Sean: To add to Claire's question: Has there been any buzz among insiders about using this as an opportunity to craft an entire new strategy for the daily newspaper? I'm thinking of tabloid-sized European papers with radical layouts and designs, or the trend to developing "hyperlocal" content rather than trying to cover everything.
Christopher Waddell: That's an example of the innovation or experimentation I was talking about that so far hasn't happened here. Some papers are playing around with hyper-local web sites linked to their papers as a way of trying to figure out how to re-engage local readers with a mixture of paper and web. Conglomerates aren't known for being fast on their feet or for being innovative. Some of the innovation and experimentation these days has jumped directly to the web such as The Tyee in Vancouver with others contemplating similar projects but in those cases mostly they are thinking of going directly to the web as it saves so much in paper, production and distribution costs.
Joe: If things are so uncertain for journalists these days because of the lack of revenue online then what are you telling your students? It doesn't make sense for somebody to go into journalism right now does it? Certainly CanWest or any other media organization won't be hiring any time soon ... I know you don't want to discourage students but please be realistic in your answer.
Klaus: Based on everything currently going on what would be your advice to a recent journalism school graduate looking to succeed in the world of Canadian media?
Christopher Waddell: I think there are great opportunities in journalism even if these are difficult times. I think people are still willing to pay for information that helps them make decisions in their daily lives about their welfare, their families, their retirement and investments, the state of and problems in their communities and so on. At the same time the equipment needed to produce journalism whether print or broadcast has never been cheaper to buy, easily to use, lighter to transport and communications from anywhere to anywhere has never been easier or cheaper. All those things tell me that journalism has a future. At the moment we are in a period of uncertainty but if you had told people a few years ago that record labels like Arts and Crafts in Toronto or bands like Metric and others could do well outside the traditional structure of powerful record labels and the music industry no one would have believed you. Similarly no one in the traditional music industry thought digital music could ever be made to pay until iTunes came along. I think there will always be a place, whether in journalism or somewhere else, for people who can write, present information in written, visual or oral forms, can interview people, can take complicated issues and can explain them in terms non-experts can understand, can impose order and structure on a set of random facts and pieces of information and can meet a deadline in doing it. That what we hope our journalism students can do when they graduate and I think there is a huge market for those skills in journalism and lots of other occupations and will continue to be for many years to come.
Joe: But in this period of transformation the odds of landing a job in journalism are slim correct? Until media companies figure out a way to get paid for online content ... Is the future just to fragmented? Will it all be about micro payments. Big general news rooms will be dead no? Except for the Globe and NY Times. Your thoughts?
Christopher Waddell: This is a time of considerable uncertainty and upheaval so I wouldn't want to make predictions such as big news rooms will be dead. This is a great climate for someone to come up with new ideas and approaches that combine information and technology in a different way. media companies are unwilling to commit to full time jobs for many people entering the business - preferring to put them on contract or some sort of casual relationship. That may change as the economy improves or as the future becomes a little clearer. In the meantime some students who want to be journalists are exploring the world of freelancing (which is tough) and often leaving Canada to do it.
Kevin McColl: Do you see Torstar trying to make a bid giving them a national chain?
Michael T.: What are the chances of the Toronto Star buying some of the Ontario papers?