On the Eve of Destruction
In the mind of John Stackhouse, the Globe of the future could involve tearing down much of what readers value most. Will it mean brighter days or trigger an unmitigated disaster?
Visitors to The Globe and Mail’s Toronto headquarters often comment on how sedate the place is—nothing like the frenzied, shouty bullpen newsrooms of pop culture. It’s more akin to a mid-sized corporate office; a grey and workmanlike place where serious people are engaged in serious work, putting together a very serious newspaper. So by Globe standards, the tempest gripping the office on May 25, 2009 is comparatively high drama. It’s mid-morning in the cubicle maze that’s home to the Review, Life and Report on Business sections. The loudest sounds are the click-clack of keyboards and hushed conversations. Suddenly, a gasp. And another. And another. The entire newsroom goes still for a few seconds as employees read the memo that’s just appeared in their inboxes.
“Eddie’s been fired,” one colleague explains hurriedly to another. “Stackhouse is the new boss.” Edward Greenspon, editor-in-chief for seven years, is out. John Stackhouse, a 48-year-old Globe lifer, is in. A few hours later, the paper’s writers and editors assemble in a meeting room, spilling out of doorways and into the halls, to hear his first pronouncements. The crowd is expectant and uncertain. Publisher Phillip Crawley gestures to the back of the crowd and chuckles because reporter Siri Agrell, who’s on maternity leave and came in just to hear Stackhouse, has brought along her baby. Agrell responds dryly, “I figured she wouldn’t be the only one shitting her pants.”
Everyone laughs and Stackhouse lets his face break into a brief smile, but it vanishes as quickly as it appeared.
The new boss has been at the Globe for more than 20 years, as a reporter, editor of the Report on Business section and editor of the national and foreign desks. Most of his colleagues assumed he was headed for the editor-in-chief ’s chair, but no one thought it would happen so abruptly or at such a turbulent time. In February 2009 the paper went through a huge round of layoffs and buyouts, cutting 10 percent of its staff. A few months later, tension was building between the union and management over contract negotiations and a strike appeared likely. Needless to say, the mood in the office wasn’t exactly buoyant. Reporter Michael Valpy, who’s been with the Globe off and on since 1966, says the last months of Greenspon’s tenure were a time of “tortured morale bruising” as the paper suffered one bad management decision after another.
After the switch came the gossip, all sotto voce, all focused on what led to Greenspon’s hasty departure. Possibilities included an overemphasis on Parliament Hill stories, Greenspon’s unpopular reassignments of several editors and columnists, his reluctance to confront the challenge posed by the internet, and even controversy over the Airbus affair. (The going rumour had it that Crawley was upset after Greenspon took it upon himself to fire off a letter to the Oliphant Commission. In it, he accused Brian Mulroney of offering to provide information to the Globe—on the condition the paper not reveal the former prime minister’s relationship with Karlheinz Schreiber. This came after Mulroney testified that the paper had suppressed a story sympathetic to him.)
But no one knew for sure what happened. The newsroom descended into as much chaos as the well-oiledGlobe possibly could—which is to say, barely perceptible to the average reader. “Reporters look to editors to tell them that everything’s going to be okay,” one former staffer says of those first few weeks. “No one had any idea who John was going to keep or let go. So you had reporters scared, editors who were scared, and everyone out for themselves.” And all that was on top of the general industry malaise. After all, Globejournalists aren’t the only ones shitting themselves these days. As the news business spirals deeper and deeper into uncertainty, everyone is feeling a little jumpy.
Not that Stackhouse will admit to any worries. In 2008, the Globe signed a $1.7-billion deal with Transcontinental Media, which includes access to the publishing and printing giant’s presses from 2010 to 2028. With a risky redesign in the works for the paper, Maclean’s senior writer Anne Kingston suggested the move could either be seen as shrewd, or “investing in state-of-the-art buggy technology at the turn of the 20th century.” But Stackhouse says he doesn’t buy the histrionics about the death of print. “The internet has been the best thing to happen to newspapers,” he insists —before quickly adding, “To good newspapers.” He’s convinced the way to confront the future is with a dramatic overhaul, and his vision is bold, especially for a 166-year-old institution: to become a multimedia news organization with a powerhouse web presence able to compete with industry leaders such as The Guardian and The New York Times, and a print edition that looks and reads more like a magazine- newspaper hybrid. It will be a high-end product for the paper’s high-end audience, and the stakes are enormous: The Globe’s business model is successful, if dated, and Stackhouse is betting the paper’s immediate future on an experiment. A carefully planned and calibrated one, but an experiment nonetheless. But in the face of the industry’s waning fortunes, he really has no other choice.
“I’ve been grooming John for this opportunity for a long time,” says Crawley. He’s less upfront about why the change came so suddenly, allowing only that it was time for a change after Greenspon’s seven-year run. “If you allow an editor to go on and on, it’s not good for the paper.” Rumours circulated that Greenspon appeared oblivious to what was coming as late as the National Newspaper Awards the Friday before his departure. Others reported seeing Greenspon leaving the newsroom holding his belongings in a bag and looking distraught. “You don’t want endless weeks and weeks of discussion and so forth,” says Crawley. “You’ve got to make a quick change and then move on with the new people in place.”
Historically, the Globe has always targeted Canada’s affluent “thought-leaders and tastemakers,” as its ad sales department boasts. Under Greenspon, there was a sense that the paper had been drifting by trying to appeal to “the whole reader.” The launch of the fluffy, faddish Life section in 2007 is an obvious example. But even the paper’s Ottawa coverage, traditionally one of its strongest suits, became softer, publishing whatMaclean’s columnist Paul Wells dismisses as “High School Confidential crap about which cabinet ministers weren’t talking to each other and what were the designs of the pumpkins at 24 Sussex at Halloween… Increasingly, the Globe decided it had to be stupid.” And unlike the National Post, he says, “It’s not even interesting when it’s stupid. It’s just stupid.” (Wells thinks that the paper has begun changing for the better under Stackhouse—though it still published a story about 24 Sussex’s pumpkins in 2009.)
Greenspon also made some deeply unpopular personnel changes. In November 2008, he moved features editor Cathrin Bradbury to news, hoping to jazz up the front section. But she was out of her element and left suddenly in August 2009. Queen’s Park columnist Murray Campbell, who had served the paper in one way or another since 1977, resigned last April after Greenspon killed his Ontario politics column and reassigned him to features. (He’s now director of corporate communications with the Ontario Power Authority.) He was an influential voice on provincial affairs and his departure wasn’t just a blow to the Globe, but also the press gallery at Queen’s Park. The move even earned Crawley a rebuke from Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. Then long-time Toronto city hall columnist John Barber, who’d been covering the beat since 1993, asked for reassignment. He was hugely respected, and any replacement was bound to pale in comparison—but Greenspon chose Marcus Gee. It wasn’t just the former international affairs columnist’s conservatism that worried critics, but also his lack of nuance. (In February, for example, Gee entreated the blustering, buffoonish Toronto city councillor Rob Ford to run for mayor.)
Ultimately though, Greenspon simply didn’t fit with Crawley’s vision for the paper. The editor was an old-school newspaperman who believed editorial, advertising and promotion shouldn’t cross paths; the publisher wanted the entire organization to work together on a common mission and to share ideas and staff across departments. Crawley said as much in a jargon-filled memo he sent to employees just after Greenspon’s departure: “Reimagination-inspired teamwork during the last four years has reinforced the value of a more collaborative way of managing our business. By drawing on the collective strengths of the team, we are all better able as individuals to contribute to the success of The Globe and Mail.”
Enter Stackhouse: a sober, serious journalistic workhorse who’d long seemed destined for the top job. (His first gig with the Globe was as a nine-year-old newspaper carrier. He saw an ad for the job at school one day and, since he was saving for a new bike, decided he wasn’t going to let any competition get in the way. He walked around tearing the remaining ads off utility poles outside the school.) His father was a professor, Anglican priest and Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament in Scarborough, Ontario; his mother was a public school teacher. Stackhouse grew up in what he remembers as a “mature environment,” a house full of books and politics. Even as a teenager, “there was nothing mischievous about him,” recalls Chris Liboiron, who worked alongside Stackhouse as a Queen’s Park page.
At Queen’s University, Stackhouse served as editor-in-chief of The Queen’s Journal, where he oversaw a major redesign, met his future wife and started on the path that would lead to the Globe. After one year in marketing and government jobs, he landed a summer gig at the Toronto Star. From there it was on to theLondon Free Press, The Financial Times of Canada, Report on Business magazine and finally to the newspaper itself in 1991, where he spent eight years as the development reporter in India. He’s also a two-time author (a hitchhiking journey from Saint John, New Brunswick to the west coast forms the narrative spine of his 2003 book Timbit Nation). He’s won a National Magazine Award and five National Newspaper Awards (NNAs)—including one for his “Living with the Homeless” series in 1999, for which he spent a week living on the streets in Toronto. The stories were controversial, earning praise but also condemnation for being gimmicky and demonizing the homeless (he wrote about alcoholism, the drug trade and panhandlers who maximize their incomes by fighting over lucrative begging spots). But it was also classic shit-disturbing Stackhouse.
Columnist Margaret Wente remembers her first impressions of him 20 years ago. “He was amazing,” she says. “He was exactly what you would expect. He was intense, committed and really, really smart.” FormerGlobe A-section editor Larry Cornies says, “John’s highly collaborative and very demanding of his staff.” He recalls that when Stackhouse worked as senior editor on weekends “the front-page lineup would be changing several times through the evening, to the great consternation of the copy editors, production editors, et cetera. We would tear down those pages and build them up again. It was frustrating, but it almost always resulted in a better paper.”
Stackhouse’s work ethic is legendary—as is his reputation for pushing others to similar extremes. Senior reporter Jacquie McNish remembers when he was in Indonesia in 1997, covering the Bre-X scandal (in which a Canadian mining company defrauded investors by claiming it had discovered vast quantities of gold). “He literally rented a boat to reach the mining site where this great gold scam was perpetuated,” says McNish. “He has that same drive as an editor. He expects all of us to get in that boat, to get into the heart of darkness and get that story.”
Things can be more difficult for those who don’t share his drive. One high-ranking former Globe staffer says that Stackhouse, for all his smarts, “has a problem dealing with people. He could make people feel like shit.” The same former employee says the editor lacks the empathy needed for leadership. “He can have trouble making up his mind. He lets the system produce stuff, then passes judgment on it.” Another former reporter describes Stackhouse’s around-the-office persona as that of a “scary, brilliant person who has won a bunch of NNAs.” Stackhouse’s reputation precedes him, and his office demeanour is a bit solemn, but let him warm up and his long, affably boyish face crinkles easily into a grin—especially when the topic of discussion is the future of the Globe. “A great newspaper needs to appeal to the brain, the eye and the hand,” Stackhouse says. “It’s got to be intellectually stimulating. That’s why we read it. It’s got to have a visual appeal that makes the eye dance when you turn a page. And it has to feel good.” His burning ambition, he says, is “to come in every day and say to my editors, ‘How can we destroy The Globe and Mail today?’”
Taking charge of the Globe’s most ambitious redesign in recent memory, Stackhouse must rework both the form and content of “Canada’s National Newspaper” in print and online. He jumped into the thick of it as soon as he took the top job, conducting a series of meetings with newsroom staff and flying out to the bureaus. Ottawa, for instance, now focuses more on policy issues and less on gossip. And the editorial department has been restructured so that business, features and news/sports are now the three pillars of the paper, each led by a section editor (Elena Cherney, Jill Borra and David Walmsley respectively). There are also three new groups— digital innovation, presentation (the redesign group), and recruiting and training—to break down the walls between the paper’s formerly divided departments.
But Stackhouse isn’t on a slash-and-burn mission. He’s a company man, after all, and he has a reporter’s approach to dealing with staff: curious and refraining from judgment until the time is right. An editorial meeting from November 2009 exemplifies it: Stackhouse arrives a few moments late to the boardroom. Inside, more than a dozen senior Globe editors fiddle with BlackBerries and shuffle through their notes. It’s a young, exclusive group, hand-picked by their new boss after he pushed out a number of old-guard senior managers to make way for “that sort of innovation we need desperately.” The new team includes Sinclair Stewart, a hotshot former business reporter and New York correspondent whom Stackhouse picked to be his national editor. Walmsley, formerly of the Star, CBC, Post and Daily Telegraph, is the new managing editor of news and sports. And Anjali Kapoor, just hired from Yahoo! Canada, is managing editor of digital operations.
This morning’s meeting begins with a presentation from Kapoor. She displays a spreadsheet on the projection screen at the front of the room, a compilation of the website’s most successful stories from the past weekend. Stackhouse listens carefully, taking notes occasionally, asking questions along the way. Tracking online readers is one of Stackhouse’s top priorities: who’s reading these stories, where the hits are coming from, when they’re coming in and from what kind of reader? While the redesign will move the print product in a more analytical and contemplative direction, the website’s mandate will be broader: breaking news, multimedia, archives and, yes, some balloon boy stories. One of 2009’s most-read stories was a piece about Natasha Richardson, the English actress who died while skiing in Quebec. (An editor called people.com and asked if it would like to link to the story.) Partnerships, formal and informal, are a major part of the new digital strategy: to get stories into the hands (and onto the screens) of “millions of new readers.”
Indeed, online readership is the only reason the Globe’s audience isn’t stagnating. The print numbers have been declining, as they have at most newspapers. The flagship Saturday edition, for example, lost 27,000 readers between 1998 and 2008.
The online numbers tell a different story: The year-over-year increases are dramatic. But more online readers won’t necessarily equal more money, as anyone who’s been paying attention to the news industry’s struggle with the web knows. That’s where high-end print advertisers come in—and faith that a viable online advertising model is forthcoming. What isn’t coming, at least in the short term, is anything like the paywall plan The New York Times announced in January. On the contrary, Stackhouse wants to develop more content-sharing partnerships, like the one with People. It’s all designed to push the Globe into a future that Crawley and Stackhouse are certain exists, the print-is-dead crowd be damned. “There are a lot of ideas from people who’ve never worked in the business,” says Crawley. “Many people have opinions and get some currency for them by putting them on their website, but a lot of them have never run a sweets store.” He adds that American and Canadian newspapers aren’t really comparable. “If you’re Clay Shirky in the U.S., you’re surrounded by a lot of papers that are not very good.”
Stackhouse’s strategy, simply put, is to be good. Maybe it’s premature to judge the Globe of the future based on the Globe of today, but there are hints as to where things are going. Any recent issue will do: say Saturday, January 30 of this year. On that day, the A section is solid—reporter Kirk Makin has a lengthy and intelligent dissection of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Omar Khadr case, and Afghanistan correspondent Sonia Verma writes a detailed piece about the difficulty of negotiating with the Taliban. Report on Business is strong, with a lead piece on why Canadians have access to so little information when house-hunting. Focus & Books provides the brain food and think pieces, and Sports is looking good, no doubt due to a glut of Olympics coverage, but also thanks to Stackhouse’s concerted effort on that front. (He brought Roy MacGregor back to the sports beat, with an emphasis on hockey, and several other staffers have recently been moved to sports, including Hayley Mick, who came from the Life section; and Darren Yourk, now the paper’s first online sports editor.)
But the front page is only so-so, leading with an above-the-fold story by Gloria Galloway and Daniel Leblanc about the prime minister’s grip on the Senate. Below that is a stand-alone photo of Canada’s Olympic flag bearer, speed skater Clara Hughes (the idea being that the Vancouver Olympics are a more female-friendly event than past Games). At the bottom of the page is a story on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder by Anne McIlroy. At first glance it resembles Stackhouse’s “reflective and analytical” paper of the future, but on closer inspection it’s not a very attention-grabbing front page, and it’s not necessarily any more interesting or thoughtful than the competition. The same day, the Star runs a front-page story on the government’s handling (or mishandling) of the Omar Khadr case and a feature story on child kidnappings in the aftermath of the Haitian earth- quake. In Montreal, The Gazette goes with a think piece on Haiti’s decline from wealthy colony to destitute post-colonial emergency state. At least the Globe beats The Vancouver Sun, which has a similar photo of Clara Hughes and no stories on A1 at all, just teasers.
In the Toronto edition, Globe T.O. runs a lead piece by Greg McArthur on the city’s recent spate of car-pedestrian collisions. The paper calls it a “data crunch”—six little charts with info on six different factors in collisions including age of victim, time of day, etc. The piece highlights the strengths and weaknesses of experimenting with new story formats. It makes crucial information much more explicit than a traditional story—in this case, a reader can see from a simple graph that the January accidents usually killed elderly people, not reckless jaywalkers. What’s missing is the meaning behind the figures. Three days earlier, city police had launched a ticketing blitz, issuing fines to pedestrians. Nowhere does the story take this raw data and use it to suggest that such a strategy might be ineffective. But to McArthur’s credit, he does make the point that the media blew the car-pedestrian story out of proportion.
Over in Focus & Books the presentation is better, but once again there’s ample evidence of the Globe’s struggle with non-traditional story formats. Some work well, including John Allemang’s Q&A with an American journalist and media critic explaining why coverage of the Haitian earthquake was off-base. Less successful is “The Matrix,” which very closely resembles New York magazine’s almost identically named back-page feature and places various current events on a grid of significance and media attention. It’s funny but forced, as if the paper is trying too hard to be irreverent and youthful. And the Globe, for all its strengths, is neither irreverent nor youthful.
What it does have is an imposing roster of brand-name reporters and columnists to ensure the blood is still pumping through its grey old veins. Christie Blatchford’s writing, especially on crime and justice, inspires both loathing and devotion, but her opinions are confrontational and her writing is powerful (although less so when she writes at length about her beloved dog). Ian Brown’s idiosyncratic musings make him one of the paper’s strongest and funniest voices, while his wife Johanna Schneller’s honest, down-to- earth celebrity profiles inject some intelligence into an arts department that too often seems like an afterthought (though it also includes some excellent writers, including TV critic John Doyle and architecture critic Lisa Rochon). London-based Doug Saunders, charged with covering European affairs almost single-handedly, seems to be everywhere at once as he dispatches his lucid missives from Britain and continental Europe. Elizabeth Renzetti is equally adept at covering European arts. Stephanie Nolen and Geoffrey York have earned near-universal acclaim for their work in Africa, and Nolen continues to bring the same award-winning standards to India. Graeme Smith is the paper’s bright young star on the international scene, earning both an NNA and an Emmy for the multimedia series “Talking to the Taliban.”
Rex Murphy recently decamped to the Post, a closer ideological fit for the world-class curmudgeon. (The move means less colourful crustiness on the Globe’s editorial pages, but also less amateur climatology. Murphy made climate change skepticism a favourite hobby-horse—redundant, since the popular and provocative Wente already has that beat sewn up.) Less happily, Rick Salutin is in danger of becoming the anti-Murphy. A younger left-wing voice might be in order, one not beholden to the 20th century’s brand of ossified socialism. In April 2009, the otherwise-intelligent Salutin lamented the lack of alternatives to global capitalism—a fair point, until he expresses nostalgia for the 1930s, when Stalin’s Soviet Union “was socialist and the bloom wasn’t yet off that rose.” Maclean’s senior writer Michael Petrou excoriated the column as “deeply creepy.” Meanwhile, Leah McLaren continues to write lighter-than-air puff for the Style section, including recent columns on “butt obsession” and why she won’t be reading any of the books nominated for Canadian literary prizes, a backhanded way of complimenting herself on all the classics she’s devoured lately.
The overall talent is enviable, but it’s not a panacea for the paper’s challenges. “The best thing the Globe has going for it is its reputation,” says Murray Campbell, who nonetheless fears it’s resting on its laurels and in danger of becoming a second read. “Foreign coverage has become episodic,” he says, “and it’s hard to follow a story that way. The tendency now seems to be to have a big feature from Doug Saunders or Stephanie Nolen, with a big display, and then everything else becomes a brief. That strikes me as a change. You used to be able to follow stories day in and day out.” He also believes that if management pushes news to the web, it will have to re-evaluate the competition. “On Ottawa coverage, is it going to measure up to the Ottawa-centric websites and blogs that are out there? For international, will it match the BBC?”
The focus on American politics also seems to come at the expense of national coverage. Between December 2, 2009 and February 2, 2010, the Globe mentioned Barack Obama 21 times in front-page headlines. Stephen Harper had his name dropped only 12 times. And the American president appeared in four front-page photos while our admittedly less-photogenic prime minister showed up just twice.
In the Globe’s favour, Stackhouse brought John Ibbitson back to Ottawa from Washington. (Ibbitson had been the paper’s political affairs columnist in Ottawa from 2002 until 2007, when Greenspon moved him to Washington despite what Cornies calls his “dazzling work in the nation’s capital.”) National affairs columnist Jeffrey Simpson continues to weigh in with his temperate, intelligent perspectives on national affairs, and the paper’s Ottawa Notebook blog boasts eight contributors. Michael Valpy thinks that the overall quality attracts a “strong, progressive, intellectual audience,” though he thinks the paper could do a better job serving it. (As it is, the Globe’s editorial mandate is to focus mainly on advertiser-friendly mopes—managers, owners, professionals, entrepreneurs.) Despite all the strengths, the creative energy seems scattered. The paper certainly chugs along well enough, but the Globe’s focus seems to be elsewhere these days.
Mounted on the wall in Crawley’s office is a World War II–era poster that features a svelte blonde woman and three men leering over her. “Keep mum, she’s not so dumb,” it reads. “Careless talk costs lives.” Crawley and Stackhouse are indeed playing coy on details of this fall’s redesign. Different examples of what the new paper may look like have been tacked up on walls in the newsroom, attracting yays and nays from staff who have marked them up with comments and criticisms. And here in the privacy of his office, Crawley flips through the latest sample of what the redesign might look like. It’s a glossy, colourful sheet, a little shorter and a little narrower than today’s paper. A full-colour cosmetic ad takes up one whole page. “This is the kind of ad theGlobe typically wouldn’t get,” Crawley says. “Magazine-type quality and magazine-style print will enable us to attract advertising from sources that would normally go into a magazine.”
The Globe that readers can expect to see in the fall will have a variety of shorter and longer stories alongside more analytical pieces. It won’t deliver so much of what Stackhouse calls “classic institutional news.” Instead, it will assume readers already know about the basic issues of the day. It will embrace alternative story formats—charts, graphs, Q&As, lists, maps.
The idea, says Stackhouse, is to provide a “daily pause” of analysis and explanation, “that one time in a 24-hour period when we all need to stop and make sense of what the hell just happened in our world, our country and our economy.” He knows his paper increasingly competes on a global level, as Campbell suggests, and he’s also receptive to criticisms that the paper should broaden its audience. He maintains that “educated, affluent and influential consumers” are still the target market, but he’s also added a number of new beats—Jessica Leeder will report on global food, Valpy on ethics, Joe Friesen on demographics and McIlroy on neuroscience and learning— with the intention of widening the Globe’s appeal and offering that more analytical approach he speaks of so passionately.
And there may be other, more urgent reasons to widen the scope. Mathew Ingram, the paper’s former online communities editor, says “the whole concept of mass media is antiquated.” He praises the Globe for being “near the front of the pack” in terms of journalistic quality and internet savvy, but is unsure about the narrow demographic focus. “It makes no sense to think about our readership as having any common denominators at all.” Ingram’s work as communities editor—using the tools of the web to better engage readers—was innovative for the Globe. The policy wiki, a reader-edited website created in partnership with The Dominion Institute that invited readers to debate policy issues and propose solutions, was one attempt. Ingram also put together a more easily navigated site for mobile devices such as iPhones and BlackBerries. But he left the paper in January to work as a senior writer for an American technology blog network called GigaOm, and the paper has yet to fill his position. “I don’t think the Globe is mentally where it needs to be, and that’s one thing I regret about leaving,” he says. “I still feel as if we’re trying to pave cart paths, like we’re taking all the stuff we did before in a totally different medium and doing it online, and that doesn’t work. We have to fundamentally change the way we think about what our job is online.”
Ingram is far from alone in that assessment. Paul Sullivan, a Vancouver-based new media expert and strategist (as well as former managing editor of The Vancouver Sun and a former Globe western editor who still writes a regular column for globeinvestor.com), praises the paper for its journalistic excellence, and for being more progressive online than any other Canadian newspaper. But he says the people who run it haven’t really accepted the new reality of the news business. “They’re crazy about presses and buildings… They think of themselves as a newspaper based on Front Street. If they could just stop thinking that way, and think of themselves as an information wellspring based anywhere, they might find it a little easier.”
Maybe. The only things in greater supply than uncertainty in the newspaper business these days are cocky predictions about how the future will play out. Dilbert creator and occasional tech blogger Scott Adams predicted in 1997 that newspapers would be basically extinct by 2002. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in 2008 that within a decade, “there will be no newspapers, no magazines that are delivered in paper form.”
But it’s probably far too early to really know whether experiments such as the Globe’s will succeed or merely stave off the inevitable; whether the $1.7-billion Transcontinental Media deal will indeed look like an investment in “state-of-the-art buggy technology” a decade or two from now, or whether the medium can be adapted, tweaked and made relevant for the future.
On a rainy evening in downtown Toronto, Stackhouse is a few minutes late for a panel discussion called “What’s Next For News.” Onstage, Clay Shirky compares journalism to ice harvesting—his point being that both are obsolete professions. Ingram and web critic Andrew Keen, author of The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture, round out the panel. There are a couple of VIP seats cordoned off for Stackhouse and Crawley, but the editor slips unobtrusively into a seat near the darkened back of the room. Stackhouse is expressionless, balancing a small pile of paper on his lap and occasionally checking e-mail on his BlackBerry. He rests his head in his hand, rubs his chin, stifles a yawn or two. “My advice for young journalists?” Shirky booms from the stage. “Don’t work for The Globe and Mail.” Stackhouse looks up, the corners of his mouth lifting. A brief smile plays across his face. A few minutes later he rolls up his notes, tucks his BlackBerry into his palm, and makes for the exit.