Tagged: media

Deep thoughts on Postmedia and the long, slow death of print media

So over the last 24hrs there have been 3…no, wait, 4 stories that caught my eye. The first is Rogers media is overhauling it’s magazine business, which means amongst other thing that publications such as Macleans go from being weekly to monthly.

The second is that Postmedia owned 24hrs Vancouver will close it’s Vancouver office, laying off local reporters, and keep printing “without original reporting from 24 hrs reporters and editors. Instead, it will re-circulate other Postmedia content printed in local papers like The Vancouver Sun and The Province.”

Speaking of The Province, this pterodactyl scream op-ed by editorial page editor Gordon “Gordzilla” Clark, is the third item that caught my eye. Now one could spend some time dissecting the details of this column, such as the insinuation that an op-ed by the CTF’s Jordan Bateman published in his newspaper about the City of Vancouver’s plan – in an effort to address climate change – to be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2050 influenced a decision by the B.C. Utilities Commission to deny an application for a “district energy system” by a financial backer of Vision Vancouver (how? why? The Commission cites concerns about a monopoly rather than the source of the power, etc). But really it’s about the big picture in all this. Which brings us to story four:

Earth is on track to sail past the two degree Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) threshold for dangerous global warming by 2050, seven of the world’s top climate scientists warned Thursday.

A team of top scientists is telling world leaders to stop congratulating themselves on the Paris agreement to fight climate change because if more isn’t done, global temperatures will likely hit dangerous warming levels in about 35 years.

Six scientists who were leaders in past international climate conferences joined with the Universal Ecological Fund in Argentina to release a brief report Thursday, saying that if even more cuts in heat-trapping gases aren’t agreed upon soon, the world will warm by another 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) by around 2050.

Now I can’t help but reflect on how this is all related. Sure, the loss of revenue from classified ads as such things moved to Craigslist has never been replaced digitally. And you can overstate the influence of editorial direction of a particular publication. But it seems clear that the strategy of The Province in particular and Postmedia in general is to staunch the bleeding by appealing to the concerns of the past rather than addressing the concerns of the future. I’m sure there are good financial reasons behind this but it strikes me as an attempt at prolonging one’s death through clickbait-ey rage inducers rather than preventing it altogether through renewal and reinvention.

But hey, in a world full of angry old white men screeds what’s one more?

Creditorial

I have to cop to being completely naive and mystified how those anonymously-penned editorials get made, and what standard they’re supposed to meet in terms of accuracy & ethics. According to Allen Garr’s Dec. 4th column in the Vancouver Courier regarding what we now know was a Harvey Enchin penned editorial in the Vancouver Sun, the standard is quite low.

It’s not really that the fundamental premise of the editorial was factually incorrect (it was Superintendent Cardwell, not Patti Bacchus, who determined Chevron’s Fuel Your School program did not meet the VSB’s corporate donor policy). Though there is that.

It’s not really that, unbeknownst to the reader, the then anonymous writer is the spouse of the communications director for a political party then engaged in a bitter election campaign against one of the subjects of the editorial and this link was not disclosed in the editorial. Though there is that.

It’s not really that the Vancouver Sun is part of the Postmedia chain, which had or has a commercial arrangement with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers – of which Chevron is a member – to “leverage all means editorially, technically and creatively” to further the “critical conversation” on the industry. Though there is that.

It’s not really that the Chevron Fuel for School program, as we discovered in a subsequent post-election Pete McMartin article, works in the way Patti Bacchus said it does. Though there is that.

It’s not really that Enchin, unlike McMartin, apparently didn’t pick up the phone to call Chevron to confirm the details of Fuel Your School. Though there is that.

It’s not really that Enchin engaged his own children to photograph a poster to support his case against Bacchus. Though there is that.

It’s not really that this poster was not, according to Garr, in the place Enchin said it was. Though there is that.

It’s that in his effort to call Patti Bacchus a hypocrite he questioned the professionalism of Francois Clark, the teacher of his own children. In his own word, the mere existence of this poster, which Enchin admits he has not seen, has this effect:

No one should be deluded into thinking this has anything to do with education. There is no serious study of science, no discussion of economic benefits, no attempt to address the engineering challenges related to production and shipment of oil, no consideration of the people and communities that depend on resource industries for survival.

Claims that was not his intent is simply an attempt to have your cake and eat it too. Francois Clark’s name did not have to be used to make whatever point, inaccurate as it turned out to be, Enchin wanted.

I think all the above is actually quite appalling. But, as mentioned, I’m naive and don’t really understand how newspapers work.

The [34th] Fall of the House of Ezra

Something inexplicable has happened. Mr. Ezra “Freedom of Speech” Levant has decided to be free of my speech. On Twitter.

He’s blocked me.

Which is quite odd, as he feels seemingly so passionately about the free exchange of ideas, no matter how morally repugnant they might be.

Now the last thing I tweeted about Ezra Levant was this:

Which was a musing to myself prompted after viewing this video…

…in which Mr. Levant speculates – based on name alone – a repeat offender’s ethnicity.

“Now I didn’t see it in the newspapers, but the name Chauncey Elijah Mustard sounds aboriginal to me”

He then goes on about how the justice system “is soft” on aboriginal people all the while in the background loops video of dark-skinned people being arrested. For reference, a photo of the accused can be found at the Winnipeg Sun.

But then I’ve tweeted to Ezra for years and it hasn’t bothered him before. So why the need to shut out critics now? Now, it’s true he might be under a bit of stress these days. But he’s been through lawsuits before. Lots of lawsuits.

Reader mail: On the state of journalism

A friend and former reporter from Scotland writes:

Right. I’ve read the post. So how do I put this…

You’re right. And you’re wrong.

Right, inasmuch as the shenanigans highlighted are a sad and troubling sign of the decline of the journalism professionalism.

Wrong, inasmuch as the role of “editor” is no longer one synonymous – or requiring – extensive, practical journalism experience. And it hasn’t been for 30 years or so.

As sheer commercialism has come to dominate the newspaper industry, so has the role of editor become one more attuned to that of departmental manager in a large industrial organisation. He need not necessarily have a nose for news or be capable of noticing the subtle swings in his readership’s attitudes so long as he can deliver a “product” to a budget.

Too, I’ve got to say, having this Mr Mihlar cruise from a thinktank into a media role and then into a public policy position is substantively no different from newer generations of politicians graduating from think tanks to public positions and then to cosy board appointments. Both types of career can be subject to accusations of nest-padding or shilling. How often do we bait our political masters over their lack of “real life” experience, of having experienced only the world within a bubble of unreality?

I was touched to read “The public need investigative reporters, not court stenographers or industry spokespeople.” You could have had this in the era of that redoubtable Canadian press baron, Lord Thomson. But in the day of Murdoch? Not so much.

Seriously, for an insight into the general lie of the media land today, have a gander at “Flat Earth News”.  Written from a UK media perspective, it nevertheless applies across the board  in those places where a “free” press is supposed to prevail. Read it, weep, and wonder no more why I turned my (principled?) back on the field years ago.

Mr Mihlar’s progress is merely a symptom of a deeper disease. It’s that malady that should be being railed against. But it’s difficult to do (or, at least difficult to do credibly) because it means recognising that the media audience/market has changed, that readers no longer clamour for news and that we ourselves bear responsibility for this decline from the ideal. The mover-and-shaker classes (the career politicos, big business etc) have recognised that, by and large, people just don’t give a sh!t any more. It’s said we get the politicians we deserve. Same goes for our media.

Perhaps I’m idealistic or naive or both but I tend to think the decline in profitability of newspapers is in part due to this de-highlighting of their traditional role outlined above. Despite the widely held belief “the people” want Entertainment Weekly rather than hard news I think it’s more a case the people want Entertainment Weekly with their hard news. The success of The Guardian speaks to that, I think.

But The Scot is wise and almost always right.

The company you keep, or Blinded by The Sun

Ezra laments

Meanwhile down south NRA President Wayne Lapierre breaks radio silence to announce a bold new program to help train armed volunteers to guard schools – The NRA School Shield. And he did so in an extremely calm, rational manner that is sure to win over the populace to this counter-intuitive idea protecting our children from gun violence by injecting more guns into the equation.

My suggestion to Ezra for his next episode of The Source is to urge Mr. Lapierre to bring this program north, or at least to Ezra’s school. No need to look to Mr. Lapierre for lessons on tone. You’ve already got that down pat. Note, if you want to attract a security guard who weighs more than 140 lbs, you might have to pay them more than minimum wage. Which I know goes against deeply held conservative principles on wages and school staff, but sacrifices must be made.

This is sure to boost the Sun News Network’s stellar ratings.

Bonus Ezra:

Hmmm...

Since the 1975 Brampton Centennial Secondary School massacre in Brampton, Ontario, Canada has had 26 deaths from school shootings, not including the death of the shooter.

According to the best figures I could gather, including the victims last Friday, the U.S. has had about 260 deaths as a result of school shootings, not including the death of the shooter.

Our population is 10% of theirs, so, since violent crimes are measured on a per capita basis, if we multiply our death toll by ten, we are no better than America, despite our tougher gun laws.

20 seconds of Googling later, we find [pg. 7] 433 violent deaths [homicide or suicide] of students b/w 1992 and 2009 and 826 for the same period when you include staff. Ah, says Jerry Agar, those violent deaths could be knives. Well, um, no. According to the Centers for Disease Control, firearms accounted for 65%* of violent deaths at schools between 1999-2006.

65% of 433 is 281. Already Jerry is in the wrong, but remember he’s starting at 1975 to measure deaths in Canada.

The average is 16 violent deaths of students at U.S. schools per year. Using that average we get [sadly] 561 student deaths. It’s not exact, but you get the idea.

Note, these are K-12 students. It doesn’t include deaths on college campuses.

Note too, the school at Columbine had an armed security guard.

In other words, this piece was written with all the quality and care one expects from Sun Media.

*That’s assuming 65% holds up over time – and the U.S. homicide rate has actually declined. For example, b/w 1994-1999 there were 164 deaths by firearms. Which was 74% of all deaths at U.S. schools for that time period.

Adventures in Ethics and National Post headlines

The headline: Newfoundland mother prevented from laying wreath for son at memorial by labour group

Oh my. That’s terrible! But of course there’s more to our Newfoundland mother than meets the eye. She’s a city councillor. Who just laid off city workers. Specifically, firemen. Those that respond to accidents to prevent the deaths the people had gathered that day to mourn.

And, well…

Ms. Boutcher arrived at Saturday’s event with two wreaths in tow. She laid the wreath for her son, reclaimed her spot in the crowd and waited to be called upon a second time to place the other wreath on behalf of city council.

So, you know, she actually laid the wreath for her son. And according to the rest of the article, she wasn’t prevented from laying the city council’s wreath either – the master of ceremonies just didn’t call it out.

Let’s just juxtapose that again for emphasis:

mother prevented from laying wreath for son vs. She laid the wreath for her son

Inches from one another.

Yeah, yeah, it’s the National Joke, what do you expect? This was just a blindingly obvious example of their lack of journalistic ethics.

Hat tip: Jason Lamarche

Victoria’s Little Village

Norm Farrell first brought to our attention the fact that CBC BC’s Legislative Bureau Chief  (ie. in charge of CBC’s reporting on the BC Legislature) Stephen Smart is married to BC Premier Christie Clark’s Deputy Press Secretary Rebecca Scott. A conflict of interest if ever there was one. Norm filed a complaint with CBC Omsbudsman Kirk Lapointe, and lo and behold Lapointe has conceded this needs to be addressed by the CBC. Go see Norm here and read the Ombudsman’s report here.

So…story closed, eh? Well, not quite. There’s the reaction of Smart’s fellow journalists:

and

Now Rod M. is rethinking that reaction, but Keith Baldrey’s I find very telling. The leave him alone – as if the blogosphere had unfairly gotten a scalp in Smart. No, this was a ruling by a respected Ombudsman. Stephen Smart may be an exemplary reporter – that’s not the issue. It’s one of perception and Lapointe is rightly moving to protect the reputation and integrity of the CBC. Baldrey should instinctively know this.

The Washington DC press corps is often derided as “The Village” – insular, out of touch, quick to defend their own from any charge of wrongdoing. They hang out with each other, they hang out with those they cover. Reporters become press secretaries and vice versa. It’s all very cosy and incestuous. Although I don’t think it’s as bad here in Lotusland you can certainly see that dynamic at play with this story.

Sticking up for a friend or a respected colleague is usually an admirable trait. But not always.

Kudos, Norm, for sticking up for the public’s interest.

UPDATE: Norm has a follow-up along the same lines.

UPDATE 2: Ian Reid weighs in.

UPDATE 3: For Christ’s sake, someone give Brett Mineer a job!

UPDATE 4: Ugh:

FINAL THOUGHT: Remember how we tsk tsked when we learned the reporter covering the Kremlin for Russia’s state broadcaster was married to Vladimir Putin’s press secretary? Remember when Putin hired a lobbyist of a petro company to be his Chief of Staff. Russia’s such an oligarchy!

Is the media narrative shifting?

What can one say? If you’re losing Keith Baldrey…

Ethical Oil. The City Caucus of petropolitics.

Snookered….again

#Occupyvancouver

Image by Michael Kalus via Flickr

This is a mea culpa. Today, the Vancouver Police Dept. released a warning about the possibility the local #Occupiers were potentially going to occupy several banks on November 5, for what is called “Bank Transfer Day”. In the press release the VPD refers to it as the Occupy Vancouver “Bank Transfer Day” march. Globe scribe Frances Bula picked it up on her blog, and commented:

[OccupyVancouver is] running a very large risk that their tactics will alienate many of the 99 per cent who they claim to represent. Can’t help but think this is exactly the kind of thing that will turn public opinion against them.

Taking it at face value I posted the following:

Targeting the banking sector is a step up from blocking the intersection of Georgia and Burrard, but again I wonder if this will have a deep resonance for Vancouverites – Vancouver not being much of a banking or financial centre. I also don’t know if simply having an information picket in front of a bank wouldn’t be more effective than actually occupying a bank.

Not many Canadians realize our banks were bailed out to the tune of $186 billion. That is the sort of information a picket could be very effective at conveying to the public.

#OccupyVancouver needs to tailor it’s message towards those issues Vancouverites identify as being important to them – homelessness, affordability, stagnant wages.

The underlying issues are very real. Sadly, in this observer’s opinion, #OccupyVancouver – as opposed to #Occupy[OtherCities] is really struggling to connect with a broader audience (who are very much affected by the above).

There’s a problem though. “Bank Transfer Day” is listed in the Events Page of the  #OccupyVancouver website, but it’s explicitly stated it isn’t associated with #OccupyVancouver. “Bank Transfer Day” isn’t about occupying banks. It’s about transferring your account from a bank to a credit union.

While the Bank Transfer Day movement acknowledges the enthusiasm from Occupy Wall Street, the Bank Transfer Day movement was neither inspired by, derived from nor organized by the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the Bank Transfer Day movement does not endorse any activities conducted by Occupy Wall Street.

This is the second time I’ve been snookered, the first being when #OccupyVancouver was blamed for disrupting a civic debate – when it was in fact the action of a fringe mayoralty candidate.

I won’t be snookered a third time.

Things that make you go hmmm…Koch Bros edition

Oh my! It would seem I’ve recently received a visit from someone working for the infamous billionaires, the Koch Brothers – financial backers of a large array of extreme right-wing causes and astroturf. Why, they were in the news just yesterday, for very naughty things.

So what, you say. They have a right to use the internet and if they stumble in here, well, it’s not statistically impossible.

However, my WordPress.com stats tell me they came, not via Google or Yahoo or Bing, but via us.cisionpoint.com. What’s that? Why it’s a media and social media monitoring service. If your company is mentioned in the press or on the internet, Cisionpoint will help you find it and assess it. Which is probably a good business practice these days.

However however, the story they came to, directly, isn’t about the Koch Brothers. The Kochs aren’t mentioned at all.

It’s about the Fraser Institute.

Why is somebody at Koch Industries monitoring media and social media mentions of The Fraser Institute?

Hmmm? (asked rhetorically)