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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Laugh it up, all you prophets of journalism.

Well, it all started at 11:30 this morning when my phone rang just as I was getting out of the shower any my phone rings. On the other end of the line is Daniel, one of the designers at work, who informs me that "the shit has hit the fan" and the print version of Dose — the paper I just moved across the country to accept a position at four months ago — has just been spiked by CanWest. Really, saying the shit had hit the fan doesn't do that news much justice. I'm out of a fucking job.

You can read the characteristically sparse Reuters story here, which sufficiently sums up the painful bout of retardation that led CanWest to their abrupt and thoroughly surprising decision. I mean, I know there were a lot of things that Dose didn't do very well, and of course it was losing money — it was a barely-year-old startup, for fuck's sake — but for the company to say that they don't see any potential in the print version is just fucking stupid.

From an inside point of view, the print edition of Dose was the only thing we were doing well. Like it or hate it, it was actually different. I fully believe that a large part of the future of print media in Canada will be the free, ad-driven daily commuter paper, and for CanWest to pull out of that now and concentrate their efforts on rolling our fuck-awful website into a "youth channel" for canada.com is just so frustratingly short-sighted that I don't even know what to say. It won't last longer than a couple of months.

But whatever. I'm angry, I'm hurt, and I'm jobless. The worst part is I actually liked it there; I'm going to miss the people I worked with and the environment we worked in. I doubt I'll ever find something like that again. Anyhow, I'm sure they're popping open champagne in the offices of student papers across the country today, having been proven right that Dose was a sham and CanWest didn't have a clue what they were doing. Well, laugh it up. Laugh it up over the hilarious tale of the "sell-out" paper that couldn't even figure out how to sell out well enough to save its own ass.

Sorry, this post is idiotic. I could be telling about how we all found out (mid-press) and how big companies manage to circumvent the fact that we were all reassured of a financial commitment to the paper and our jobs (cancel the contract in exchange for two months' salary, thereby nullifying the entire point of contracts). Needless to say, my dreams of a future in journalism with any guarantee of financial security has been noticeably shaken. This is what's waiting for you, you genius college kids. Hope you like uncertainty.

I'll say something more meaningful and less bitter tomorrow. Later.

16 Comments:

Anonymous iain said...

The story in Edmonton was similar. I got the call at 9:30 MST, at which time I learned the following:
1 - Dose has "ceased publication, effective immediately"
2 - I'm out of a job
3 - As compensation, I get a couple of months of salary (along with the benefits), plus part of my contract bonus.
4 - They'll help us find employment elsewhere with CanWest, if it's at all possible.

There were some other technical details, but that's the basic info. E-mail was immediately shut down. Thankfully, as a remote worker, I didn't have to have security escort me to the exit of my apartment building. Count my blessings, I guess...

I'm told that pretty much the whole Toronto staff learned about it at the same time (except for Chris, I suppose, since he wasn't in the office yet), including the deputy editors and the EiC. Rumour has it that our publisher learned about it only minutes before the announcement was made.

While I certainly agree that Dose has had a bumpy ride during the past year, it was still very young, and nobody with any sense of business whatsoever should have expected it to turn a profit so quickly. Investing in a new paper requires a certain amount of commitment. If that's the only reason behind killing Dose, I just don't get it. The National Post was losing piles of money, but they kept it alive. Why was Dose different?

The timing was what really got me, though. We'd just recorded a readership increase of roughly 17 per cent in the PAST THREE MONTHS. That's absolutely MASSIVE. When Dose was killed, it had an average daily readership of 330,000, making it one of the country's most-read papers. If they were willing to give it more time, even another year, it may have survived and flourished. As it stands, they killed the best commuter paper in the country, where young journalists could earn a decent wage, and get creative with content ideas.

While the hours were crazy, I'm going to miss working with the people at the paper. It was a unique experience, and I doubt that I'll ever work anywhere quite like it again.

And now, time for beer.

8:30 PM

 
Blogger Superdude said...

Here's an open letter to the lost employees of Dose:

As someone who recently got out of the business of newspapers myself, let me tell you that there is no uglier, emptier, or hopeless time than soon after getting fired from a job that you loved. Getting turfede when you hadn't actually done anything wrong, as in the case of Dose's employees, is even worse.
I feel for you, and I hope that, rather than closing doors for you, this allows you an opportunity to take what you've learned, and move on somewhere better. Don't give up.
But don't waste your time in Atlantic Canada. If your paper isn't shitty out here, it isn't hiring. Three months of canned chicken noodle soup is a harsh teacher. You soon learn that, as benevolent as EI is, it's neither satisfying, nor relevant to your career.
That being said, check your EI qualification status. It's good for 55 per cent of your former salary every week. Be Atlantic Canadian in this respect. There's no shame in taking from what you've been paying into.
Neal

9:40 PM

 
Anonymous Kris Meen said...

Hey former Dosers,

Sorry to hear about yesterday's events, that truly licks. That CanWest is sure a classy organization. I hope you all land on your feet, I'm sure you will.

Latorz,

1:47 AM

 
Anonymous SteveDave said...

As a web designer and web usability professional, I can say that the print version of Dose was way more ass-kickin' than the online version. The Dose website is a giant hunk of useless garbage. The print version was much more creative and had so much potential. CanWest is retarded. Sorry guys... guess you'll have to move back to edmonton.. ahahahhaaa.... you'll all come back eventually..

1:54 AM

 
Blogger enthrall said...

Fuck, man - I'm sorry. I can't believe the cost-cutting bean counters killed one of the only interesting things CanWest was doing, and instead keeps funding the eds and Swerves.

A 17% bump, eh, Iain? Idiots.

Bonne chance, you guys - I'm rooting for you.

C.

6:48 AM

 
Anonymous DAD said...

Hey Chris, I know yesterday was just a blur after "THE" call, and you're probably a little foggy this morning after too many beers, but think of it as another little bump in the road. You have too clear your head as soon as you can and look forward. This is not the end of the world. You're a bright person with an amazing potential. You need to sit down and list the 5-10 top areas where you would like to work and then reduce it to three and pound that pavement. Do not get caught for too long on the poggy roll. We love you and you know you have a home here if all else fails, but I know you'll land on your feet. Hell, hold those guys up to their word and make them refer you to those vacancies in the Canwest organization. Cheer up, DAD.

6:52 AM

 
Blogger Superdude said...

Was that your real dad?

7:50 AM

 
Anonymous Suzanne b. said...

Chris,

Dude I got work at 1100 CDT and read the "At a Glance" daily newsletter from CanWest, then e-mailed you to find out whether you were one of the 50 "affected" as some slimy PR hack put it. The damn thing bounced back. Your body wasn't even cold and they already froze your e-mail account. Sorry dude. I swear we at the newsdesk all have the fear that we'll one day come to work to find out our keycards no longer work and we can pick up our CP Style guides at the security desk. I can't believe they only gave Dose a year to get profitable. No fucking vision.

(Collin sent me your blog link once, a long time ago now, so I thought I'd check it to see what happened to you. Long live Life After Gretzky!)

7:57 AM

 
Blogger Biff Johanssen said...

Everyone I've told in Edmonton about the end of Dose is sad. People loved reading it, whether or not they liked the content. That's what a newspaper's supposed to do.

What I can't believe is that CanWest only gave the paper one year. I thought they knew this would be a losing prospect for a little while? Dose was already better than 24 Hour and some of the other free dailies. This is a big mistake.

Whatever people thought of marketing to the "youth demographic," Dose was starting to get young people engaged again. Shame no one up top could recognize that.

9:51 AM

 
Anonymous collin said...

There's only one way to settle this: Rumble! It's beyond crappy, but I'll point you to the CanWest decision to steal Mike Bullard, allowing a free time spot for Jon Stewart on CTV.
Not to say that you're all a bunch of Mike Bullards... uhhhm... just that sometimes good things happen out of craphole corporate noodlings.
Looking back I honestly enjoyed getting laid off from CanWest. You'll be fine. Honestly.
PS- Hi Suzanne!!!

11:36 AM

 
Blogger Dan-O-Mite said...

In my little imaginary world this is how I saw CanWest's reasoning for cutting DOSE: someone upstairs realized that the marketing department had so aggressively, and wholeheartedly sold off and destroyed the brand and mind-share of DOSE, and had undersold advertising in the newspaper for so long that they didn't see anyway to ever make a profit from it.

Let me explain that a bit. There were rumours floating around C-plus (the national student newspaper advertising agency) that DOSE was selling full page colour ads to certain clients for less than the Gateway was selling them, despite having a circulation that was almost thirty times larger. When advertising is so aggressively undersold like that, it's hard to convince anyone that they should later pay more for that space, or even that the space is worth anything at all.

Second, there is the whole cover ad/MTV issue thing (and yes, from those I talked to, people outside of newspapers noticed both of those things, and mentioned them to me independently of me asking), which, while entirely the fault of the marketing department, hurt the brand of DOSE immensely.

Of course, it's retarded to cut DOSE entirely for these things, a much smarter course of action would have been to fire the marketing department and to hire another set of people who actually understood that you can't sell the soul of a publication to make ends meet this week (or, in this case, to lose slightly less money), or undersell your product to the point where buyers think it's worthless.

Although, being the cynic that I am, I'm sure it was just some accounting suits in a boardroom somewhere, people who had no idea about the stuff I just talked about, who made the ultimate call.

Anyway, while I'm not going to posthumously and disingenuously say that I liked DOSE, I certainly liked the idea of DOSE and I could see the editorial potential shining through on the days that it wasn't covered in marketing department sludge.

And, of course, you can also ad me to the chorus of people who are saying that this is a pretty shitty way to lose a job.

11:06 AM

 
Blogger Dan-O-Mite said...

Sorry, I should re-iterate, my rumblings about ad pricing were based on rumours. I have no concrete evidence that ads were priced that way. Although C-plus informed the EiC of the Gateway about DOSE being dead before Chris! found out, so take it as you will.

11:10 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nasty. Best of luck to you and yours, Chris. You're a talented fella.

Yrs.,
R. E. Biesinger

3:35 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ooop. Adler, Tucker and Iain, same goes for you.

Alzheimerly,
R.

4:45 PM

 
Anonymous DAD said...

Hey Superdude, yes I am Chris' real DAD out here in Edmonton. Cheers

7:33 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dose sucked. Good riddance.

1:44 PM

 

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