John Cruickshank & The Persistence Of PrintSunday, April 26, 2009
In my ever increasing photography classes (those who can’t, teach) I have been telling my students that until just about now, photography gave me access. In a world where even one of my neighbours, two doors down, drives a brand spanking new Bentley, access is the only real show of one’s perceived importance. It certainly is not wealth.
One of my fondest moments in my photographic career happened about 5 years ago when I went into the Vancouver Sun news room to talk to my friend Nick Rebalski. Rebalski and I had an “unwritten” method of operation. I would submit him an article which he would then edit and pass it on to his boss, David Beers who was the editor of a new and exciting cultural section of the Vancouver Sun called Saturday Mix. I had a pretty good batting average, 1000 % in baseball terms. Many of my articles appeared on the front of Mix and with a big picture.
As I was about to leave I was stopped by John Cruikshank (in photo, left) who was the Editor-in-Chief. He put his hand on my shoulder and told me, “Alex accompany me to my office.” We walked the length of the news room. Staff writes just stared. Inside his office, Cruickshank told me that my contributions to Mix were welcome and appreciated and that soon I would have an opportunity to contribute more as he had decided to get David Beers to “Mix” the rest of the paper.
Within days I was invited to lunch by a few Sun writers but Cruickshank’s plans were not to be. David Radler sent him to the Chicago Sun Times. Beers, without his mentor, was left hanging with no mandate. Beers finally left the Sun under circumstances that were all not that pleasant and Mix deteriorated and then disappeared. And my personal contributions to the paper did that, too.
I remembered Cruickshank (he is now publisher of the Toronto Star) yesterday as he figures prominently in an interesting article in Saturday’s Vancouver Sun written by David Akin.
There have been many articles in both print and web media on the endangered species the hard copy newspaper has become. Vancouver Sun’s fine columnist Stephen Hume has already written a couple on the subject and will write a third this coming Thursday. In fact Saturday’s full page article is the first of five more that will finish on Friday.
Cruickshank the optimist states, “There certainly will be newspapers in two years, five years, and 10 years time. They may be somewhat different [but] we’re a long way from disappearing as either news companies or as print operations.”
Coincidentally, it was Maureen Dowd in today's New York Times who found a far more logical reason to report for the persistence of newspapers. Dowd’s column deals with a tour she was recently given by Phil Bronstein editor-at-large of the money losing (a million a week) San Francisco Chronicle. Dowd writes:
His tour ended with cold comfort, as he observed that longer life expectancies may keep us on life support. “For people who still love print, who like to hold it, feel it, rustle it, tear stuff out, do their I.F. Stone thing, it’s important to remember that people are living longer,” he said. “That’s the most hopeful thing you can say about print journalism, that people are living longer.”
For my part I would like to add a few more to that startling prediction.
Numerous New Yorker cartoons have appeared through the years of Mr. Smith reading his paper at the breakfast table while ignoring his poor suffering wife, a lowly domestic before women’s lib. When women’s lib happened the cartoon became one of selfish alienation and as both sat down at the breakfast table but read different sections of the paper or perhaps he the Wall Street Journal and she USA Today.
A New Yorker cartoon that would show Mr. and Mrs. Smith reading the day’s news on line on side by side computer monitors seems most unlikely. The method could be as it is at an American friend's house, after dinner. He is married. She smokes, he doesn’t. She is upstairs in the bedroom with her computer, a martini and a cigarette. He is in the basement (as far from second-hand smoke) with his computer, a coffee or a beer.
My point is that reading a hard copy newspaper is a social event, a pleasant social event, that happens in three-dimensional space and not facing the two dimensions of computer monitor. In my house it happens in bed.
Now that Rosemary no longer works we wake up later at 7:15. I go downstairs to make breakfast (coffee for her, tea for me, hot cereal with brown sugar for her, two unbuttered scissor rolls for me, orange juice for her, V8 for me). I feed our cats and then when they go out into the garden I pick up both our Vancouver Sun and the New York Times. I bring the papers and our breakfast up in a wicker tray. We make sure we find the daily comics in the Sun and then we each read each paper in no particular order. We discuss the news and we tell each other of interesting columns or articles. After all this we get out of bed to face the day. Reading those papers in bed, our head propped up by pillows is an experience, a shared experience, that will never be supplanted by "his" and "her" laptops, at least not for the next five years if we are to believe John Cruickshank.