Column – Bleak View from the Ivory Tower

In my second-last column for Our London, I wrote about the paper’s end, just days away. Many of us work for big corporations now. They have to eat their young in order to keep up appearances. And so I wrote… 

I struggled with whether to address the elephant in the room for one of the last times this column will appear in this publication, and one of the last times this publication will appear. I decided an elephant is pretty difficult to ignore.
I’m aware that my opinion on whether to continue to operate a media property such as this newspaper means nothing to the decision-makers. The final call is left up to those with much bigger paycheques, vacation properties in various countries and first-world worries about where to summer — the type of people who receive multi-million dollar bonuses as rewards after firing hundreds of employees to make the company’s bottom line look better for shareholders. The Mr. Potters of It’s a Wonderful Life.

And there’s nothing inherently wrong with what they do in the eyes of the law or in a capitalist society. This is how it works. And please don’t think I’m whining about my lot in life. I’m quite content, thank you. I don’t need a bunch of lofty things because I can see clearly from my perch what it sometimes takes to acquire them. I had a shot at the managerial path and fled the first time I heard my boss’s words – with which I didn’t agree – come out of my mouth to my staff.

I’ve come to understand that I can’t project my values and emotions onto a CEO who can terminate hundreds of people, over and over. I can’t get into the mindset of someone who can choose who will live and who will die, professionally, based on arbitrary criteria. I’ll never look at people as drains on a mega-billion dollar corporation because they’ve been there too long or have worked their way up to a salary equal to what I draw in a week. I can’t criticize because I simply can’t empathize.

The marketplace is changing. People’s needs are changing and they’re making new and different demands of the companies they patronize. It’s a jungle out there, only the strong survive, and other time-worn clichés. I pride myself on embracing change, loving it in fact. When a supervisor announces that we’re moving to a new software platform and everybody else groans, I pump up my fists like Rocky after he climbs the stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It’s a chance to learn something new and add to my skill set. But watching the journalism pool shrink and small towns lose their only dedicated source of local news isn’t that kind of change. No fists are pumping. It’s just an eerie silence and a feeling of, here we go again.

There’s always a risk that journalists writing about journalism will seem self-serving. But who’s going to watch small town councils? It’s journalists who discover things like government cheques spent on personal matters. Someone needs to ask questions and keep politicians accountable. The decision-makers are more likely to golf with politicians, than to question their motives. Again, it’s something to which I can’t relate. There’s a saying that goes, you get the society you deserve. Ask yourself, do you deserve this?

4 thoughts on “Column – Bleak View from the Ivory Tower”

  1. Poignant and true. I’m so sorry for the state of journalism and am expressing that worry by paying for newspaper subscriptions online. It’s the only way to keep shining lights on the darkest corners. I’m sure your voice (in print) will be missed.

    1. I appreciate that Erin. I was a pebble in the pond of Our London. Sean Meyer, Whitney South, Mike Maloney and Editor Scott Taylor are the ones who worked their tails off to put that little-paper-that-could out every week. I used to think that the paywall model was a fool’s game but then I got access to The Washington Post and saw the deep commitment they have to true journalism and finding the truth. Some will survive that way.

      On another note, I will soon be moving my column (in essence, with the same approach) to Business London Magazine! It’s a terrific must-read monthly. I’m thrilled to have been asked, and looking forward to writing, even though it will be half as often. (Maybe that means it will be twice as good??!)

  2. Tommy Douglas commented- many years ago – that he could not understand why us mice voted for the white cats and the black cats who seldom looked after the interests of the mice!

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