Think Realtors Are Destroying Real Estate? Ask a Journalist How It Feels to Ruin Journalism.

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by Kolby Solinsky

Editor, White Cover Magazine

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“How realtors are killing their own industry…”

That’s how Canadian Business briefly introduced reporter James Cowan’s piece on March 2. It’s titled “Real Talk About Real Estate”, and it criticizes the Toronto Real Estate Board for patting themselves on the back and applauding their own inefficiency.

Cowan’s not wrong. Canadian real estate markets from Vancouver to the Nation’s Economic Capital and further past have been denying that dangerous thing called a bubble for some time. It’s their job to, because their job isn’t just to allow others to sell and buy homes, but it’s also to keep confidence at a level that will encourage positive enthusiasm.

My first cover story for almost anything was for a now-defunct publication in Surrey, B.C. called the Business Examiner, and my 3,000 words summed up what was (at the time) the growing problem of Consumer Confidence, or a lack thereof. Business was booming in B.C., but there was this sinking feeling that some kind of economic earthquake was about to hit.

I talked to a few economists who acknowledged the problem. I talked to one developer, though, who cursed me out for the better part of an hour, and he said he blamed the media (like me) for making the problem worse. It was the ultimate example of bullet dodging straight from the University of Brian Burke. It’s never your fault or your problem if you can throw the issue onto a 20-year-old aspiring journalist and then finger him for being all negative.

You’ve heard these people. They’re the ones who say the news is too sad and everyone has a right to their own religious beliefs. Cooks.

Anyway, this article went in the Business Examiner in August, 2008. A month later, the world’s finances imploded and the Examiner was out of business.

Media-created or not, my confidence certainly dipped, and it wasn’t because of my writing.

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The real estate bubble isn’t much unlike this little thing that print and TV journalists all across the country have been battling without hope for close to a decade now: the Internet.

Instead of adopting technology and learning to take advantage of emerging markets, journalists have decided to go the archaic route. The New York Times was the focus of a 2010 documentary called Page One, which basically showed the Times as the greatest people in the world who were being stomped out by this terrible, evil digital goliath. One of the movie’s early scenes shows Times media reporter David Carr shut up a few punks from VICE because they kind of made fun of the Times for missing the boat on the latest struggle in Liberia. Carr uses a couple f-bombs and derides the (online) magazine for having a distribution partnership with CNN. It all looks like the Times is the victim, although this would be perhaps the first time in the history of America’s printed word that the Times could actually claim such a thing.

It’s 2013, and we now know that VICE is awesome and that they were really onto something. We also know that the Internet was taking it in the chops from righteous print journalists for years, and they still are. Journalism is an industry made up of full-of-themselves stenographers who get off on the idea that they’re changing the world simply because they were there on any given day in any given location to write the exact same Goddamn thing that every other journalist in the country has just written.

Look no further than the Boston Bombing or Jason Collins’s decision to be the first openly gay athlete in a major North American (team) sport.

You really couldn’t say anything about anything besides the obvious latest breaking news flash, but everyone took their turn. By the end of that torturous week in Massachusetts, nearly every wannabe writer on the continent (not including Mexico) had posted some love poem to Boston. It was all the same. They were all the same.

For years, journalists and the media companies that owned them neglected the idea that the Internet might one day take them down.

In fact, all the failing ones are still neglecting it.

They’re still disrespecting it.

They’re turning their back on something that will only run them over without noticing the blood mark on its tires.

You can’t flip open any print newspaper or turn on any “serious” news channel without hearing some disturbing stat line about the dwindling average salary or the lack of available openings of/for traditional journalists in this, or any, country. And yet, Mashable is hiring. BuzzFeed is hiring. Gawker is hiring. The Huffington Post and AOL are always hiring.

There are jobs and there are opportunities, but everyone’s looking in the wrong places because everyone’s still thinking the same way they thought in 2003.

Last year, the Globe and Mail published an article about the HuffPo Canada’s new digs in Toronto. The piece was titled, “Is the Huffington Post the Future of Journalism?” It was really about whether the Internet was the future of journalism, and the title was insulting to our intelligence.

  1. The Globe missed the fact that online journalism is the present, not the future.
  2. If the Globe thinks the HuffPo is still the only powerful digital media company in the world doing the job they think they’re doing, then apparently Canada’s best daily print paper is unaware of the market leaders in their own market.

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Canadian realtors are avoiding the real estate bubble because they’re embarrassed to admit that their jobs and their livelihoods are in danger.

Journalists have already done this dance, and they’ve already lost.