Archive for August, 2013

Still socialists

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Looking at the calendar and seeing that this column will hit the streets on Aug. 16 makes one wonder what happened to our summer. 
Thinking back to last year, with some help from my grandson and a friend, we re-did some concrete work and cleaned a lot of old ceiling material out of our basement. Then later in the season, I built a large garden shed. Nothing of that magnitude has happened this summer, not yet anyway. I feel a bit like our MLAs grinding away in Winnipeg. No summer holidays for them I guess.
Not to complain though. Due to the work done last year, we can enjoy our home knowing that things are in better shape than they were before we started the projects. Can’t say the same for our provincial government. They are locked in a prolonged battle, one in which they could have avoided. But the PC opposition is doing what opposition parties are supposed to do and that is oppose. They are opposing the PST increase, the forcing of municipalities to amalgamate and the very flawed anti-bullying legislation. Along the way, a whole bunch of other bills are held up, including the budget.
Governments around the world are facing the same problem. People have come to expect all solutions to flow from the government fountain. It has never worked, it never will work but most governments are still trying to find a way to make it work. About six years ago, I was roundly criticized in the mainstream media for claiming our provincial government was socialist. Notwithstanding that it was the truth and notwithstanding, that it still is the truth. Many are coming to realize that we indeed have a socialist provincial government. As sad as it is, it may make some of my friends in the federal government socialist too. It’s socialism that people say they want or at least that’s what they continue to vote for.
A government can’t withdraw overnight from various programs, but there needs to be a planned scheduled withdrawal from programs we can’t afford. We saw one small glimmer of hope when the province decided not to build a by-pass cloverleaf at the Portage junction of Highway 16 and Highway 1. The project had a price tag in the tens of millions and fortunately it was postponed indefinitely. We need to indefinitely postpone the Manitoba Hydro Bi-Pole III project and one or maybe both of the new Hydro dams. We are not back in the 50s when water power was the way of the future. We can be thankful for the Hydro dams we have, but if we wanted to produce power today, and for the next few decades, we would go to gas, coal or biofuels. In fact, local biofuel plants don’t need the large expensive long-distance transmission lines.
I’m not sure if either the province or the federal government have gotten the message yet. We have to live within our means. We should not be subsidizing businesses with large grants. We shouldn’t be restricting investment in health care to only public dollars. A new care home was built in Niverville with no provincial money. How did the socialists let that one slip by? Perhaps they are realizing that they are broke (we are broke) and that private money can do most of the jobs faster, better and cheaper.
Here’s an example of an absolute waste of time and bureaucracy. Why do we have a social insurance number, a health care number and a separate number at each and every medical clinic we may attend? Why doesn’t our SIN number cover everything? The reasons are two-fold. It’s too simple and we would need less government unionized jobs if the process were simplified. 
I have heard the deficit in the U.S. federal spending is shrinking. I have also heard that some U.S. states deficits are shrinking and a few U.S. states may have even balanced their budgets. Maybe our federal budget is shrinking too, but it’s sure not shrinking in Manitoba. Maybe we’ll catch on someday, but for now, we are still socialists.

The real news

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

The recent sale of the Washington Post to the owner of internet giant Amazon.com is really quite interesting. 
Obviously, the owner of Amazon.com recognizes the business facts of life. The website began by actually selling a hard copy of books and other items. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how newspapers were still the primary source of news stories and feature writing. 
You have to have a source of news and writers need a bit of skill and a local base from which to write. The depth of writing that one gets from a newspaper isn’t usually matched by TV, radio or internet.
That doesn’t mean that newspapers aren’t changing or that they should resist change either. A reporter can write a story on a tablet, a computer or an I-phone. They can be curled up on a couch, sitting in a car or tucked into bed. They don’t need a centralized office but they do have to write.
Very few news or feature stories are off-the-cuff or impromptu. They are written by somebody, somewhere at some time. That task is still done best by newspapers.
There have also been many experiments with off-site work, flex hours, remote offices and telecommuting. They all work, but there’s still nothing that can substitute for gathering people in a central location and coming up with the final product. People need some face-to-face communication to get the quality of work that’s needed to produce news and feature stories.
Fiction writers can be hermits if they wish but for real news and feature writing, you have to have real people in touch with real people or the news flow simply withers and dies.
At The Banner, we have websites such as neepawbanner.com, riversbanner.com and myWestman.ca. None of the websites we have get all the attention they need or deserve, but we are trying to do the best we can. We plan to do more in the future.
One of the problems is that it’s still very difficult for a website to generate any money – let alone a profit. For every website out there that makes a profit, there are probably 100,000 financial duds. Some aren’t intended to make money as some sites are considered a hobby. However, as a business, a profit or benefit has to come.
On the benefit side, we can’t do without a website. People who don’t get a hard copy of our newspapers find us every day by going to our websites. We get calls from all over, saying, “We saw your web site…” They then usually ask for an ad or how to send us a news release.
One of the most annoying things about the news releases we get is that everyone from companies to government agencies to non-profit/charitable groups is that they expect us to publish their news releases. Not so fast folks! 
If a company or agency wants their release in our paper, there’s a sure way to get it there. It’s called, “Buy an ad”. Large companies and government departments are pretty cute. They have one person in charge of media releases and another person, in another department, in charge of advertising. When you let the news release person know that they need to buy an ad if they would like their stuff in the paper, they answer, “Oh that’s another department”. Occasionally, I have told companies and government agencies that they have our email on their news release list – and that they now need to get it on their ad purchasing list as well. That may sound harsh, but I don’t see any other industry regularly giving away their product without some compensation. Our compensation is ad revenue.
Without ad revenue, a newspaper can’t survive. Without ad revenue, the Washington Post won’t survive either. We have many loyal advertisers and this has made it possible for us to be in business now for nearly 25 years. Hopefully, the Banners and our websites will be around for another 25 years. 
It would be really cool to sit in on the planning meetings now that Amazon.com has bought the Washington Post. Now that leading edge has returned to the more traditional media, it will be very interesting to see how the two “blend” so to speak. There will be blending and companies like Amazon and the Washington Post can possibly afford to take on the financial risks to make that happen. We in the local paper business will have to to adapt. Perhaps we can learn from the big boys in this changing business, because we will have to adapt as well. One thing will stay constant. News will still have to be generated locally. There’s no other way it can happen except on the ground, in real time with real people.


kwaddell@kenwaddell.ca This is a Sunrize Group internet solution (204)226-2247