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A Huge Culture Change

Newsrooms at La Presse and The Montreal


Gazette
Reflect on the Shift to Digital-First

Lisa Lynch
Concordia University

Initial Observations (2009)


In Montreal, Francophone journalists were
more often publicly critical of online news
Some Franco Montreal papers like Le
Devoir had no interest in moving online
at all; bare-bones site, no archiving, etc.
Was this a case of digital divide?

Context
Anglo and Franco papers both have long
histories in the city
Anglo and Franco workers represented by
different communications unions;
Francophone unions traditionally stronger
Anglo papers compete with US papers and
national Canadian papers

Questions
Do online staff at The Gazette and La
Presse differ in how they describe the
benefits and disadvantages of online
news?
Will these differences change over time
as both outlets refine their approach to
online news?

La Presse
Founded in 1884; now the flagship paper
of the Gesca Group
Closure crisis in 2009; shift to Ipad-first in
2013
La Presse+ is a gamble to ensure the
papers survival, relying on a market that is
not mature

Interviews in 2010
We arrived in a paper world where people
really didn't know what the web was.
But a successful integration
within months, due to
efforts of editors and
careful logistical planning.

Re-envisioning La Presse as a tablet-first


product

Interviews in 2013
There's a new generation in advertising
agencies [deciding] where they put their
ads, and it's definitely not in the print
version. That's exactly why we moved to
the tablet.

Interviews in 2013
In 2010, I worked for the dailies. If there
was a fire, or anything, I made an article
for the website, and I'd have to make an
article for the next day's paper Now, I
have a lot of time, I drink coffee and
brainstorm.

Interviews in 2013
They are all young, hipsters. People who
do 5 a 7 (cocktail hours). The new geek
IPad, technology generation ... (who) think
they're cooler than everyone else.

The Montreal Gazette


Founded in 1778
Heyday in 1960s; still claims profitability but
connected to financially strapped chain
Since the 1960s has shifted from Southam to
FP to Hollinger to Canwest to Postmedia

Interviews in 2010
We rush to get things up quickly and then
there are mistakes and inaccuracies. I do find that the
standards slip.
A focus on the problems rather than successes

Interviews in 2010
I don't feel it's clear where things are
right now or where they're going; it still
feels like we're in an in-between stage.
It's (also) not clear exactly what this
revolution is supposed to be about
seems to me more or less similar to
before.

A centralized system for creating a chainwide look.

Interviews in 2013
I feel like if we had a better system,
that could actually free us up to do
moreif only the architecture were
not so clunky.

Interviews in 2013
Were still mostly a print paper. We
are doing more things online but the
most dramatic things that have
happened here has been the reduction
in staff across the board

Results
At La Presse, transition didnt create an
unsustainable workload
Staff believed management had made an
investment in the future of La Presse as an
institution.
At The Gazette, push towards online
resulted in overwork.
Digital decisions reflected the priorities of
the chain and not The Gazette.

Limitations
La Presse going through unique
period of transition
Other Francophone papers
(Quebecor vs Le Devoir) not
studied
Ipad team not interviewed

Conclusion
Rather than confirming
initial ideas of a
digital divide,
interviews
demonstrated the
complex interplay
between workplace
conditions and
attitudes towards
online work.

Longer version: lisa.lynch@concordia.ca