet that Pierre Karl Peladeau knows nothing about Robert Vanier and Onco, nor should he. PKP's job is to supply the best possible paper in which to bundle the news. The actual news is the responsibility of the thousands of journalists toiling daily for him in the trenches.

At this point I had to look up the special report on the ex-Onco boss. I went to The London Free Press online page and found nothing. This story is yesterday's news and so is no longer anywhere on the homepage. Not a mention. Not a link. Nothing.

Oh well, I typed "onco" into the search field and got the result shown below.

I clicked on the first linked page. I immediately found myself back at today's Free Press homepage, the one I had just left, the one with nothing on Onco. I hit the back button.

I clicked on the second link. I noted that this link appeared to take me to: http://www.lfpress.com/home.html. I thought this is going to take me right back to today's homepage; The one with nothing on Onco. I was right. I hit the back button.

I clicked on the third link. I noted that this link appeared to take me to: http://www.lfpress.com/news/london/2010/01/08/12397921.html. This took me to another Chip Martin story but not the Special Report. I hit the back button.

This time I looked for a link with special report in it. I found it. This looked good. This must be the link to Chip Martin's Special Report on Onco.

Nope! I got a special report on school cash shortages. I clicked on the big blue words "Special Reports." Nothing. I clicked on "Full series." This gave me the full series on the high cost of school incidentals.

I gave up.

Which bring me right back to my original premise. The publisher provides the wrapper for the news. If they provide a great wrapper - an enticing wrapper - one that attracts readers, then they are doing their job and can take a small bow.

So far our publisher is failing miserably. But, this is online. As Dan Brown the senior online editor at The London Free Press likes to point out this is a stodgy old company with its feet placed firmly in the past. I'm sure they do better with their old paper product.

Well, hold onto your money - unless you're about to bet against the house. The Free Press is not doing much better with their paper wrapper. Take the comics.

Starting late last year the comics started appearing as grey on grey rather than black on white. It was very hard to read the dark grey words printed on a dark grey background. The paper got complaints.

At the end of December a letter to the editor said about the change, "I have poor vision and it is very difficult for me to read them now. It's not clear to me (pardon the pun) why you would make such a change."

Days later the paper was still running these hard to read comics. A St. Thomas reader wrote in to say, "I'm not a senior yet but I had been skipping over some of my favourite comics because they were just too difficult to read."

But the comics are not all The Free Press can't print.

Check out this image, right, from the London paper.

To save money, certain news pages are being done centrally by Sun Media in their Centres of Excellence and delivered electronically in a press-ready state to all company papers. Some of the pictures are no more than black rectangles on a page.

My guess is the pictures are being prepared for publication by a computer running some automatic image toning software. I ran tests on some software for the paper years ago. The results looked horrid - rather like the stuff now being run by the paper. On the plus side, a publisher can use this software and reduce the payroll by laying off some expensive pre-press people.

Chip Martin did his job. He supplied the paper with a great story. The kind of work that sells papers and keeps the citizen journalist wolves at bay. He can take a bow.

My premise for this post was: Newspapers are a cooperative effort with news the main driver behind the success of a paper. Reporters, like Chip Martin, supply the paper with the all important quality journalism. No journalism; No paper. In return, the newspaper is supposed to supply Martin with a professional looking paper in which to package his work.

Martin is keeping his end of the bargain.
Since writing this the London paper has gone back to printing the comics with the usual contrast. The comics are again legible.

And the bright pictures that accompanied Martin's story - why so bright? My guess is the staff at The Free Press did the toning for those images.

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