It has been a bad week for journalism: 200 jobs lost in the broadcast and publishing wings of Rogers Media, and the closing of one of the nation's oldest daily newspapers.
The Guelph Mercury would have celebrated its 150th anniversary along with Canada next year, and its demise set off a flurry of comments from shocked and saddened members of its staff, past as well as present.
"Papers like Guelph Mercury were once the stepping stone to bigger papers," tweeted Steve Ladurantaye, a former Globe and Mail reporter and now head of news and government with Twitter Canada. "The entire farm team system has basically vanished in Canada."
In fact, much of the mainstream media seems to be vanishing. This week's casualties followed the newsroom merging and layoffs at Postmedia last week, which in turn followed layoffs at The Toronto Star earlier this month.
There is serious pressure on the industry's business model, and it is always difficult to see jobs lost and coverage cut. But I'm not as pessimistic as some, for the simple reason that my job keeps me in regular contact with our customers: the public.
It's true that most of the hundreds of e-mails and tweets I receive each year are complaints about everything from editorial decisions and upsetting photo choices to grammatical mistakes.
I share these comments with you on a regular basis, but I also receive praise from readers who crave smart, important journalism. Their notes and phone calls are always welcome, never more so than right now.
I find that, while readers demand coverage of the key news events, what they really love is the memorable, the quirky, the intelligent and the important. Here are a few examples.
The first of them is a series by investigative reporter Renata D'Aliesio on the number of Canadian soldiers who have died by suicide since serving in Afghanistan. "Thank you for the time and resources The Globe and Mail spent to shine national attention on the tragic stories of our forgotten soldiers," one reader said. "It was heartbreaking to read how they and their families suffered. The front-page quote from [one soldier's] father, 'You have to put as much money into fixing them as you put into breaking them,' summed up the shameful lack of assistance these men and families received upon their return from combat. Hopefully, this story will help current and future soldiers get the proactive mental-health treatment and consistent follow-up they so desperately needed."
Because the military refused to release the number of suicides linked to the Afghan mission, Ms. D'Aliesio had to spend months poring through a decade's worth of obituaries and then confirming with families and former comrades-in-arms that 54 had died by suicide after coming home – and, according to updates from the military and further reporting by The Globe, that toll has now reached at least 62.
(To understand the effort that goes into investigative journalism, see the Oscar-nominated movie Spotlight. It features a realistic look at the constant phone calls and paper checks required – as well as a scene in The Boston Globe publisher's office that was filmed in a boardroom here at The Globe and Mail.)
I've also heard from a number of you this year who appreciate the insight of columnist Doug Saunders on immigrants and refugees. A year ago, he went to Brussels and wrote a thoughtful essay about how to build better communities to help avert extremism. Amid many angry comments online came this: "Saunders's ideas are based on fact and evidence that is undeniably true," was one comment. "It was the immigrant experience that made America great, and also transformed Canada into a country that has become the envy of the world. Kudos to The Globe for publishing this."
And finally, the year was capped off with feature writer Ian Brown's return to L'Arche, a community for intellectually disabled adults in Trosly, France, to interview its Canadian founder, Jean Vanier, and write about finding hope and joy.
Among many thank-you notes, this letter to the editor said it best: "It is 'stories' like this one ... that keep me reading The Globe and Mail. We desperately need more 'news' such as this to counteract the horrors that are offered up to us every day from everywhere. We crave hope when we are offered only despair. This is hope and love and happiness."
Such examples of meaningful, well-researched and thoughtful journalism are, of course, found on other platforms and in other newsrooms.
But with so many closings and layoffs, it is increasingly hard to find organizations willing to invest what it takes to give journalists the time required to specialize, research and think. All three of these Globe writers have considerable experience, with two of them published authors and one a former foreign correspondent.
In these cases, there is serious investment in the journalism and the journalist's experience. And I think readers understand that, even if they get angry when copy is marred with grammatical mistakes like the recent front-page confusion over flout and flaunt, they are supporting important work done for the public good.