Category Archives: Slow News Day

Andy Riga explores trainspotters

AMT train

Newly-appointed transportation reporter Andy Riga has a feature story in today’s paper about local trainspotters, complete with an audio slideshow from photographer John Kenney. The picture with the story is of Alex Tipaldos, aka KellerGraham, a transit photo nut and Friend of Fagstein.

Bastard copied my story idea His story complements a short one I did last year about bus fans who rent older transit buses and take pictures of them.

Both groups use the montrain.ca website (disclosure: run by a friend of mine) to organize their activities. The bus group, by the way, is organizing a pair of special bus charters for the first weekend of May.

Wikimocracifying Quebec

Saturday’s Gazette has a feature piece from civic affairs reporter Linda Gyulai on Julie Graff and her Wiki Démocratie party (which, despite its name and look, uses a website that is not a wiki). She wants to become mayor of Quebec City so she can, among other things, use its employees’ pension plan to buy an NHL team and bring it there.

(The story is illustrated in the paper with a photo from Francis Vachon. He has another version of the profile shot on his blog.)

Le Devoir explores Wikipédia

Le Devoir has a whole special today on Wikipedia (I’m not quite sure why). Half of it is subscriber-blocked, but the main story is free. Seems they’ve found some errors in Wikipedia articles about Quebec history.

The article repeats the same tired refrain of the mainstream media: Wikipedia can’t be trusted because we found all these errors.

It ignores the fact that Wikipedia has never said it should be trusted. It doesn’t want to be trusted. It asks people – pleads with them – to check every fact in every article (and correct/cite those that are wrong). It is not designed to be a source of information, it is designed to be a summary of information with clear citations.

And, of course, Wikipedia would never have achieved all this popularity if it wasn’t immensely useful as a resource in the first place.

The problem isn’t Wikipedia, it’s that people have been taught to believe everything they read without question. You could argue that this isn’t a proper way to setup an encyclopedia, and if so you’re welcome to use all the other failed Wikipedia-you-can-trust experiments out there.

UPDATE: More from Martin Lessard.

$662.50 for cops to tell you who they tasered

Every year, the Canadian Newspaper Association coordinates a “freedom of information audit” by getting its members to anonymously issue standard freedom-of-information requests to local government agencies and report the results.

Journalists employ FOI requests on a regular basis (and usually slap an “EXCLUSIVE” label on whatever juicy stuff the government agency has helpfully compiled for them). The difference here is that the audit’s test pretend to be from average citizens, who may be less (or more) likely to get information from the government in line with the law.

The fourth annual audit, which was featured in an article in The Gazette on Saturday and the Journal on Sunday, focuses, naturally, on all the ones that caused problems instead of the ones that were answered quickly and painlessly. Among the main highlights is the CBC’s refusal to give information on the salaries of its  top employees.

The audit ranks individual cities, provinces and federal institutions. The City of Saskatoon and the Province of Saskatchewan had the highest marks, while the lowest, an F, went to Quebec City. Montreal and Quebec were in the middle.

The Gazette describes Montreal’s performance as mediocre, with none of the requests being released in full without fee. Two of them the City said there were no records to offer. One of them was denied in full. The remaining two cases (one for the city and the other Montreal Police) requested fees for the information. The police wanted $662.50 to compile reports of incidents involving Tasers.

No Pants Day and the observer effect

Evil media vampires plot to suck out the fun

Evil media vampires plot to suck out the fun

The Heisenberg uncertainty principle, according to Wikipedia (and the article sounds nerdy enough to be true) is a theory about observation in quantum physics that says you can know the position or momentum of a particle, but not both (it’s an argument used against Star Trek’s molecular transporter device, which the show’s writers conveniently solved with the creation of a mythical Heisenberg compensator). It’s a principle often confused by idiots like myself with the observer effect, in which observing an event alters it. For humans, psychologists call this “reactivity

Today, as I walked to St. Louis Square to participate in Montreal’s first No Pants metro ride, I noticed an abnormally large number of television cameras and professional photographers gathered behind a hilariously small fence. They’d been banished from the group by its leader.

This event, which was supposed to catch metro riders off-guard, got a bit too much media attention in advance. My post begat some others (including one from Dominic Arpin) and culminated in an article in La Presse the morning of the event. From there, it seems to have made every assignment editor’s desk and with nothing else going on today, they decided it would make a great photo op.

Of course, if any of the journalists had familiarized themselves with Improv Everywhere or had bothered to talk to the organizers in advance (only The Gazette and La Presse made any effort to do so), they’d have learned pretty quickly that a giant television camera and journalists with notepads would ruin the entire event.

No Pants metro ride participants

No Pants metro ride participants

Complicating matters was the fact that, despite the attention it got, there were only about a dozen people who showed up to participate. More people came to observe the event than take part in it.

After waiting for stragglers and discussing it with some of the people gathered, organizer Robin Friedman yelled “It’s cancelled!” and everyone went their separate ways.

Later, she told me she was really pissed about the media presence (myself excepted), and slightly less so by the fact that when Facebook says someone’s going to be there, it’s anyone’s guess if that’s actually true.

So don’t expect any big articles or front-page photos about the event in Sunday’s paper. Instead, you’ll read an article next Saturday in the Gazette about how the media ruined Montreal’s participation in a global day of fun.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to publicize an event like this to get enough participants but not so much that the news people get wind of it and blow everyone’s cover. A solution to that problem is being thought out, hopefully in time for Montreal’s Second Annual No Pants Subway Ride.

Elsewhere

The event in Toronto seems to have gone off well. The Sun has a story with video (though I couldn’t make it play) and there’s already a video on YouTube as well.

Other regional reports can be found at Improv Everywhere along with the reports from New York.

Bye-Bye won’t go away

Quebec has two New Year’s traditions: one is watching Radio-Canada’s Bye-Bye variety show. The other is spending an entire fucking week MONTH talking about it in the press.

It’s gotten so bad the anglo media is starting to take notice, with belated articles in the National Post and Globe and Mail. Naturally, the Journal has an article talking about how there’s articles in the anglo media about this now.

Now that this is officially a thing, the media is putting together stories about the stories:

This doesn’t even include all the stuff that was written about it before it aired.

And this is just the beginning folks. Some actual news better break to push this off the front page or Jean Charest is going to have to create a commission on this.

UPDATE (Jan. 9): Véro and Louis’s mea-culpa-but-not-really has ensured at least a few more days of this.

Le Devoir says goodbye to its printing plant

Le Devoir has changed printing plants, from a Quebecor-owned plant in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu to two other plants also owned by Quebecor Media.

One, Imprimerie Mirabel, prints the Journal de Montréal, Ottawa Sun and some Quebecor-owned weeklies, and will print Le Devoir for the western part of Quebec, including Montreal. The other is the Journal de Québec, which will print Le Devoir for the eastern part of Quebec.

Rather than just note the change or have an editor’s note with marketingese about how excited they are with all the changes, the paper wrote a day-night-in-the-life piece as a thank you to its former plant. (via J-Source)

The biggest change that readers will notice with the change is that the early edition (distributed outside Montreal) has a later deadline – 10:45pm instead of 8:50pm. That puts it in line with other daily papers, including The Gazette, and will make a huge difference for things like election results. Later deadlines for papers distributed in the city are unchanged.

Besides being owned by a competitor, the two printing plants have both been in the news in the past year. Imprimerie Mirabel was the centre of a dispute between former corporate siblings Quebecor Media Inc. and Quebecor World Inc. (the latter a commercial printer which is under bankruptcy protection). QMI thought it had a deal on shared use of Imprimerie Mirabel, but QWI never signed the deal and bought its own press. QMI sued and lost.

The Journal de Québec printing plant, of course, went on strike to join locked-out editorial workers on the picket lines.

Snow

This is what it’s come to folks: Snow is the No. 1 story in this city in 2008.

Now, it would be easy to blame the media for over-hyping this issue, pushing snow as news during a season when very little other news happens.

Instead, I blame you.

You who talk about nothing but the weather, who whine incessantly about how there has been snow on your street for a whole five minutes and the city hasn’t done anything about it yet. You who want your street cleared ASAP but are too lazy to move your car out of the way first. You who made the Weather Network one of the few networks not to face a significant downturn this year. You who are so disconnected from society that the weather is the only conversation material you have available in half your conversations.

It’s snow. Get over it.

Fagstein’s 2009 suggestions

The fine folks at Hour asked me to provide some “suggestions” for The Man various powers-that-be for 2009, which would then be used as free holiday filler quoted in an article to come out on Christmas Day.

The piece, which puts me the bottom with the rif-raff and interest group leaders, includes pretty well verbatim what I sent them.

Specifically, that:

  • Gérald Tremblay and Benoît Labonté think for a few more seconds before their next project to blatantly pander to voters before next December’s election
  • STM provide real-time updates online about metro service disruptions
  • Montreal police and other emergency services post their breaking news about car accidents, fires and murders online so that curious Montrealers can check for themselves what’s going on instead of having to wait for one of the media outlets to take dictation from the PR guy
  • more Montrealers start up niche blogs about their communities and their areas of expertise
  • TQS and Global TV, who are third in the franco and anglo TV ratings for their local newscasts, realize that slashing budgets isn’t the only answer and start experimenting by covering the news in some unique way
  • 940 Hits die a slow, painful death for having replaced 940 News with crap
  • Montreal music radio stations stop desperately clinging to the lowest common denominator and take a chance by allowing their DJs some freedom in choosing what goes on the air
  • Montreal newspapers, radio and TV stations stop giving lip service to the Internet and put some real focus online – the Journal [de Montréal] could start by dealing with its union issues that are preventing it from launching a real website
  • local TV stations start creating local programming that goes beyond the evening newscast that gives us the weather, fatal car accidents and fluff every day
  • Montrealers stop complaining about the snow and take public transit if they’re so annoyed at having to shovel out and move their cars all the time
  • Amir Khadir brings hard work and new ideas to the National Assembly instead of spending his time as an MNA whining about how the government isn’t helping poor people enough
  • the next major public transit expansion project take fewer than 20 years to plan and execute.

Any you’d like to add?

Gazette reporters look back

As part of its year-end filler special series, The Gazette is having its reporters look back on the 10 biggest stories of 2008, with an emphasis on behind-the-scenes reporter-as-the-story making-of stuff. Self-important, sure, but it’s the kind of stuff journalists themselves crave.

Among the stories is municipal affairs reporter Linda Gyulai’s reports on the Société d’habitation de Montréal and the Société d’habitation et de développement de Montréal, which merged and went private and had all sorts of shaky land deals and stuff. Dry as all hell, but important backbreaking work. As with many such stories, this one started with prompting from an anonymous source.

Premier’s Job 1: Tree naming

For any of you who thought we here in the True North Sane and Free were too good for the “War on Christmas” and other nonsense, Jean Charest would like to set you straight.

UPDATE: CTV also wasted time on this non-story. It’s funny how pundits can argue at the same time that nobody cares what it’s called and that it must be called Christmas because that’s our tradition.