Monday, June 19, 2006

Reporter bites owner

A newsboy cap tip to David Giles for steering me to this scathing op-ed in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix penned by Les MacPherson. It is a bracing – to put it mildly – corrective to the adoring obituaries of Lord Thomson in the wake of his death last week:

What the obituaries don't mention, however, is Thomson's pathological greed. His celebrated media empire was built on monopoly newspapers that treated their employees like dirt while providing a third-rate product to captive subscribers.

I speak here from personal experience. I worked for the Prince Albert Daily Herald for a few years back in the 1970s, when it was part of the Thomson newspaper chain. This was the meanest, cheapest organization I've ever known.

What follows are anecdotes of filthy offices, staff working unrecompensed overtime hours, and reporting standards that would only fly in a one-newspaper town. And here’s MacPherson’s take on the writing-instrument policy at Thomson Newspapers, which apparently was even worse than the lore I had heard:

It was in Moose Jaw where reporters had to take notes with pencils because pens were deemed too expensive. To get a new pencil, they first had to turn in the old pencil stub. When the photographers exceeded their film budgets, editors were told to run old pictures until next month. This at a daily newspaper. That's how Ken Thomson got to be the wealthiest man in Canada.

1 comment:

John M Reynolds said...

The example you picked up on was pencil stubs? I don't mind frugalness like that. Nor do I mind keeping track of my stuff. At my current job, we runneth over with pens and pencils. I keep using the same ones and have yet to wear them out.

Pencils, sheesh. There were much worse examples. But then again, who did not take a job where they were paid much less than mnimum wage? Who did not work at a job working lots of overtime without the promised time off or bonus? Young people need experience and some companies take advantage of that.