Arts & Life

Media landscape: Is the Spectator Tribune ‘just’ online?

Is the Spectator Tribune available in print or is it just online? I have been asked this at least once per day since the publication’s Prairie audience started to hear about the upcoming website.

The word ‘just,’ however,  seems better suited to describe the limitations of print. Chartbeat, the program that monitors the Tribune’s web traffic 24/7, has already told me people from the U.K. have read the publication.  Most of us are already used to reading the day’s most riveting content on our computers or phones, yet many remain beholden to the notion that words worth reading must also be printed on paper.

Does our deep-seated allegiance to print media come from a blind faith in the closed-door processes of traditional newsrooms? Do editors at the Freep or StarPheonix have an advantage, other than pay scale, over Salon editors? Not at all.

Newsweek is ending its 80-year print run, the Guardian is contemplating the same and many more are on the verge. And, no, journalism is not dying. And, no, the media landscape is not changing. It has fully changed.

The bulk of news consumers have already committed to online consumption; what lags is the organizations themselves, unable to transform bloated, top-heavy newsrooms into media outlets focused on delivering content readers want, in the style they want, using mediums they have access to and use.

Annual subscriptions to the Thomson Reuters newswire, depending on the package, can cost more than a prairie mortgage.  And readers of the print paper may believe that the reporting is worth the $30 per month, but anyone also paying the same amount for an Internet connection can find the exact same article and many more for free at

The elephant in any large-scale newsroom, be it The Globe or National Post, is that they would succeed with half their current staff. The layoffs, I hate to say it, make sense, but what doesn’t is who these organizations decide to let go. Their hands may be tied, somewhat, but keeping young, bright talent is worth fighting the threats of a union or battling the old print curmudgeons pretending the formulaic articles they’re penning are somehow inspired. Daily print editors can be very harsh, but even they don’t want to tackle the egos of old-guard reporters.

Wouldn’t every reader prefer a publication full of engaging material and engaged writers? And, before the accusations of pandering and link-baiting fly, and they always do, know that only quality content gets lasting results.  I am sure Huffpo’s side-boob page has raised their unique views to lucrative levels, but even that low-hanging fruit will not compare with long-term gains of promoting smart, interesting pieces.

The Spectator Tribune is interested in garnering as much web traffic as possible, as it wants to be wanted and it needs to make enough money to live. But, the hope, and all who want this to stick around should agree, is to find a balance between profitability, staying lean and sustainable, and remaining fair to the talent that makes all this possible.

The Tribune will have its biases, like any publication. And, it will house articles that will be cut, if they are unable to secure a readership, but it will and can listen to your feedback and adapt quickly, if needed.

I have worked in many newsrooms, national and local, and I can tell you the process isn’t sacred. The journalist pitching his or her story for the A section of the paper at the a.m. news meeting does not have anything any current Spectator Tribune writer doesn’t. Often, the only difference between a full-time national print journalist and a freelancer struggling to make ends meet is who you know and how many Twitter followers you have.

Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta have a lot of writing talent and they have been completely forgotten by Canada’s national media. The print publications we pay for and hold so dear have little interest in what goes on in the Prairies, an opinion uncomfortably close to fact.

The Spectator Tribune is yours, and if the Prairies decide to support the project, it will be here for a long time. And, yes, it is just online.


Toban Dyck is a writer/editor/farmer. Follow him @tobandyck.

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