Tag Archives: year-in-review

Posted in Media

The top 10 Quebec media stories of 2013 (and more year-in-review)

(Published now because I have this thing about only reviewing things after they’re finished.)

Around this time, when the media use year-in-review stories to fill space during the most boring news time of the year (mafia funerals notwithstanding), there are always generalizations about the ways the 12 months that have just passed differ from the previous 12 months, or the 12 before that. People look at Lac-Mégantic and Rob Ford and Nelson Mandela and say this was a sad year. Or they look at other stories and say it was a hopeful year, or a silly year, or a serious year, or any other type of year. In reality, it was just a year.

On the media front, it was a very active year. While some things I expected would happen didn’t, other things that I didn’t expect made huge changes to our media landscape. I don’t know if this was the biggest year in media news, but it was certainly a big one.

With that in mind, here are my picks for the top 10 media stories of 2013, from a Montreal perspective:

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Posted in Media

Year-in-review scoreboard

Ah, year-in-review time. It’s when media – particularly newspapers, but others as well – forgo reporting the day-to-day news and take to recapping events that happened within the past 12 months. Some get introspective and discuss how the stories they covered affected them. Others compile the events of the year and try to find some deeper meaning or pattern, something to describe it that is somehow different than the calendar year that preceded it.

And then there are the rankings. Top 10 X of the year, where X can stand for just about anything. Like TIME’s person of the year, they sound like they have a lot more significance than they really do.

More than half a century ago, Canadian Press, the formerly co-operative news service used by the majority of newspapers, started awarding accolades for its Newsmaker of the Year, based on a poll of its members.

These year-ending stories solve three problems that present themselves at this time of year – particularly the week between Christmas and New Year’s:

  1. In newspapers particularly, this is a peak time for advertising. The increased advertising means papers get larger to accommodate them, and that also increases the amount of editorial copy needed.
  2. Like any other worker in a regular job, journalists like to take time off during the holidays. Writing these lookback features is an easy way to bank stories for use when the newsroom is practically deserted and only a skeleton staff of reporters is on duty.
  3. Just about every industry stops doing anything newsworthy during this week. There are few major political announcements, few major reports being released, few major events on television, and little in the way of business stories. In short, there’s very little actual news that happens at this time of year.

So, for these reasons, we live with this phenomenon, though recently it’s come with a bit of a change: Two major competitors have emerged for Canadian Press: Postmedia News (the former Canwest newspapers, including my employer The Gazette) and QMI Agency (Quebecor/Sun Media, including the Journal de Montréal, 24 Heures and the Toronto Sun). As those newspaper chains pulled out of CP, they setup domestic and international bureaus where needed, and shared stories between their papers and clients.

And, of course, they have to choose their own annual newsmakers. After all, what’s the point of setting up your own wire service if you don’t get to have a bit of judgmental fun? (Though it should be pointed out that some of these are based on the votes of the general public, not just journalists and editors in newsrooms.)

With most of the announcements already made, here’s what the scoreboard looks like (winners in bold, with runners-up where given):

Category Canadian Press Postmedia News QMI Agency Others
News story Vancouver Olympics BP oil spill (poll)

Haitian earthquake (editors)

Vancouver Olympics
News maker Russell Williams

Sidney Crosby

Stephen Harper

Justin Bieber

Russell Williams (poll)

Julian Assange (editors)

Russell Williams Maclean’s: Sidney Crosby
Athlete Cyberpresse: Joannie Rochette (online vote)

Lou Marsh Award: Joey Votto

Sportsnet.ca: Georges St-Pierre (online vote)

Male athlete Sidney Crosby

Joey Votto

Alex Bilodeau

Jonathan Toews

Joey Votto

Sidney Crosby

Jonathan Toews

Alex Bilodeau

Erik Guay

Joey Votto CBC: Joey Votto
Female athlete Joannie Rochette

Clara Hughes

Christine Nesbitt

Maëlle Ricker

Jennifer Heil

Christine Nesbitt

Joannie Rochette

Heather Moyse

Joannie Rochette CBC: Joannie Rochette
Sports team Olympic men’s hockey team

Montreal Alouettes (CFL)

Olympic women’s hockey team

Olympic men’s hockey team

Kevin Martin curling team

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (ice dancing)

Olympic men’s hockey team

Kevin Martin curling team

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (ice dancing)

Université Laval football team

CBC: Olympic men’s hockey team
Business event Shale gas exploration

Canadian debt

Earl Jones sentence

“Eric and Lola”

Quebec 2010-11 budget

(poll)

Business personality Jim Flaherty Pierre-Karl Péladeau

(poll)*

BNN: Brad Wall

It doesn’t stop there, though. Many news outlets come up with other “of the year”s:

And, of course, there are local newsmakers of the year, and plenty of lists of top picks for just about everything a beat reporter can think of.

Hang in there, folks. Real news should return within a week or so.

*QMI Agency prompted a lot of guffawing on Twitter when it broadcasted that Pierre-Karl Péladeau was its business personality of the year. The news was based on a poll (apparently only done in Quebec, though that’s not made clear in the story), and Report on Business Magazine also named him one of three CEOs of the year. But still, having your own news agency pay so much attention to you is a bit … weird, at least.

Posted in Video

Remix in review

The end of the year – and particularly the week between Christmas and New Year’s – is a time for lazy journalism, usually in the form of lists of “the best of” the year that’s passed. The lists are almost always subjective, incomplete, and – when it comes down to it – pointless. They don’t add anything new to the conversation. Maybe such a list might expose you to something you haven’t seen before, but usually “top” means “most popular”, so the likelihood of you not having seen it is low.

This video comes from DJ Earworm, a remix artist (via Dominic Arpin). I’ll link to the YouTube page since the website seems to be suffering under some unexpected viral load. The MP3 is free to download. It’s a remix of the top 25 songs of 2009, as judged by Billboard. That means you’re stuck with two Lady Gaga songs, two Black Eyed Peas songs, two Beyoncé songs and two Taylor Swift songs, along with Katy Perry, The Fray, Kelly Clarkson and Miley Cyrus.

But it’s impressive, while giving a bit of exposure to each song in a way that doesn’t make me cringe. Kind of like I’ll eat mushrooms on a pizza but not by themselves, I’ll take Swift or Cyrus when remixed well with non-crap.

This isn’t a first, either. DJ Earworm did the same for 2008 and 2007.

Just imagine if all the other years in review were this … creative.

Posted in Media, Opinion

Media predictions: how did we do?

Looking back a year for my media year in review, I stumbled on some forward-looking posts about 2008. Let’s see how things turned out.

My 2008 online media wishlist

What I wanted: Clean up your online layouts

What happened: Layouts got more complex.

Even though mobile use is growing, media outlets respond not by simplifying their websites but by creating separate iPhone sites. Pages are optimized for 1024×768, and each redesign copies the previous one, so they all look the same. All are cluttered with far too many links on the homepage and far too little structure to their layouts.

What I wanted: Use video right

What happened: More junk videos

Experimentation is painful, I know. A lot of talking-head videos were tried and failed, but far too many are still doing this and assuming someone wants to watch it.

Forcing your reporters to shoot video isn’t going to help you unless that reporter knows how to do a good job. But reporters aren’t given the time, training or equipment to do so. Their videos are about the quality of cellphone videos, and are about as useful.

What I wanted: Stop trying to get random people to replace journalists

What happened: User-generated content doesn’t go far beyond comments and pictures of cats

Fortunately, nobody has seriously tried to replace journalists with free Internet labour, though I’m sure they’d jump at the chance if they could. News outlets have learned that you can get the public involved in sharing information and news tips, offering comments on news stories and providing pictures of snow, pets or other uninteresting things. But journalists are the ones you actually assign to produce news.

What I wanted: Setup RSS feeds by category and tag

What happened: Some movement, but not enough

Le Devoir introduced more specific RSS feeds this year, but there wasn’t much other movement in this regard. People who want feeds on specific topics from various media outlets are more likely to decide to rely on Google Alerts instead.

What I wanted: Add more tags to stories

What happened: Tagging introduced, but not exploited

Website redesigns, including the one at The Gazette, allow some form of keyword tagging. But we haven’t seen this truly exploited yet. Most systems are still automated, so getting related stories to link to each other is still hit-and-miss in a lot of plaes.

What I wanted: Larger photos

What happened: Slightly larger photos

Website redesigns understood that with faster Internet connections and larger screens, people can accept photos that are larger than 200 pixels wide. But we’re still far from where we could be. Many still max out around 500 pixels, even though their websites are designed for screens 1024-pixels wide.

What I wanted: Fixed search engines

What happened: Better search engines, but still frustratingly inadequate

The Gazette’s redesign brought in a search engine that works properly, though it’s still pretty basic. Cyberpresse brought in what it thought was a more full-featured search software. If you search for Patrick Lagacé, for example, you get his picture, his bio and a link to email him. Unfortunately, you don’t get a link to his blog, which is what people searching for him might be looking for.

What I wanted: Deportalization

What happened: Uberportalization

You’d think media ubercompanies would learn from successful websites like Google, whose homepage is very simple. Instead, their redesigns shove even more content on their homepages, making them almost infinitely long (five, six, seven screens’ worth). I have no idea who’s going to scan all the way down there for what they want.

Individual section pages help a bit, but they’re still part of a massive system that’s difficult to navigate due to its sheer size.

What I wanted: Give local outlets more control

What happened: Some get more, some get less

Canwest finally gave its daily newspapers their own websites with proper URLs. The Gazette’s website became montrealgazette.com instead of canada.com/montrealgazette. La Presse and the Journal de Montréal still don’t have their own websites, instead being hidden inside the Cyberpresse and Canoe portals.

What I wanted: Less reliance on wire services

What happened: More focus on locally-produced content

Fortunately, local media is more likely to promote its own productions over stuff it syndicates from other sources. Sections like health and technology, however, and especially sports tend to be filled with automatically-generated wire content.

What I wanted: Setup internal blogs to communicate with readers

What happened: Blogs started, forgotten

La Presse and The Gazette started blogs about themselves, but neither is updated very often now. No major news organizations communicate with readers on a regular basis about themselves through blogs, which is a shame because they need all the help they can get in these times.

What I wanted: Niche blogs

What happened: Columnist blogs

Lots of columnists started blogs about their beats, though many holes are still evident and not enough effort is being made keeping those blogs updated and publicizing them.

Worse, when the columnist goes on vacation (or just doesn’t feel like updating), the blog goes dead. No effort is made to bring in guest bloggers for those times. These niche blogs are about the people, not the subject, and most people don’t care where they get their soccer/TV/food/environment news from.

What I wanted: Static content

What happened: Disappearing content

I pointed to CBC’s “In Depth” section as an example of stuff that news agencies should look at doing. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen much of it. Feature stories go up and disappear within days as new content is uploaded. Archives have to be searched for instead of being browsed.

We still have an article-based mentality, where journalists summarize past events of a story instead of linking to a static article with all the information so far.

So when bloggers, for example, want to point to a page that explains a person, place or issue, they point to Wikipedia, even if the Wikipedia page is about three sentences long.

What I wanted: Solving article duplication

What happened: More article duplication

This is a problem a lot of newspapers experience: A story is written for the paper, uploaded to the web the night before, and then uploaded again automatically with all of the newspaper’s content. The result is two copies of the same article, though often with different headlines, photos or formatting.

No significant moves have been made to solve this problem that I can see.

What I wanted: Stop splitting stories across multiple pages

What happened: Users given “all on one page” option

With the speeds our computers operate at and all the Flash ads, videos and other junk that need to be downloaded on every page, it seems ridiculous that newspaper websites split text articles up on different pages. It’s obviously not to reduce page load times, it’s to increase ad impressions by forcing people to load multiple pages.

Increasingly, “all on one page” is being offered as an option, but this isn’t the default. I have no idea why anyone would want only part of a story to load when they click on it.

Le Devoir’s big media issues for 2008

In January, Le Devoir pondered what the media’s going to have to deal with this year.

  1. What do we do with TQS? Well, we gave it to Remstar and they promptly fired everyone. Their ratings are crap, but they don’t have many expenses.
  2. How do we finance television? The CRTC said no to cable providers handing money to conventional TV broadcasters, so it looks like advertising is still the way to go.
  3. How long will the Journal de Québec situation go on? Just when some people thought it would last forever, a deal was reached in June and the employees were back to work in August. Now we wonder if the same will happen at the Journal de Montréal.
  4. How do we handle journalist multitasking? La Presse dealt with job classification in a way that its union was happy with. The Journal de Québec did it in a way the union could live with. Others are still trying to figure it out. But besides dealing with union roadblocks, the media needs to figure out whether it’s worth it for reporters to take crappy videos and photos instead of relying on professional photographers.
  5. How will online distribution royalties be handled? The U.S. writers strike ended in a way that still hasn’t resolved that issue. Royalties won’t really be resolved until someone starts making money online.
  6. Will we have Internet CanCon? The CRTC decided it would not regulate the Internet, and media companies were happy with that. Net neutrality is still a problem we have to deal with though.
Posted in Media

Quebec/Canadian media 2008 in review

(Because, unlike some media outlets, I like to wait until the year is actually finished before I summarize what happened)

A year ago, I called 2007 “a bad year for Quebec journalism”. Had I known what was in store for 2008, I would have called it an omen for worse things to come. What were dozens of job losses then became hundreds of layoffs a year later.

And above all, that’s what 2008 is going to be known for: layoff figures in the triple digits from Torstar, Canwest, CTV, Sun Media and Rogers.

TQS, the Halifax Daily News, the Journal de Trois-Rivières, Global’s This Morning Live, 940 News, the Carleton Free Press, MediaScout, all shut down because they couldn’t justify themselves financially.

The stock market crash correction, housing crisis and credit crunch didn’t make it easier, but they didn’t cause these problems. The media revolution affecting newspapers and other traditional media is only getting more violent, and hundreds of people are losing their jobs while the industry figures out how to make money again. Quality journalism, which was never much of a money-maker in the first place, becomes among the first things to suffer.

Grab a bottle of your favourite booze, ’cause this one’s long.

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Posted in Media, Montreal, Slow News Day

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.

Posted in Media, On the Net

Regret the Error year in review

Regret the Error's typo of the year

Regret the Error's typo of the year

Montreal writer Craig Silverman, editor of news corrections website Regret the Error (and author of the book by the same name) has released his review of the best media errors and corrections from 2008.

Among the highlights:

  • David Gest did not get herpes from Liza Minnelli
  • Dance poles at the Condom Shack may, in fact, support the weight of a human
  • The Los Angeles Times getting conned into writing a feature story filled with false information about Tupac Shakur (which was later debunked by The Smoking Gun)
  • Headline turns Bon Jovi into “Bob Jovi” (though, frankly, I’ve made worse errors that have made it into much larger type)
  • “Democratic vice-presidential prick in 2000″ Joe Lieberman
  • Bob Novak announcing “he has a brain”
  • At least one that-wasn’t-his-mistress-that-was-his-daughter story
  • The Calgary Sun correcting the record: GM does not support neo-Nazis
  • Bill O’Reilly is not a “right-wing pundit”
  • Recipe accidentally calls for poisonous ingredient
  • A copy editor’s joke about strangling a kitten accidentally makes it to print (and the editor gets fired)
  • Israel will hit, not eat, Iran
  • From the Ottawa Sun: David Hoe was never a sex worker
  • Amercan Family Association website automatic filter for AP stories turns “Tyson Gay” into “Tyson Homosexual”
  • Wall Street Journal gets Canada’s name wrong. Twice.

It also mentions the Paris Match province-vs-city mistake on Quebec’s 400th anniversary.

Posted in Media, Montreal

Quebecor the big loser in journalistic ethics rulings

Raymond Viger, in his 2007 look back, decides to evaluate local media based on decisions rendered against them by the Quebec Press Council. An interesting quantitative measure if there ever was one. Quebecor’s various properties, led by the Journal de Montréal (unsurprisingly), get top “honours.”

I think it’s also worth looking at who’s not on that list:

Posted in Media, Opinion

2007: A bad year for Quebec journalism

This blog is less than a year old, so I don’t have much raw data to evaluate long-term trends. But the past few months seem to have hit all of Quebec’s mainstream media simultaneously, with most of them announcing cuts in the number of journalists they have on staff.

Individually, none (except maybe troubles at TQS) is a major turning point for an organization, but taken together a trend appears to be emerging.

February:

  • CBC brings back a one-hour evening TV newscast to Montreal after budget cuts forced it to hand victory to CFCF. Though it’s good news, the new one-hour newscast doesn’t come close to regaining the ground the station lost when it cut the 6pm newscast down to 30 minutes.

April:

  • Editorial employees at the Journal de Québec are locked out by management who want to impose a new contract. Press workers immediately strike in solidarity, and both work together to produce an alternative free daily newspaper that is still publishing. The Journal is still going, put together by management, but the content is coming from the Journal de Montréal (reluctantly) and wire services (including one apparently setup solely to exploit this situation).

September:

October:

November:

December:

Posted in In the news, Media, Montreal

Gazette reporters look back

Nudged deep within hundreds of other 2007 look-backs that are starting to make us go crazy wondering if this forgettable year will ever end are a series of short stories by Gazette reporters about some of the stories they’ve covered this year. Most of them are of the “it’s such an emotional issue it’s hard to stay objective” style, but there are some interesting ones too that I’ll outline in bold below.

They’re posted online in three parts.

Part 1

  • Peggy Curran aboard the CCGS Amundsen: Being objective is hard when you’re living with the people you’re writing about for 10 days in the arctic.
  • Jeff Heinrich at the reasonable accommodation hearings: An anti-semite refuses to give his name to the Jewish anglo reporter. Except Heinrich isn’t Jewish.

Part 2

  • Sue Montgomery on the trial and sentencing of the murderer of gas station attendant Brigitte Serre: How on Earth do you stab someone 72 times and not feel remorse?
  • Michelle Lalonde on asbestos in Thetford Mines: Residents and workers accept health risks inherent in asbestos mining as an occupational hazard.
  • William Marsden on the de la Concorde overpass collapse: I was right, the transport department was wrong about a telltale visible crack which should have warned engineers about an imminent collapse.
  • René Bruemmer on the life of fire victim Joe B.G.: Not every fatality is an anonymous nobody. Asking a simple question can sometimes prompt a long and interesting story.
  • Linda Gyulai on the City of Montreal’s cellphone recycling program: Not every story comes with a press release. Even the ones that make people look good.
  • David Johnston on a story about drug addicts: Sometimes the more interesting story isn’t the one that fits the article.

Part 3

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.