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Columns: Vancouver Province Fools Readers, Loses Soul
By Mike Archer. If you ever doubted how unimportant readers have become to today’s newspaper dinosaurs, Monday’s Vancouver Province might have put those doubts to rest [Click On Image For Full Story]
with a four-page phony cover designed to trick its readers on behalf of an advertiser.
I have grown accustomed to having my local paper ‘wrapped’ in a flyer coupon four-pager, a car dealer four-page blowout sale, or any number of ‘more important than the front page’ bits of advertising. All it ever proved was that, if you’re willing to pay enough, the ad manager/publishers who now rule the newspaper business would sell you anything … even their front page.The front page of a newspaper was once sacrosanct territory. Along with the editorial page, it was the one place you could rely on the newspaper not selling its soul, opinion or judgment over what was most important to its readers for the sake of a few bucks from an advertisers.
As the business became more competitive in the 80s and 90s all newspapers eventually broke down and sold ads in the top corners of the front pages (called earlugs) or across the bottom (called basebars) but they were at least trying to maintain the fiction that they were not selling out.
Monday’s Province had their logo across the top in exactly the same fashion as its usual front page. The setup was exactly the same with the words ‘Final Edition’, the all important barcode to record the sale and a big summer photo of a boat by a dock covered with words ‘Laughs on the Lake’ and a subhead leading you inside the paper to ‘Page A2′.
On page A2 the reader is greeted with a crossword puzzle, a cartoon and two stories with photos one of them shouting ‘Dramatic weekend boating incident involves “bright orange” life jackets, mild windburn.’
The page looked as much like a typical second page as the front page looked like a typical front page (except, of coure, for the lack of bad news).
They did cover their posterior with the tiny word ‘Advertisement’ at the top of each page. Just like the fine print on the car ads you need a magnifying glass to read the warning was clearly the least important part of the page to them.
It was all part of a promotional stunt by the non-profit preventable.ca which describes it self as, “a registered non-profit organization, governed by a board of directors that represents organizations including the BCAA Road Safety Foundation, Insurance Bureau of Canada, London Drugs Ltd., BC Ministry of Labour, Pacific Blue Cross, TELUS and WorkSafeBC. Our work is made possible through the financial and in-kind support of over 80 other companies and organizations.”
Five for-profit corporations and two government agencies trying to reduce preventable accidents through advertising. Even if you accept the notion that the Insurance Bureau of Canada is trying to reduce injuries for altruistic reasons thus managing to turn this into a do-good campaign, the fact remains that the Province went to great lengths to fool its readers into believing they were actually reading the front page and page 2 of the newspaper.
(The back page and inside back page were similarly decked out to fool readers.)
How much respect does the newspaper have for its readers when it will pull out all the stops to fool them into believing an advertiser? Who is more important to the newspaper – readers or advertisers? What is the most important thing, in the eyes of the newspaper, that happened overnight that is of greatest importance to their readers in Vancouver and BC?
If you want a further example of how far the newspaper industry has fallen in pretending to be journalists working for readers, the importance given by The Province to the latest Enbridge spill was shown by devoting a 2 column by 1 inch space to the story, squeezed above the ads on page A 10.
When a newspaper loses interest in what its readers want to read about it loses its soul.