Monthly Archives: January 2008

Montreal West wins this round

Montreal West has won a judgment in its favour concerning the whole Broughton Rd. Montreal West/Ville Saint-Pierre saga. Already Montreal West is being cheered by its residents and Lachine is vowing to appeal.

The dispute is over concrete barriers Montreal West put up at the border between the two towns in March. MoWest said it was to curb dangerous traffic that speeds through town as a shortcut to Highway 20 West. Lachine/VSP said it was class warfare, designed to separate the rich residents of Montreal West from the poor working class down the hill.

Of course, they’re both right.

The barrier will stay down until the appeal is decided.

Journal de Québec: 9 months and counting

Locked-out and striking workers at the Journal de Québec have asked for an arbitrator to finally help put an end to the conflict that’s been going on since April.

The seemingly unsustainable situation, where the paper has been relying on quasi-legal Canoë, Journal de Montréal, wire service and management workers to put out the paper while the unionized workers have been publishing a competing free paper five days a week, has gone on so long that union members are being offered subscriptions to the Journal, and MédiaMatin has started a classified section:

MédiaMatinQuébec classified section

The Journal is clearly not ready to back down, and as long as the union gets support from its solidarity-bretheren (the latest is the Réseau de transport de Longueuil) as well as overwhelming moral support from the public, they’re not about to fold up shop either.

U.S. network picks up a Canadian series

After three months and dozens of articles theorizing how the U.S. networks would start importing Canadian programming to make up for the writers strike, the first case of that actually happening has finally showed up.

CBS has agreed to pick up a new CTV series called Flashpoint, about an elite group of supercops who will do all the cool dangerous stuff that regular beer-bellied cops can’t do.

Like Due South, the last Canadian program to be picked up by a U.S. network (also CBS in that case), Flashpoint will actually be a co-production between the two networks, produced and filmed in Canada. This means CBS won’t be paying as much for it, and they’ll have more say in its content. That also means it will have American-style production values, according to Variety.

(I’ve never considered Canadian production values particularly deficient. Lighting and sound is usually good enough for my tastes. The problem is that Canadian actors overact and Canadian writers think in clichés.)

UPDATE (Jan. 31): The Writers’ Guild of Canada has to justify the deal and defend itself from charges of being scabs.

UPDATE (Feb. 2): And just like that, CTV sells a second series to NBC.

Will Standout Jobs stand out?

One of the nuclear-launch-codes-level super-secret Montreal startup operations has finally launched this week. Standout Jobs is a career-search site that focuses more on building mini sites for each company than providing a big boring job-search database.

Unfortunately, despite all the emphasis from local startups, including Standout Jobs, on the local technology scene, the company launched itself not here but in California. Its website design also looks like the kind of cookie-cutter rounded-corners Web 2.0 template that’s been on every other website that’s launched in the past year. (And as Heri points out, the company portal pages are just a bunch of widgets and could be simplified, especially since the only reason you’re going to go there is to see what jobs they have available and what kind of company it is to work for.)

It remains to be seen how successful the company will be. That will come down to whether they can find enough companies willing to pay $149 a month for a recruiting site that they could mostly duplicate on Facebook or recreate on their own.

UPDATE (Jan. 31): Yoskoblog has video of the demo. The tools to post to job boards and keep track of candidates automatically are pretty cool, and underpresented on the site.

My new job

A few weeks ago, I got an email from my old boss at The Gazette, asking if I’d be interested in filling in for a few weeks on the copy desk. Two of their copy editors just had a baby and are on parental leave. So I accepted a part-time contract until the end of March, which will see me writing headlines, editing copy and doing layout a couple of days a week. It will also see me having a real go-to-the-office job for the first time in over a year.

Sunday evening was my first shift, on the sports desk (if you noticed any errors in Monday’s sports section, feel free to blame me). Because I had worked as a copy editor there before, I didn’t need any training. But in the year I’ve been gone, they’ve replaced their computers (they now have awesome PowerMac G5 machines with two flat-panel monitors), redistributed tasks, dropped a major wire service, and put a much heavier focus on online tie-ins.

But as much as the job provides me a way to reconnect with old coworkers and bring in a bit more money, it also presents an unavoidable conflict of interest when it comes to my blog. Though I have always tried to be fair in my criticisms of local media (including The Gazette), I can’t ignore the conflict inherent in writing about one’s employer.

I intend to keep blogging about local media issues (on my own time), but so long as I’m employed I’ll keep from writing opinions about The Gazette and Canwest, positive or negative. Instead, I’ll bring the news to you and let you form your own opinions.

I also won’t be writing about company secrets or office gossip here (mostly to avoid people having to say “please don’t write this on your blog” after every sentence). Any behind-the-scenes stories will be relatively tame, like gloating about the pun-tastic headlines I come up with.

Just to be clear, this is my decision and in no way even suggested by The Gazette or Canwest. In fact, despite knowing about my blog (and visiting it regularly), The Gazette has never attempted to complain or interfere with my blogging, even when I’ve been critical of the paper. The only time it became an issue (when a source refused to talk to me because I’d made sarcastic comments in a post), the paper actually came to my defence.

So in the interests of full disclosure, that’s what’s going on.

Frankie’s back!

Frank Cavallaro

Frank Cavallaro, who was unceremoniously booted from CTV News Montreal when his contract wasn’t renewed on Dec. 31, has found a new job at their direct competitor CBC News.

Michel Godbout announces Frank Cavallaro hiring

Michel Godbout announced yesterday on the Montreal evening newscast that Cavallaro will become their new “weather specialist” starting in a couple of weeks. He replaces Geeta Nadkarni, who moves to environment reporting.

Frank also announced the news himself on his new blog.

One advantage that being on CBC gives him is potential international exposure. CBC Montreal puts its evening News at Six on its website in Windows Media format.

The appointment gives Montreal viewers a choice, between experience and professionalism at CBC (well, as much professionalism as a guy associated with zucchini can have anyway) and cheery perkiness of CTV’s weatherbabes.

Which of these will Montrealers choose?

UPDATE (Jan. 30): Boone compares Cavallaro with Andrew Marquis, who died shortly after being stolen away by CBC Montreal from Pulse News.

Don Wittman’s greatest hits

Don Wittman

CBC sportscaster Don Wittman died last week, ironically on the same day as the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Canadian Football League, for which he was a regular play-by-play commentator (at least until the CBC decided they needed someone younger). has a feature section on Wittman, including some clips of his more memorable moments (which I think understate how recognizable a voice he was on CBC Sports).

But while the news focuses on his calling Ben Johnson’s track-and-field win, then Donovan Bailey’s world-record-setting 100-metre run at the 1996 Olympics, and his unexpected foray into news reporting at the 1972 Munich games, but my favourite is this bench-clearing brawl during the 1987 world junior hockey championship, which was so out of control that the officials turned the lights out to get everyone to calm down:

Some other videos worth watching:

TWIM: Are speeding tickets a government conspiracy?

This week’s Justify Your Existence is Alfredo Munoz of S.O.S. Ticket. You’ll recall earlier this month there was some dust kicked up at a new service from this ticket-fighting brigade setup by a former police officer. That service alerts drivers to radar speed traps, so they can slow down and not get a ticket.

The article (which Kate thinks has an editorializing headline but I think is a legitimate question, even though I didn’t write it) is cut off online. Here’s the missing text:

Alerts are given to drivers by text message on their cellphones. Doesn’t that encourage dangerous cellphone use while driving?

We can walk and chew gum at the same time. It takes a second to read, and you can hold the cellphone in front of you as you read it, to keep your eyes on the road. It doesn’t worry me. We’ve studied this. Ads on the side of the road or drinking a coffee are more of a distraction than a text message.

I talked with Munoz last week in the small company’s log-cabin-like offices in Old Montreal, around the corner from the municipal courthouse. He sat me down on his expensive-looking leather couch and we talked for a while about the ethics of his service and tickets in general.

Munoz, a young technically-proficient businessman, not only didn’t agree that what he was doing was morally questionable. He feels he’s helping society through this service:

  • It keeps the idea of speed traps in drivers’ heads, so they’re conscious that they need to slow down
  • Because it relies on members reporting speed traps, it’s not 100% and won’t encourage people to drive faster because they can never be sure a cop isn’t there
  • Everyone speeds anyway. It isn’t less safe
  • Speeding tickets don’t make highways safer, they just bring in more money to the police
  • Dangerous driving is caused by 16-18-year-olds who are taught about signage and the highway code but not how to drive safely or keep a car under control in an emergency

Munoz sees S.O.S. Ticket as the only true force representing regular car drivers. He philosophizes that nobody has ever changed the world by being liked by everyone.

Whether he does more good than harm is something for you to decide.

Insurance companies aren’t heroes

Insurance Bureau of Canada ice storm ad

This ad ran in the paper last week from the Insurance Bureau of Canada. It talks of the 10th anniversary of the ice storm, and the recovery efforts that brought everyone together. It also notes how proud the insurance industry is of the “vital role” it played in that recovery.

It’s along similar lines to this letter from a couple of weeks ago, talking about the heroic insurance adjusters who processed hundreds of thousands of claims in the weeks that followed.

OK sure, it was a lot of work and I’m sure those insurance people had to work overtime. And unlike airline pilots or police officers, insurance adjusters rarely have moments of great triumph in their profession. But this ad makes them out to be heroes, just for processing some forms and cutting some cheques.

Had the insurance companies gone out of their way, above and beyond in compensating policy holders, I might have let them shamelessly suck in the pats on the back. But they didn’t. Instead, they warned people without power not to leave their homes unless they were forced to by the government, saying they wouldn’t be compensated for additional living expenses. A class-action lawsuit is still being fought to get policy holders compensated.

Perhaps instead of spending so much money on advertising masturbation they could settle the lawsuit and give their clients the money they’re owed.