Tag Archives: Toronto-Star

Posted in Media, Opinion

Outsourcing returns to haunt Toronto Star employees

In January 2010, the Toronto Star and its union agreed on a plan that would allow the paper to cut jobs and save money while avoiding some more dramatic cost-cutting plans like outsourcing copy editing to an external company.

Those of us around the country who work in the copy editing field breathed a slight sigh of relief, knowing that somewhere jobs were being saved and would still be done locally. The issue appeared settled: The Toronto Star would still be produced by the Toronto Star.

Less than two years later, we seem to be back to Square One. The Star is offering another round of buyouts to cut staff even further (they won’t say by how much they want to reduce the workforce) and Reuters is reporting a rumour that the Star again wants to outsource layout and editing work.

I hope that’s just a rumour. Layout and editing is an important job in print media, and I’d hate to think that the industry is coming to a consensus that this work can be done by some kid in a third-world country with 20 minutes of training.

Posted in Media

Toronto Star wants to outsource 78 editing jobs

The Toronto Star, Canada’s national largest newspaper, has signed a deal with page-layout outsourcing firm Pagemasters and has informed its union that it plans to outsource 78 copy editing and layout jobs to this company, which form part of 121 job cuts it plans to save millions of dollars a year.

I’ve written before about the larger issue of the outsourcing of copy editing jobs. Saying I’m against it would be transparently self-serving, but I’d like to think there’s some magic in the designing of pages, writing of headlines and editing of copy that will be missed when the job is handed over to a third party that is interested more in volume than quality.

On the other hand, I’m pessimistic that readers will care enough about how their paper is produced to speak with their wallets and tip the economic balance in favour of those workers.

UPDATE: Torstar says it has “no choice” – which of course is not true. It also says it hopes to keep the same level of quality, which is obviously not feasible.

Posted in Media, Web design

Star redesign: I don’t hate it

After inexplicably hyping it for weeks, the Toronto Star finally unveiled its website redesign last week. I took one look at it and was unimpressed, but figured I’d return for a closer look.

Toronto Star's thestar.com

Toronto Star's thestar.com

Colour me more impressed.

I’m still not crazy about the visual design, which is filled with rounded corners, blue-grey gradients and just about every other Web 2.0 cliché in the books, but some of the functionality is worth noting.

One is the topic pages. News organizations have to get used to the fact that the Internet provides them with a different way to present information. Background doesn’t have to be repeated in every newspaper article to re-educate the reader. Instead, you can simply link to a previous article in a series, or better yet to a summary of the topic so far (kind of like what you’d see on a Wikipedia page). Many topics have short introductions followed by a list of articles on that topic. It’s simple, but very useful. The best part is the “hot topics” banner at the top of the page, which allows quick links to the big issues of the day.

Another is the timeline view, which translates as “everything published on this website, in reverse chronological order.” If you don’t know what you want to read, go here and just read whatever is new. There are other views like the “visual news” view, which presents stories as a series of pictures, but that’s only useful if all stories lend themselves to good pictures. Many don’t and are illustrated with boring file art instead, lessening the usefulness of this page.

Text in these boxes don't have enough ...

Text in these boxes don't have enough ...

More from teehan+lax, Torontoist and the Star itself.

Posted in Media

Post wins pointless design award race

The Society for News Design has announced the winners of its annual awards.

For the uninitiated, the Society for News Design is the big newspaper design group and winning one of their awards is a badge of the highest honour for newspaper designers.

Or, at least it would be if they were more selective. The SND gives out almost a thousand awards each year, and considering there are 10,725 entries from 346 newspapers, that means that each entry has a one in ten shot of winning an award, and each newspaper should get three awards on average just for showing up.

Perhaps for that reason, the number of newspapers participating in this exercise has dropped. Notably missing from the list below is the Globe and Mail, for example.

Still, it’s seen as a penis-measuring contest, so let’s whip out those rulers. The 108 awards given to Canadian publications break down as follows:

You can seee a full list of winners by searching the database (there’s too many of them to list all on one page, after all). You’ll probably also see special pages devoted to SND wins in the above publications. Updated with links to self-laudatory stories in the four multiple-award-winning papers.

Posted in Media, Opinion

Star runs You Be The Editor quiz

The Toronto Star, still looking for some holiday filler, has produced a journalism ethics quiz which it invites readers to answer on its website. (via J-Source)

The Gazette did something similar a while back.

Editors deal on a regular basis with tough ethical decisions, and must choose between publishing something or holding it back. The Star gives some examples, at least some of which were based on actual events which were published in the paper and got complaints.

Most are unfortunately a bit too easy to answer for me.

As holiday filler for this blog a public service, here are my answers to the quiz and the explanations for them:

Continue reading

Posted in Media, Opinion, Technology

Newspaper letter credibility scores one at the Star

Last month, the Toronto Star made an interesting decision concerning so-called “user-generated content”: It decided it would no longer be publishing anonymous or pseudonymous web comments on its letters-to-the-editor page. Such “reverse publishing” is being used by a lot of newspapers who want to appear all hip and cool and stuff, and are desperate to increase traffic to their horrible websites.

The main argument, which was also expressed by many people inside the Star’s newsroom (they even circulated a petition about it), is that printing these comments alongside letters to the editor essentially creates a double standard: Letters to the editor must be signed and verified if submitted by email or mail, but don’t have to be if they’re posted in an online forum.

It’s a valid argument, but it ignores the big secret about letters to the editor: The verification process for “real” letters isn’t much of a verification process at all.

Many newspapers, especially smaller ones, don’t even check that the person whose name appears at the bottom of the letter is in fact the person who wrote it. They just copy and paste from their email inbox and assume that if there’s a full name that doesn’t read “Anita Bath”, it’s probably legitimate.

Larger newspapers, like the Star, require readers to send their phone number, and an editor or secretary calls them up and verifies their name and whether they wrote the letter. There’s no exchange of ID, no looking names up in a database, just a phone call. It works mainly because very few people are going to go through that kind of trouble just to get a fake letter into the newspaper.

Still, I think the change is a good one, if only because seeing online handles like “geeko79″, “No McCain fries for John McCain” and “Fagstein” attached to grammatically-incorrect texts in a supposedly respectable newspaper looks ridiculous.

The policy change doesn’t affect the website; people will still be able to post with silly pseudonyms there, though that’s not what public editor Kathy English would have decided:

I would prefer the Star demand real names of those who comment online. I’ve been told that’s a near-impossible expectation in the online environment. I don’t buy that.

Of course, online faces the same problem. Restrict it to verified names, and you cut off most discussion and spent lots of time verifying IDs. The more moderation controls you have, the less commentary you have and the less active the forum becomes.

(via J-Source)

Posted in Media

TorStar, Gazette plan massive layoffs

Toronto Star owner TorStar has announced it is cutting 160 jobs (of which 122 are apparently voluntary buyouts) most of which involve its Internet operation including 10 people at a redundant Internet division. No word on what they plan to replace it with, though I imagine they’ll try replacing it with outsourced work that involve either non-journalist Internet professionals or non-unionized cheap labour.

Buried in that story is an announcement from The Gazette’s union, the Montreal Newspaper Guild (of which I am a member), which says the paper is gutting its Reader Sales and Service department (the people who deal with subscriptions), replacing 46 union jobs by centralizing operations chain-wide in Winnipeg. The union is fighting the move, which it says violates a clause in the collective agreement that prohibits outsourcing jobs.

Posted in Media

Toronto Star reaches tentative agreement

Toronto Star: No strike

The Toronto Star has reached a tentative agreement with its union after days of round-the-clock talks that went 14 hours into we-can-call-a-strike-at-any-time territory, and three days after the union’s members voted near-unanimously in favour of a strike.

No details are being released about the agreement, which must still be ratified by the union’s members. But a notice from the union suggests that a decent compromise has been reached, phasing out Sunday pay bonuses, increasing wages 2% each year and no changes to the overtime pay formula.

UPDATE (Jan. 25): The agreement has been ratified by union members, making it official. There will be no work disruption at the Star for at least another three years.

Posted in Media

Toronto Star union votes to strike

Toronto Star: STRIKE!

A strike vote today at the Toronto Star’s union had 80% of members voting 96% in favour of a strike starting as early as Saturday. That’s when a mutual agreement between the two parties to not strike or lock out expires.

The vote represents a mandate to strike, which means that union leaders can call a strike at a moment’s notice now. Negotiations are continuing and are expected to continue until Friday, however a media blackout has been imposed on recent talks at the request of the mediator.

That means information about management demands may or may not be outdated, and only those involved in negotiations have any idea how close they are to a deal. (Much to the annoyance of union members who are in the dark, as well as reporters who have to write about the situation.)

Previously: Toronto Star edging toward strike

Updates on the situation can be found on the union’s website at wearethestar.ca.

Posted in Media

Toronto Star union edging toward strike

Toronto Star: STRIKE!

(UPDATE: Union votes 96% in favour of a strike starting as early as Saturday. Negotiations are continuing under a media blackout.)

Next week will be a big one for the Toronto Star. Union members are without a contract and negotiations aren’t going too well. A strike vote is being held Wednesday evening, and a strike or lockout could cripple the paper as early as next Saturday.

The demands being made by management are extreme, especially the parts about eliminating double-time overtime, having “free” straight-time overtime for five hours a week, and eliminating pensions altogether for new hires.

As Canada’s largest newspaper, these talks are bound to get a lot of attention, especially from its direct competitor, the Toronto Sun.

Updates on the situation can be found on the union’s website at wearethestar.ca.

UPDATE (Jan. 15): The Financial Post is all over this.

Posted in Blogosphere, Humour, Media, On the Net

Regret the Error roundup

Regret the Error presents a roundup of this year’s funny corrections and cases of plagiarism and fabrication.

No Montreal media appear on either list, though the Toronto Star gets two dishonorable mentions, for prematurely killing off Morley Safer and for bringing the Detroit murder rate up by a factor of 50. The Ottawa Citizen, meanwhile, put a photo of an innocent man on a section front, identifying him as a pedophile.

Posted in Media

Toronto Sun on media errors

Toronto Sun columnist Mark Bonokoski has a column (via Regret the Error and Toronto Sun Family) about errors in newspapers. He starts off talking about an error in the Toronto Star and then talks about some of his own. (Funny how media outlets have no problem talking about direct competitors by name when they’re pointing out their flaws.)

I suppose we can’t say he’s hypocritical, since he does self-criticize, but the Star has an online corrections page, while the Sun does not. And my experience with Sun papers have mostly involved hilarious headline mistakes and errors they made about me. Neither of these have since been corrected (at least not online).

Then again, as the Sun Family blog points out, the Star this week also admitted to plagiarizing the Sun.