The Vancouver Courier, once dubbed as "Vancouver's Good News Paper," has got a new look. Editor Barry Link sets up the new direction like this:
The economy's in the toilet. There are more homeless people every day. The Olympics are costing us far more than we were promised. Gang members use our streets as target ranges.
It's a necessary time, we think, to relaunch a newspaper.
Whoa. You forgot to add Mordor once again rules the realm of Sauron, and we Hobbitses are done for! I guess they're not about the good news thing anymore, eh?
No matter, there is hope yet for Vancouver's widest circulated freebie. First order of business is to get Allen Garr to focus on beekeeping full time.
Allen Garr, the once influential columnist from the Vancouver Courier, has basically become an anachronism. Garr's problem began when he decided that he'd play Pinocchio to Geoff Meggs' Geppetto. The sheer absence of a critical approach to his City Hall beat has left Allen scrambling for new turf, such as YVR.
As we've said before here at CityCaucus.com, without his main foil Sam Sullivan, Garr is Siegfried without Roy. He's Lewis without Martin. INXS minus Michael Hutchence. Shredded wheat without sugar.
In other words, there's no point.
Editor Link is right that times are indeed tough - for his industry. Their parent company CanWest is in extremely difficult straits. The old ways of doing things like new fonts, photos next to bylines, shuffling staff around, is not a survival strategy. Becoming relevant is.
Allen Garr comes from a time when Greenpeace were dipping their first oar in the water, not the Facebook Age. A newspaper publisher such as the Courier's Emily Jubb must be daring, if only to keep her paper going. Where are the Vancouver voices that look at today's issues around growth, transportation, density, public safety, city budgets, development, taxation, the environment and governance?
These topics, and many others, are not discussed with the rigour they could be across the region. Blame it on tight budgets, or a lack of vision, but newspapers are not the first source of news and ideas they once were.
Blogs, despite being sneered at for years by traditional media, have elevated the Lower Mainland's most interesting voices into mainstream consciousness. Why don't we see Miss604, Tim Bray, Barefoot, Kedrosky, Condohype, heck, CityCaucus.com (and many others) stirring it up on the pages of The Province, The Sun and The Courier? Clearly, it's not about the pay.
I hope that CanWest, and the Courier newspaper, can re-emerge from these difficult economic times revitalized. There was a time when this political junkie anxiously awaited what Courier columnists had to say. I look forward to that occurring once again.
UPDATE: Darren Barefoot has another angle on this same topic with similar conclusions.