Journalists of Tomorrow: Amanda Henderson Jones

Every year, I speak to winners of Concordia’s journalism school awards as they’re presented at the Montreal Gazette offices. Today, this year’s winner of the Enn Raudsepp award, Amanda Henderson Jones.

Amanda Henderson Jones

I know what you’re thinking. She looks like her name is Amanda Jones and she’s a sorority girl who gives beauty tips on her own YouTube channel. And … okay, that’s true, BUT she also has a degree in criminology and is planning to go to law school.

The 22-year-old from Barrie (actually Midhurst, Ont., a suburb just north of it), Jones studied criminology and sociology at Western University (you know, that geographically-challenged university that used to be called the University of Western Ontario even though it’s not in western Ontario).

She’s not trying to be pretentious with the triple name, but just try Googling “Amanda Jones” and there’s a sea of them, from “America’s favorite dog photographer” to a 19th-century inventor to Miss USA 1973 to a Kansas insurance agent to a Scottish lawyer to a San Francisco writer/photographer to an actress to a different actress to a New Zealand public health researcher to a Texas painter to a Seattle medical educator to a Missouri mom of a missing girl to a British racing cyclist to a University of Waterloo PhD candidate to a Rolling Stones song (and a Lea Thompson character from an 80s movie it was used in). And that’s just a couple of pages of Google results. I could go on for a while here.

“To not be one of the million Amanda Joneses, all my work I’ve gone under Amanda Henderson Jones,” the Amanda Jones I talked to said. “It’s my mom’s maiden name.”

What got you into journalism?

I always liked writing. When I was in high school I took a journalism course, honestly because my debate coach was the teacher and you’re supposed to be doing debate work during the course, but I ended up really loving it. She gave me a lot of freedom when it came to the type of work I was doing — pure journalism but a lot of parody writing and comedic writing and things that I loved.

So I ended up applying to Carleton journalism on a whim; it was the school I wanted to go to the most in my undergrad. I got in with a very big scholarship and my father suggested I go to business school instead. So I went to business school! I went to Western, I was originally in the Ivey Business School. It was a program that you were supposed to start your third year and when it came to the third year I was like ‘I don’t want to do this.’

To backtrack a little bit, after doing economics, accounting, all numbers, I was missing a creative outlet. So at the end of first year I decided to apply for Her Campus [a website for “for the empowered college woman”], the Western chapter, where I started as just a general writer. I really, really loved it. So that year, my second year, I became a chapter adviser for Her Campus. which is where you oversee seven chapters and advise them on writing and day-to-day and sort of be their connection between Her Campus chapter and national, and at the end of the year I was elected editor in chief for their chapter. And then around the same time I had been following this blog called Total Sorority Move since I was in high school, writing all these parodies. I decided, again on a whim, I always loved this site, let’s apply for a job. I ended up getting the job and was a staff writer for two years at TSM, where I did a lot of comedic writing, which is — I mean, I love journalism, but my true love is comedic writing and being funny and different.

Not to continue to say my CV, but around the same time I left the Western chapter and moved to the national chapter of Her Campus, where I was a style and beauty writer as well as a national intern, and it sort of got to the point in my undergrad — because my undergrad is in criminology and sociology — it really got to the point that just 90% of my time was journalism. So I decided to apply to Concordia. This program seemed amazing, and I’ve put so many years into journalism and wanted to study journalism for such a long time that [I thought] I should just do it. And so that’s kind of what made me do it, was just years of all these different types of writing that I was like I should really give it a shot and if I don’t study it now, when am I gonna study it?

What kind of journalism do you see yourself doing?

So I am hoping to go to law school after this, and ideally I would like to be doing some sort of legal reporting, that feeds my major in criminology into it, which really interests me. Now I basically just work all day and then go home and watch crime shows, so if I could just merge the two that would be cool.

Where did the interest in criminology come from?

I wish I knew. I really wish I knew. I’m absolutely fascinated by it. I’m always afraid I’m going to scare people off when they enter my apartment because I just have a bookshelf full of books on serial killers and crime, and my Netflix history knows me very well, I don’t think it suggests a single thing that isn’t murder. My parents are worried about me (laughs). It’s just a real interest of mine and I’m really glad I got to study it in university.

What medium would you see yourself working in?

Definitely writing. As much as I love doing the radio, the broadcast, I love just putting pen to paper.

Do you see yourself doing stories on a daily basis or more magazine writing?

I don’t really know. I think beat reporting interests me when I’m young, but I don’t know if I’d want to carry that on when I’m 40, so I think that whatever happens happens. I’d obviously love to do bigger investigative pieces. I took a course on the wrongfully convicted and taught a seminar on it and that really interests me, the fact that journalism can play such a big part in the wrongfully convicted and helping [innocent] people get off and get out of jail where they shouldn’t be. We’ll see what happens.

How do you see the future of journalism?

That is genuinely scary. With Donald Trump and fake news in one compartment, and bloggers and companies trying to abuse bloggers and not pay people for writing. I mean, the number of times I’ve gotten emails being like ‘We’d love you to do this big job,’ and I talk back and forth about what this job would entail and 10-20 emails down the chain they go ‘Well this is all for free but this will look really good on your resume.’ Well, my resume is actually very good, thank you. You’re not really doing me any favours by asking me to relocate to a new city and start a whole branch for you completely for free.

So I think the world of journalism is really shifting, I think that we need to, as journalists, really assert ourselves and make sure that we let the world know that hey, our profession is very valid and should be valuable, should be paid, and respected, because we all go to school for this, we all put in the all-nighters for this and we’re all very passionate about this and we’re not all just bloggers sitting at home on the computer [Editor’s note: Maybe I should be transcribing this at work instead of on my couch]. We should be respected.

Considering the changing business model of the industry, how optimistic are you of journalism’s future?

I am optimistic. I did get a paying journalism job when I was 19. I think if you find your niche and you find people who value your niche that can never really be replaced.

How can people follow your work?

I am on Instagram, at @amanda_h_jones. If you just Google “Amanda Henderson Jones” everything should come up.

Amanda Henderson Jones is among many students strongly encouraged to apply for the Montreal Gazette summer internship. The deadline is 5pm on Nov. 2.

Journalists of Tomorrow: Jon Milton

Every year, I speak to winners of Concordia’s journalism school awards as they’re presented at the Montreal Gazette offices. Today, this year’s winner of the Mike King scholarship, Jon Milton.

Jon Milton, a born-and-bred Montrealer, is a Concordia undergraduate, with a double major in journalism and the School of Community and Public Affairs.

He isn’t pictured here at his request, because he’s done some reporting on some extremist groups (the type that love to make people’s lives hell by releasing personal information about them) and so he likes to keep a low profile. You can read the latest of those stories here. He also collaborated on a Montreal Gazette investigation into neo-Nazis.

What got you into journalism?

After I left high school I wasn’t planning on going back to school. So I worked for a couple of years at call centres and things like that. I guess the short version is that I wanted to go back to school for different reasons because I didn’t want to keep doing that for the rest of my life.

One of the big kickoffs for me was the student movement in 2012. It was just this period that changed the way I looked at the world. I had not been somebody that was interested in politics beforehand, and all of a sudden I saw all these people in the streets who were working together to change the world. So that was a politicizing moment for myself, and brought me back into school, and before I knew it I wanted to become a journalist.

I was trying to become involved in social movements and finding that maybe organizing itself wasn’t for me, it wasn’t something I was particularly great at. But I did realize that I had the talent for writing. So I asked myself what my skillset is and what I can contribute to changing the world around me, to building toward a world that’s more fair for everybody, and I think journalism is a field that does that every day.

What kind of journalism would you like to do?

A lot of what I am doing, which is journalism that reports on social movements, on people that are working to lift up marginalized people, providing a platform so that voices that are typically ignored can have a say, and demystifying the way the world functions so that people understand where they can act and have an impact. That’s one of the major tasks of journalism, to hold powerful institutions’ feet to the fire and lift up voices that are traditionally denied a platform.

Do you see yourself doing more writing or broadcast?

I’ve dabbled in video, I’ve done a little bit of video freelancing, but I’m primarily a writer.

Are there other subjects that interest you that you’d see yourself writing about?

I kind of think everything is political. So when I say political I don’t just necessarily mean political parties, what’s going on in parliament — that type of thing doesn’t actually interest me that much. What I think does interest me is the things people are doing on the ground that are trying to affect the direction that the world around them is taking. That can be everything from people organizing their workplaces, to people who are operating in more clearly defined social movements, to people who are doing anti-poverty work, people who are helping to revive indigenous cultural practices. All of these things, despite being very dissimilar, all (are) political because they’re all about building up people’s capacity to act who are traditionally denied that capacity.

How do you see the future of journalism? How worried are you about the prospect of having a career in this field?

I got into journalism through social movements, so I always was preparing myself that the work I’m going to be doing, I’m never going to be rich off of it. So it’s nice when something like this happens where I get some actual recognition off of it, but I’m also not under any illusion that I’m going to live in a mansion for the rest of my life. I’d rather work in a way that’s principled and fits with the non-monetary goals that I have for what I’d like to do with my life, rather than just doing whatever I can to get myself a job and not feeling the passion that I feel about the field.

Where can people follow you?

I’m on Twitter, at @514jon. I post my articles on there when they come out and occasionally will post about current events.

Milton is among many students strongly encouraged to apply for the Montreal Gazette summer internship. The deadline is 5pm on Nov. 2.

Journalists of Tomorrow: Michael Boriero

Every year, I speak to winners of Concordia’s journalism school awards as they’re presented at the Montreal Gazette offices. Today, one of the winners of the Enn Raudsepp bursary in 2016, Michael Boriero.

Michael Boriero

I’ve never met Michael Boriero. And he feels really bad about it.

You see, in 2016, when the Montreal Gazette hosted an awards night for Concordia Journalism students, and invited the entire graduate diploma class to attend, Boriero was among some students to skip it.

“I chose to work on a school assignment instead,” he tells me now by email. “Not worth it in hindsight!”

So when his name was called out as the winner of the Enn Raudsepp award, named for (and presented by) the former journalism department chair, there was an awkward oh-he-didn’t-show-up moment. His classmates vowed to ensure he didn’t live it down.

But I won’t hold it against him, except for the public embarrassment of publishing the above paragraphs on the internet. I got his contact info from professor Linda Kay and sent him some questions. (The photo is supplied, since I didn’t get the chance to take his picture either.)

The 27-year-old from Kirkland has a B.A. in history from Concordia, and has worked as a freelance journalist for various publications including the Suburban and WatchMojo. After earning his degree in 2014, he spent a year in Hangzhou, China, teaching English as a second language. Then he came back and entered the journalism diploma program.

Why did you decide to study journalism?

While I was living abroad I knew I wanted to go back to school. I started writing a blog, it was supposed to be weekly but it turned into a monthly thing as I got busier. But I realized that I enjoyed sharing my experiences and telling stories about the students, teachers and people I met while living in China. It wasn’t always easy being away from my friends and family but writing became an outlet for me to unwind and understand what was happening around me. A few months into my stay, my girlfriend sent me a link to the Concordia journalism graduate diploma and I jumped on it as soon as I got back to Montreal.

What does journalism mean to you?

I just think journalism keeps people honest, and curious about the world, or city that they live in, by exposing them to unique stories, people, organizations, etc., that they may have never heard about. But at the same time, through those stories, journalism also opens our eyes to issues of corruption, natural disasters, war zones, and political movements.

What kind of journalism would you like to do?

Since graduation, I’ve mainly done online and print, but I really miss the video and radio aspect of this job. I’ve covered a lot of sports, some arts, politics and general news. I’m not really picky, I like to learn about new and different things, meet new people and share stories around the city. I’ve wanted to start podcasting but I have yet to take the plunge, maybe something revolving around sports, politics and culture.

What other interests do you have that you think you can apply to a career in journalism or a related field?

I like to read just about anything. Recently, I got really into comic books and graphic novels. I find it’s a great medium to learn about scripting and narrative. I’ve also written scripts for a YouTube channel and that has helped me understand the importance of outlining your story before starting to write.

How do you see the future of journalism?

I know the future of journalism has many within the industry worried, but I’m sort of excited to see where it goes. Yes, it feels like journalists are being laid off every other week, and that scares me a bit, but at the same time new opportunities are popping up. As journalists, we’ll probably need to fight harder to tell our stories and hold people accountable. But with mediums like podcasting and The Athletic gaining popularity, I’m inclined to believe people will always want fact-driven, honest, original, and creative storytelling. I think the industry is just enduring an uncomfortable shift.

What have you been up to since receiving your award?

I completed my diploma and I’ve been freelancing ever since. I had a brief stint as a content writer for a marketing company but after several months, I decided to focus all my attention to freelance work. It has been a grind, for sure, but I really love what I do and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

How can people follow your work?

I’m published weekly in The Suburban and online at www.thesuburban.com. I cover local amateur sports and athletes, and I can be found in their arts and entertainment section. I’m also published weekly for the St-Lambert Journal, TMR Journal and Nuns’ Island Journal, where I do features and write about local news. Unfortunately there is no online platform available. My Twitter is @boriero84 and my DMs are always open!

The Montreal Gazette summer internship application deadline is 5pm on Nov. 2.

Journalists of Tomorrow: Franca Mignacca

Every year, I speak to winners of Concordia’s journalism school awards as they’re presented at the Montreal Gazette offices. Today, this year’s winner of the Lewis Harris bursary, Franca Mignacca.

Franca Mignacca

Last week, Franca Mignacca provided an inadvertent demonstration of one of the more important practical rules of journalism: Get people’s names right.

When the Montreal Gazette helps present bursaries to Concordia University journalism students, the way it works is that someone connected with the person the award is named after (usually a family member) gives a little speech about that person and then talks a little about the student receiving the award. The latter part of the speech is basically a summary from the student’s submission for the award, and it’s not double-checked before delivery. Mignacca’s name was massacred while being announced, leading to profuse apologies from just about every adult in the room.

She took it in stride, though.

Another thing about this awards ceremony is that while the entire graduate diploma class is invited, and none of them know who will win awards, some awards are given to undergrads, and the fact that they’re there means they know they’ve already won.

Mignacca, 22, is an undergrad, studying journalism and film. She was news editor and managing editor of The Link at Concordia, and she recently published stories as an intern with CBC Montreal.

Why did you get into journalism?

I don’t know. I guess I’ve always enjoyed writing and I’ve always enjoyed communicating with people, so I feel like this is a profession that allows me to do both. It lets me give voices to people that aren’t necessarily heard otherwise, which means a lot to me.

Do you see yourself incorporating your film studies into journalism?

Initially I chose the minor in film studies because I was really influenced by François Truffaut, who was a French new wave director, and I really wanted to be a film critic and potentially write for the Cahiers du cinéma some day in France. As I started to go through J-school, my interests kind of changed, and as much as I am still passionate about film, I’ve very much become more of a news reporter lately. So who knows, maybe some day I’ll do something with the film studies degree, but for now it’s more of a pastime.

What kind of journalism would you like to do?

I see myself being a multiplatform journalist. I really like radio, TV, web writing and print writing so I see myself honestly doing a bit of everything. In terms of topics to report on, I’ve honestly covered everything from sports to news to arts, so I’m not entirely sure, but if there’s one thing that I’ve covered more than others, I’ve covered a lot of Indigenous issues. I’ve reported on Indigenous communities, especially Kahnawake, and Indigenous initiatives in Montreal and I’d really like to keep doing that.

Is there a particular reason that speaks to you so much?

My first internship was at the Eastern Door [the weekly newspaper serving the Kahnawake community], and I guess that’s why. I really liked it. I feel like they don’t get nearly enough attention in mainstream media and I want to give them more attention.

So you’re entering a field that…

Oh wait, wait wait, can I add something to that?

Sure.

I’m also highly influenced by Christopher Curtis. So that’s another reason.

So you’re entering a field that is in the midst of, let’s say change. How do you see the future of journalism? 

I do think a lot of journalism is going to end up on the web. But I do think that it’s not a dead profession. I think a lot of people think of it as a dead profession, but it’s like I always tell people It’s not necessarily dying. It is changing, it’s going to different mediums. Where you would listen to the radio before now you might listen to a podcast or you read articles online. So I do see it going more online.

Are you worried about the business model?

Not really. I am a little concerned because I am seeing more sponsored content and larger ads taking up space where there would be articles, and smaller issues, and that does concern me a little. But I think that we’re living in a time when news is important and I think people, at least here, at least somewhat recognize that and I do think we’ll find a way to make the profession survive.

What does journalism mean to you?

It sounds cheesy, but honestly journalism to me is both telling people’s stories but also holding authorities accountable and making sure that people aren’t stepped on because they don’t know what’s going on at levels of the government, that they know where their money is going and they’re not taken advantage of.

Where can people follow your work?

On Twitter: @FrancaMignacca

Mignacca is among many students strongly encouraged to apply for the Montreal Gazette summer internship. The deadline is 5pm on Nov. 2.

Journalists of Tomorrow: Darya Marchenkova

I enjoy talking to young journalists and journalism students. Not just because it makes me feel superior, but because it gives me some insight into how the next generation sees our industry and how they plan to evolve it. Every year, I speak to winners of Concordia’s journalism school awards as they’re presented at the Montreal Gazette offices (you can see previous versions of this in 2010, 2011, 2012 & 2013, 2014 & 2015). Today, I’m presenting the latest batch as a series leading up to the deadline for journalism students to apply for next summer’s Gazette internships.

Darya Marchenkova

Marchenkova, now 31, was the 2017 winner of the Enn Raudsepp Award, named for the former chair of Concordia’s journalism department. She was a 2018 Gazette summer reporting intern.

With a name like hers, it should come as no surprise that she was born in Moscow, but her background is mainly with another foreign country with a controversial authoritarian leader: the United States.

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Media News Digest: Newspaper readership numbers, new news boss at La Presse

News about news

At the CRTC

Ethical reviews

TV

Radio

Print

  • Vividata has released its fall survey of newspaper and magazine audience. Montreal numbers show the Journal de Montréal is still the most read in print and overall, and La Presse remains #1 in digital. The Montreal Gazette had a slight drop overall but a significant drop in digital readership, from 254,000 to 204 000.
  • Postmedia’s Kingston Whig-Standard and North Bay Nugget have won arbitration cases over their new labour contracts. Both papers’ unions signed new contracts that stated that their benefits plan would match that of another union that negotiated a better one. When the Windsor Star did exactly that, Postmedia argued that Windsor’s very generous benefits plan did not count. An arbitrator rejected Postmedia’s argument and so those papers will get the same plan as Windsor. (My union at the Montreal Gazette is also in contract negotiations with Postmedia, and the benefits plan is a sticking point.)

Other

News about people

Obituaries

Jobs

CityNews Montreal review: Taking content recycling to a new level

CityNews didn’t hide the fact that its local newscasts would be repetitive. In fact, they spun it as a design feature: few people will watch a full one-hour newscast, so it makes sense to make sure the top local stories are repeated so people get them whether they tune in at 6pm or 6:30pm.

Fair enough.

But it also means the news can be done on the cheap. With only two full-time reporters to start, plus a part-time reporter, BT’s news reporter and a guest contributor, they just don’t have enough staff to fill 14 one-hour newscasts a week.

To get an idea of what that means quantitatively, I recorded the first 14 episodes of CityNews Montreal’s newscast, the week of Sept. 3-9, at 6pm and 11pm, and timed its segments (705 segments total, with 13 attributes of each marked down). Here’s what stuck out to me:

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Quebecor’s QUB Radio could change the business, but it’s technically incomplete

If you’ve been watching TVA or LCN (Oct. 4, Oct. 6, Oct. 13Oct. 14, Oct. 15) or reading the Journal de Montréal (Oct. 4, Oct. 5, Oct. 6, Oct. 10, Oct. 14Oct. 15, plus this and this) you’ve been bombarded with news about QUB Radio, Quebecor’s new online radio station. It launched on Monday, providing live talk programming from 6am to 5pm on weekdays and filling the rest of the schedule with repeats, podcasts and rebroadcasts of TVA/LCN news programming.

On one hand, this kind of major effort from a large media company could be what pushes mainstream audiences into online radio. On the other hand, the QUB platform is missing basic features that make it unnecessarily frustrating to consume.

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Media News Digest: La Presse launches foundation, two new dramas at Citytv, HuffPost Québec axes editor

News about news

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Rogers expands Sportsnet Now with second tier that lifts some NHL blackouts

Sportsnet Now, the over-the-top service that Rogers is making available to people without a cable TV subscription, is expanding with a new premium tier called Sportsnet Now+.

At the same time, the price of the basic tier is dropping, from $25 a month to $20. It remains free for people who subscribe to Sportsnet channels through a TV provider that has a deal with Sportsnet (most of them do now). The higher tier is $28 a month.

Here’s the difference between the two.

Sportsnet Now (basic tier), $19.99/month

As before, this tier offers live programming you would normally get on Sportsnet regional channels, Sportsnet One (including the Canucks, Flames and Oilers overflow channels) and Sportsnet 360. It also includes Hockey Night in Canada games that air on CBC and Citytv on Saturday nights.

All nationally-broadcast NHL games are included, as well as regional NHL games where Sportsnet is the regional broadcaster (Canucks, Flames, Oilers and 16 Leafs games) for people in that region.

This service is free if you have a Sportsnet subscription to all the channels through a participating provider.

Sportsnet Now+, $27.99/month

The premium tier includes everything in the basic tier, plus additional European league soccer games and 64-125 more NHL games, depending on region.

Specifically, the tier removes blackouts on games broadcast by Sportsnet in another region, except where that game is also broadcast by another broadcaster (i.e. TSN) in that region.

It does not remove blackouts on TSN games, which means it won’t expand access to Winnipeg Jets, Ottawa Senators or Montreal Canadiens games.

For example:

  • Tonight’s home opener where the Canadiens play the L.A. Kings isn’t available on either tier anywhere in the country
  • Tonight’s Oilers-Bruins game on Sportsnet West is available in Alberta on Sportsnet Now and in the rest of the country on Sportsnet Now+
  • The Oct. 23 game where the Canadiens (TSN2) play the Calgary Flames (Sportsnet Flames) is available in Alberta and Saskatchewan on Sportsnet Now and in B.C., Manitoba and most of Ontario on Sportsnet Now+. The latter will see only the Flames broadcast. People in the Canadiens’ region won’t be able to see the game at all on Sportsnet.

For U.S.-only matchups, only games broadcast on Sportsnet will be available on either tier.

In short, this new tier would be useful for, say, a Canucks, Flames or Oilers fan in Toronto, who would get access to all their games (except one Flames game against the Leafs, which TSN has rights to in Toronto).

For everyone else wanting out-of-market games online, Rogers NHL Live ($30 a month or $200 for the season) is still the only option. That includes national games and out-of-market games but not in-market games.

Sportsnet Now launched two years ago, becoming the first to offer a major sports subscription for people without cable. TSN followed with its of $25/month offer, and the basic tier price reduction may put pressure on TSN to lower its over-the-top price.

There does not appear to be any option for people with regular TV subscriptions to Sportsnet to get a discounted upgrade to Sportsnet Now+.

CRTC approves Cogeco acquisition of 10 RNC Media stations

The CRTC has approved the $18.5-million acquisition of 10 RNC Media radio stations by Cogeco, representing two thirds of RNC’s network of stations.

Affected stations are:

  • Planète 104.5 in Alma
  • Planète 93.5 in Chibougamau
  • Planète 99.5 in Roberval
  • Planète 100.3 in Dolbeau-Mistassini
  • Radio X 95.7 in Saguenay (repeater at 96.3 Alma)
  • Capitale Rock 104.3 in Val-d’Or
  • Capitale Rock 102.1 in La Sarre (repeater at 95.7 Rouyn-Noranda)
  • WOW 96.5 in Rouyn-Noranda (repeaters at 103.5 Val d’Or and 103.9 La Sarre)
  • Pop 104.9 in Lachute
  • Pop 102.1 in Hawkesbury

Of the remaining stations, two are being sold to Leclerc Communication:

  • CKLX-FM (91,9 Sports) in Montreal
  • CHOI-FM (Radio X) in Quebec City

The remaining three are presumably on the market with no sale announced yet (but I’m told there are talks with at least one potential buyer):

  • CHXX-FM (Pop 100.9) in Donnacona (serving Quebec City, repeater at 105.5 Lotbinière)
  • CFTX-FM (Pop 96.5) In Gatineau (repeater at 107.5 Buckingham)
  • CHLX-FM (Wow 97.1) in Gatineau

The acquisitions bring Cogeco’s radio network from 13 to 23 stations, and means Cogeco’s first expansion into the Saguenay and Abitibi regions. Of population centres over 15,000, the only ones that wouldn’t be within 100 kilometres of a Cogeco transmitter will be Rimouski and Sept-Îles.

A map of Quebec’s major commercial radio networks: Cogeco Media (purple), RNC Media (red, with approved sales in reddish purple), Bell Media (blue), Attraction Radio (black) and Groupe Radio Simard (gold). Retransmitters are in a lighter colour.

Notable aspects of this transaction:

  • Cogeco plans no immediate change to the “vocation” of the radio stations, which will remain local.
  • Cogeco plans to introduce local newscasts to the Lachute station. For other stations, the benefits come mainly through access to the infrastructure of Cogeco Nouvelles.
  • The commission has accepted Cogeco’s proposed tangible benefits of $1,184,217, based on a total transaction value of $19,736,958. The breakdown uses the standard formula for radio, with:
    • $592,109 (3%) to Radio Starmaker Fund or Fonds Radiostar
    • $296,054 (1.5%) to FACTOR or Musicaction
    • $98,684 (0.5%) to the Community Radio Fund of Canada
    • $197,370 (1%) to discretionary initiatives
  • The nature of the discretionary initiatives isn’t specified, but Cogeco said it would include six-week paid internships at its radio stations. The commission pushed back on this (tangible benefits are not allowed to be self-serving), and Cogeco responded by saying it would use $10,000 a year for bursaries instead. The rest of the discretionary money would go to local initiatives, broken down as follows:
    • $10,000 a year in the Saguenay region
    • $5,000 a year in the Abitibi region
    • $3,196 a year in the Lachute-Hawkesbury region
  • The contract includes a 36-month service contract for RNC Media to continue providing local news, office space, outdoor advertising, transmitters and technical support for the stations in the Abitibi region after the deal closes. Following that, Cogeco will rent space for three transmitters at two sites from RNC for $5,000 a year each for 10 years (indexed to the consumer price index), and two transmitters at a third site for five-year renewable leases for a price to be negotiated.
  • The radio stations (bought by Cogeco) and TV stations (retained by RNC Media) in the Abitibi region will continue to cross-promote for a period of 24 months after the acquisition. The exact value of these ads is confidential, but will be the same for both sides. A similar ad exchange deal is in place for Cogeco’s CKOF-FM (104,7) and RNC Media’s TV stations in Gatineau, even though those stations aren’t part of this transaction.
  • Cogeco acquires the WOW brand (used by CHOA-FM in Val-d’Or) and gives RNC Media a licence to continue to use the brand for its Gatineau station. Cogeco also acquires the Planète and Capitale Rock trademarks.
  • RNC Media holds on to the POP brand (used by CFTX-FM in Gatineau and CHXX-FM in Donnacona) but gives Cogeco licence to use it for the Rouyn-Noranda station.
  • RNC also keeps the Radio X brand, which is used by CKYK-FM in Saguenay. Cogeco can use the KYK logo, but without any mention of Radio X. There does not appear to be transition allowance here, which means it would have to change the branding as soon as the deal closes.
  • Cogeco says of the 220 on-air employees it will have if the transaction is approved, 92 (42%) are women, 4 (2%) people with disabilities, 2 (1%) visible minorities and 1 (0.5%) Indigenous person. (In the application, Cogeco gets the math wrong by two decimal places on the last three percentages there, making it look even worse.)
  • About 55 employees will move with the stations — 10 in Abitibi, 44 in Saguenay and one in Lachute. Three of those employees are currently on leave.
  • The deal will close on the first of the month after CRTC approval. This is listed as the only remaining condition for closing.
  • The deal includes a non-compete agreement for Val d’Or, La Sarre, Rouyn-Noranda, Lachute, Hawkesbury, Amos, Dolbeau, Roberval, Alma, Chibougamau and Saguenay, for a confidential period.

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Review: A mostly flawless election night for 2/4 English TV networks

Election nights are always fun. All hands on deck, at night on the tightest of deadlines, working together to report on the story of the year.

Each medium has its own challenges, but TV has the highest stakes. Everyone’s watching — including the politicians — and seconds count. Make an early call that turns out to be right, and you get supreme bragging rights. Get it wrong, and you’re a laughingstock. And you have to fill hours of programming, usually without even the benefit of a commercial break.

Four TV networks broadcast live election specials during primetime on Monday night on their local TV stations and all-news networks — Radio-Canada, TVA, CBC and CTV. Two others had live wrap-ups at 11pm: Citytv and Global.

I checked in with all of them on election night (though I was busy with helping put out a newspaper), and reviewed recordings of the four English networks after the fact. (I’ll leave it to my francophone colleagues to review how RadCan and TVA did.) Here’s how they did:

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Why doesn’t TSN have Canadiens pregame and postgame shows? I asked them

The NHL season begins tonight, and that means yet another year of WTF-why-is-my-Canadiens-game-blacked-out pleas on social media and email.

So once again the Gazette asked me to put together a full 82-game schedule listing what channels each game is on (we’re also making printable letter-sized versions available). It was printed in Tuesday’s paper, which had a lot of other news content as well. The story next to it is mainly an interview with Bryan Mudryk, TSN’s new play-by-play man for (most of) their Canadiens games this season.

I also spoke with Paul Graham, TSN’s executive producer of live events. He was on the phone in Helsinki at the time, signing new agreements for international hockey. (He took the time to remind me that TSN airs far more hockey than ever before, even though it doesn’t have the Wednesday night national games and first-round playoff series that it did before the Rogers deal.)

Just before I hung up with him, I asked Graham about why we don’t see more pregame and postgame Canadiens programming during the TSN regional games, like we see on RDS and TVA Sports.

“In our minds for the most part we already have a pregame show, and it’s That’s Hockey,” he said. “It’s just not specific to one team.”

The exception is in Winnipeg, “mostly based on time zone.” Because it’s an hour behind and its home games generally start an hour later, it will have its own version of the program on TSN3.

But producing separate Leafs, Senators and Canadiens pregame and postgame shows wouldn’t be worth the cost because people don’t really care about that stuff, he said.

“What we found, quite honestly, from a research perspective, is that when you talk about post-game shows, they’re really there for the die-hard fans, that most people just watch the game and they’re done. And so what we try to do is we try to get to SportsCentre as quickly as possible. And still include key elements of what you would hear in a post-game show anyways, which would be comments from our broadcasters that did the game, dressing room post-game comments from, in this case, John Lu, and then our hosts on SportsCentre, if the story dictates it for that night, going a little bit longer on one particular item. So there’s no real plan to have a specific Montreal Canadiens pregame show or specific Canadiens postgame show. We think that we service that already with That’s Hockey before and with SportsCentre afterwards.”

RDS and TVA Sports go pretty hard with local pregame and postgame with the Canadiens (and almost nothing with their Senators broadcasts). But their ratings data shows it’s hard to keep fans tuned in. They’re lucky if even half of those who tuned in during the game stay for the postgame show. And with TSN’s Canadiens regional broadcasts getting less than 200,000 viewers (the average was 123,000 last season, but the Canadiens sucked really bad that year), there’s just not enough of a critical mass to warrant it.

Not much new, but a bit more Lu

I asked Graham if we should expect any other big changes for the Canadiens broadcasts this season. For the most part, it’ll be the same as last year. The supporting cast of analysts (Dave Poulin, Mike Johnson, Craig Button) and studio hosts (Tessa Bonhomme, Glenn Schiiler, Pierre LeBrun) will be the same. But “we’re looking to incorporate more TSN-specific programming in intermission” such as the Insider Trading segment with experts like Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger.

“(Reporter) John Lu will be front and centre at a lot of games that originate in Montreal,” Graham added.

I also asked him what he sees happening when TSN’s rights deal expires in 2022. While regional rights deals for Canadian NHL teams were quickly gobbled up following the national Sportsnet deal, the Canadiens’ English-language rights seemed to be of less interest. First Sportsnet grabbed it for three years (the first time all 82 Canadiens games were televised in English), then TSN for five.

Team English TV French TV English radio French radio
(National) Sportsnet (2026) TVA Sports (2026) N/A N/A
Vancouver Canucks Sportsnet Pacific (2023) None Sportsnet 650 (2022) None
Edmonton Oilers Sportsnet West (2020) None Corus/CHED (2020) None
Calgary Flames Sportsnet West (2020) None Sportsnet 960 (2020) None
Winnipeg Jets TSN3 (2021) None TSN 1290 (2021) None
Toronto Maple Leafs TSN4 None TSN 1050 None
Sportsnet Ontario Sportsnet 590
Ottawa Senators TSN5 (2026) RDS (2026) TSN 1200 (2026) Unique FM (via Bell)
Montreal Canadiens TSN2 (2022) RDS (2026) TSN 690 (2022) Cogeco (2019)
Laval Rocket (AHL) None RDS TSN 690 91.9 Sports (2022)

Graham pointed out that TSN shares resources with RDS, which allows them to make the broadcasts more efficient. And with Bell having a share in ownership of the Canadiens, they have an interest in keeping the relationship going.

“At the end of the day, along with our Bell ownership, we’re confident that Montreal will get better, and we’re confident that we’re going to be part of this for a long time,” he said. “I can’t see any situation in the immediate future, even when we get past the five years, where we wouldn’t be involved.”

Mudryk gives back

I didn’t have space to get into this in the story, but Mudryk is known for his charity work in addition to his on-air talents. The Bryan Mudryk Golf Classic has gone on for 15 years now, inspired by his own battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma (i.e. the non-Koivu version). While he’s going to have a busy year with a lot of travelling (his life so far has been mainly going back and forth between his hotel, the Bell Centre and the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard), he’s ready for requests from charitable organizations to host their events, and he wants to help.

“I’m not just saying that to get a good quote in your paper,” he said, which is good because I didn’t get the quote in the paper. “I’m saying it because I mean it. If I have the time and it works out in my schedule I’m always there to help worthwhile causes.”

I could probably insert a joke here about the Canadiens being the biggest cause needing help right now.

Status quo on Sportsnet

As far as Sportsnet is concerned, not much has changed in their plans. Hockey Night in Canada (with the Leafs generally on CBC and the Canadiens generally on Citytv, it seems), Wednesday Night Hockey and Hometown Hockey on Sundays. It’ll be Bob Cole’s 50th and last season as a play-by-play announcer, and he’s starting it with the Habs’ game on Saturday.

Sportsnet is also bringing in the weekly Twitter broadcast Ice Surfing, after a pilot episode last season. The show will follow games playing that night with some live action but also commentary and conversation.

No more U.S. Super Bowl ads, but access to U.S. stations remains under USMCA trade deal

I was a bit busy yesterday in the middle of a Quebec newsplosion, but fortunately people in the rest of Canada (Globe and MailFinancial Post, CBCBNN, Michael GeistCartt.ca) had time to read the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and notice an annex that directly impacts the CRTC and Canadian TV viewers.

Annex 15-D of the agreement is very specific: “Canada shall rescind Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2016-334 and Broadcasting Order CRTC 2016-335.”

It doesn’t use the words, but that policy is about ad substitution during the Super Bowl. It’s the policy (originally announced in 2015) that said Bell could not require TV providers in Canada substitute its signal over those of U.S. border stations during the game because of Canadians’ strong demand for those high-profile U.S. commercials.

Bell has been trying hard since 2015 to get that decision overturned, going all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada. The NFL has been on their side, because without simsub, the value of the Super Bowl rights in Canada plummets.

Now, thanks to the NFL’s lobbying of U.S. trade negotiators, the Canadian government will step in and solve the problem for them. The annex doesn’t specify a timeframe, but presumably it would happen when the treaty is ratified, which may or may not come before the next Super Bowl in February.

Putting this in the trade deal gives the Canadian government and the CRTC some cover. The Canadian government can say they were forced into this by the U.S. government, and the CRTC can blame the Canadian government when people go back to complaining to it that U.S. ads are blocked.

This also could have ended much worse for Canadian TV viewers. This trade deal could have ended the entire practice of allowing U.S. over-the-air stations to be rebroadcast in Canada without their consent. There was lobbying from a coalition of U.S. border stations in favour of requiring retransmission consent. Instead, the existing simsub regime will be maintained, and rebroadcasting through TV distributors allowed (but only when the signal is unaltered and simultaneous).

Assuming this deal is ratified, it could be decades before the simsub regime changes. And by then it could be completely irrelevant.

UPDATE (Oct. 6): Donald Trump amazingly brought up this clause in a campaign rally on Thursday night, saying a “big big problem” with Super Bowl ads was fixed when he told his negotiators to fix it. He said he got a phone call thanking him from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

And let QVC in, too

The annex also includes a provision related specifically to QVC: “Canada shall ensure that U.S. programming services specializing in home shopping, including modified versions of these U.S. programming services for the Canadian market, are authorized for distribution in Canada and may negotiate affiliation agreements with Canadian cable, satellite, and IPTV distributors.”

In 2016, the CRTC denied an application by TV provider VMedia to allow it to distribute the American shopping channel in Canada. It argued that since QVC would be doing business with Canadians, and that’s the very basis for that channel, “QVC would be carrying on a broadcasting undertaking in whole or in part in Canada” and for that it needed a licence (which it couldn’t get because it’s not Canadian-owned).

VMedia filed a request in court to overturn that decision, and the federal court sent it back to the CRTC. The commission opened a proceeding about its reconsideration, but has not published a decision.