​John Doyle or Margaret Wente: Doesn’t Matter, 'The Globe and Mail' Has Lost its Appeal

I saw one person reading a newspaper in a bar, so I hastily wrote a whole column about it and called it a week's work.

by Josh Visser
Jun 28 2016, 2:34pm

Has the newspaper stand lost its youth appeal? No idea, but we wrote about it anyway. Photo via CP.

You really, really should read this first.

One recent Thursday, Friday or Saturday evening I went out for some pints. In a neighbourhood dive bar I watched a man read the Globe and Mail newspaper. I was a bit surprised to be witnessing this—I had no idea they were still printing those darn newspapers. Thing is, in this reasonably crowded downtown Toronto bar, filled with twentysomethings and TV screens, there was just me and this one other guy paying attention to the newspaper. That's it—two of us.

Newspapers are fast becoming a dinosaur media. The world has evolved and the newspaper hasn't. And neither has the commentary of the newspaper. That makes the issue of John Doyle or Margaret Wente as anchor of the Globe and Mail redundant. It doesn't matter, because the Globe and Mail has lost its appeal.

Certainly it has lost its appeal to the media audience that matters—urban youth. Maybe the Globe's owners were onto this when they first put John Doyle in place as the face of Globe and Mail. With his hey-man, this is something I saw with my own two eyes style of columns and some distance from the old, old school of the Globe and Mail, his task was as obvious as it seemed—to make the newspaper more appealing to a younger audience. If that was the case, the Globe bungled the execution of the plan.

The countless columns for the newspaper, in which John Doyle was obliged to prove his culture and sports bona fides, were excruciating. For a start, it raised the question that the Globe didn't want asked—"What does this guy know about hockey?"

Possibly, it was too late anyway. The Globe now exists, and has for some time, in the arena of boomer nostalgia. In the popular culture, its appeal is on the level of progressive rock from the 1970s.

What's happened is that the Globe and Mail plods along, in its arrogance and incompetence, as if the digital age hadn't happened. The manner in which it is printed is calcified, as if social media was still a novelty that was best ignored. While all coverage of news has changed, across multiple media platforms, the Globe and Mail on print is the same old, same old.

The Globe and Mail's John Doyle. Photo via Globe.

In the discussions about why John Doyle's weekend column didn't click, much mention has been made of "hard-core hockey fans" who were never comfortable with the complete lack of non-anecdotal evidence. Never comfortable with anything about him, from his hair to his attire to his column style. "Hard-core" is the main issue here. The Globe and Mail has become fossilized, connecting mainly to people who are "hard-core" fans, and it has failed to draw in a younger audience.

The growing media in Canada, in terms of connecting with a younger audience, are Snapchat, Buzzfeed and CBC Comedy. Snapchat doesn't need much in the way of marketing to seduce the youth audience, but Buzzfeed and CBC Comedy have been sold to the younger demographic with aplomb. The Buzzfeed's "Here's some Canadian snacks we put on a chart" campaign took fire and became something like a social movement. It was inclusive and cleverly constructed to give Buzzfeed a cool factor, a quality the Globe and Mail now lacks. CBC Comedy also sells itself as inclusive—if the Beaverton is too dang edgy for you, you'll be at home at CBC Comedy. Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail has the feel and vibe of obscurantism and exclusivity. The rejection of John Doyle's column, because of his youth, looks and attire, only proves this.

Further, the Globe and Mail has been oversold as an aspect of patriotism. The Conservative government of Stephen Harper attached itself to the Globe and Mail as a way of presenting itself as benign and in touch with so-called "ordinary" Canadians. And the Globe went along with this.

The upshot is the younger demographic associating the Globe and Mail with old age, conservatism and the past. The fact that the newspaper biz remains violent, sometimes brutally so, and that the the Globe has failed to make its columns transcend the ugliness, only adds to the youth demographic's estrangement from print media.

There is, of course, much to admire in the Globe and Mail. The newspaper won all the National Newspaper Awards with investigative skill and tenacity, not brute columns. Or so I gather. The last time I read the newspaper, it was about Brexit. It was an utter pleasure to read Mark MacKinnon—the delight he took in using evidence and experts' interviews to write his story, using panache instead of amplitude. But there aren't enough MacKinnons to save the Globe and Mail from itself.

On another recent evening, at the end of a thrilling match at the Euro 2016 soccer tournament, I scanned Twitter to see what friends were saying so I could write a conclusion to my hastily put-together VICE column. One friend, a woman in her 30s who is an avid media fan, wrote this: "Briefly flipped my newspaper page but then realized life is worth living." A devastating comment, and instructive as a quote that is entirely meaningless but sounds pretty good to end on. There's more to media in Canada than the Globe and Mail, and the Globe is fading away as the media that matters. John Doyle won't stop the rot.

Follow Josh Visser on Twitter.

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