Monthly Archives: January 2008

The Gimli Glider retires

The Gimli Glider had its last flight yesterday, almost 25 years after a metric conversion error (along with a few other mistakes) caused an Air Canada 767 to run out of fuel in the air and glide powerless onto a runway at an old military base in Gimli, Man. As the final trip to the Mojave, CA airport (the desert airplane graveyard) took off from Montreal, it flew past the Air Canada hangar to salute the employees who gathered to celebrate its retirement.

For those who didn’t read the book or see the made-for-TV movie about the incident, an Air Canada flight from Montreal to Edmonton in 1983 had a malfunctioning fuel gauge, and ground workers fuelling it manually miscalculated the amount needed through a metric conversion error (the plane was among the first all-metric ones to be flown here). The pilots didn’t find out they were low on fuel until just before the engines died, and ended up landing it without engine power, flaps, half their instruments, a locked nose gear and most of the power assistance for flight controls.

This line from the first article linked below sums it up best:

As Pearson began gliding the big bird, Quintal “got busy” in the manuals looking for procedures for dealing with the loss of both engines. There were none. Neither he nor Pearson nor any other 767 pilot had ever been trained on this contingency.

The story goes on to even more craziness: turning the airplane on its side to lose altitude quickly while on final approach; landing on a decommissioned runway with hundreds of people celebrating a family fun day at the other end (the plane stopped just a hundred feet short of spectators), and the maintenance crew driving up from Winnipeg in a van who got lost and ran out of gas along the way.

But other people recount this story much better than I do. Here are some of the better ones:

It’s one of my favourite airplane stories, and definitely my favourite one that hasn’t yet been featured on my favouritest show ever. (Though they’re planning 10 new episodes this year, so maybe it’s time?)

Amazingly enough, it’s not even the longest recorded engineless glide of a commercial airliner. That honour goes to Air Transat Flight 236, which took off from Toronto and lost fuel over the Atlantic due to a fuel leak. The pilots in that flight had a similar crisis to contend with, only the runway they were headed to was on a tiny island in the middle of a very large ocean.

But the Gimli Glider came first. Before then, nobody had even (seriously) conceived of flying a large passenger jet this way. Its crew instantly became test pilots, and the aircraft itself one giant guinea pig pushed to its limits. After what was sure to be a devastating crash, it required only moderate repairs and left the runway on its own power, going back for repairs and continuing as a passenger aircraft for another two decades.

And for that, we salute you.

Bienvenue aux écouteurs de Rythme FM

Pour les gens qui m’ont entendu ce matin à Les matins de Montréal de Rythme FM, voici un lien vers ma carte des structures au Québec:

At-risk overpasses


  • ROUGE: structures démolis, fermés ou qui vont être remplacés
  • JAUNE: structures dont la ministère a décidé de faire des travaux majeures ou qui ont encore des restrictions de poids
  • VERT: structures qui ont passé l’inspection et n’ont pas besoin de travaux ni restrictions
  • BLEU: structures dont l’inspection n’est past complet ou un décision n’est pas encore publié

D’autres liens utiles:

Autres pensées:

  • J’ai jamais pensé que le Courrier international à décidé que je suis un “ailleurs” ici. (En regardant le blogue encore, c’est plutôt parce que je suis anglophone, et il aime mon blogue alors j’ai rien contre lui)
  • Ma mère n’est pas fâché contre moi pour le truc “Jim FM” (je savais pas qu’ils lisait mon blogue en direct!). Mais elle pense que j’étais un peu nerveux. C’est vrai, mais j’étais plutôt fatigué!
  • Ma carte n’est pas à 100%, ça prend un autre mise-à-jour fini!
  • Je retourne à mon lit maintenant.

(Voici un enregistrement “rush” de baisse qualité de l’entrevue. Je vais le remplacer par un plus meilleur: .mp3, .ogg)

Want to hear me practice my French?

I’ve just been booked as a phone-in interview for Rythme FM’s morning show tomorrow at 8am (105.7 FM). They want me to talk about my recently-updated map of Quebec’s overpasses.

Those of you willing to wake up early enough to listen to it will not only listen to my embarrassingly awful French being broadcasted to a huge audience, but that same awful French made awfuler by the fact that I’ll be low on sleep.

Anyone have a message for Patrice l’Écuyer?


  • Mom: “Your dad wants to know what radio station it is.”
  • Me: “105.7 Rythme FM.”
  • Dad: “Jim FM?”
  • Me: “No. Rythme FM. Rhythm. 105.7”
  • Dad: “What are the call letters?”
  • Me: “I don’t know. They don’t use them.”
  • Mom: “He doesn’t know. It’s Rim FM. R-I-M.”
  • Me: “NO! RYTHME FM. R-Y-T-H-M-E!”
  • Mom: “Oh. Rythme FM.”
  • Dad: “What are the call letters? It’s C-something.”
  • Me (Googling): “CFGL.”
  • Mom: “CFGL.”
  • Dad: “Ahh! CFGL! Why didn’t he just say so?”

My dad’s a devout CHOM listener. The remaining stations he knows only by their callsign.

Let’s hope the station understands me better through my cellphone.

UPDATE (After the interview): Here’s a rush recording of the interview from my not-designed-for-broadcast digital recorder. I’ll replace it with a better version later: .mp3, .ogg

Newspaper puzzles are taken very seriously

One of the things that surprised me talking to people about newspapers is how many of them see the crossword as its most important part. Take out the news, sports, classified, even the front page flag and they’ll live with it. But touch their New York Times crossword and there’s hell to pay.

The Gazette is considering adding Deducto to its puzzles page. Deducto is a symbol-based deductive reasoning puzzle much like Sudoku, but its rules make little sense and there’s no challenge to it.

Initial response from select readers about the idea has so far been skewed negative. They’re happy with their crossword (or their Sudoku), and this puzzle’s instructions seem too complicated and uninteresting to bother learning.

Feel free to make your jokes here: Gazette readers can’t do deductive reasoning; Gazette readers can’t read; Gazette readers are allergic to new ideas.

Would you like to see this game added to your newspaper? It’s a moot point with me since I get my paper electronically and I’m not about to write on my screen.

UPDATE (March 25): The Gazette has apparently scrapped the idea after receiving a very unenthusiastic response (PDF).

Should journalists start checking ID?

The Agence France-Presse news agency has banned its journalists from using Wikipedia and Facebook as sources in news stories. This comes after it was caught with its pants down quoting liberally from a fake Facebook profile setup in the name of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of slain former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

On one hand, many non-journalists might argue that it’s obvious such user-generated sites should not be considered authoritative.

But this story exposes one of journalism’s Achilles heels: In general, we take people at their word that they are who they say they are. Unless there is something suspicious that would lead us to believe otherwise (like someone giving their name as Hugh Jass), we ask people for their names and we trust that they’re not fooling us.

Is this wrong? No matter how good we get at our jobs, journalists will always be vulnerable to pranksters and others who intentionally try to mislead us. (Insert Iraq war comparison here.)

Should we just accept that as an occupational hazard, or should we start checking ID whenever we want to quote someone by name?

Habs bring ratings boost to HNIC

The Globe and Mail, at the end of a longer article on a possible new TV channel for CBC Sports, reports that the audience for Hockey Night in Canada actually went up last weekend when they telecasted the Habs game nationally instead of the Leafs, in every region except British Columbia. The increase is modest, and it doesn’t include Ontario (because they still got the Leafs game), where almost half the audience resides.

Still, a ratings increase speaks to CBC’s bottom line, so expect more nationally-telecast Habs games in the future.

The other part of the Globe article says the CBC is in the initial thinking phase of a new amateur sport TV specialty channel. They aren’t even close to going to the CRTC yet, so this is still a long ways off. It might also conflict with the Canadian Olympic Committee, which is also thinking of an amateur sport channel. (UPDATE: The Globe discusses some of the hurdles such a channel might face in getting regulatory approval)

Meanwhile, the CBC has applied to the CRTC for a license amendment allowing CBC Newsworld to setup an HD channel. It’s unlikely to face any opposition, so we could see CBC Newsworld HD within the next few months.

Jamie Orchard takes the bus

Global Quebec likes to run the occasional 5-second ad for anchor Jamie Orchard’s blog. I find this odd, because she updates it about once a month, which hardly makes it qualify as a blog, much less make it advertising-worthy.

Today, she added her first new post since Dec. 4, complaining about bus service on the island. It’s an example of what not to do with blogs.

Let me explain:

  1. It’s a subject that anyone can write about. In fact, as evidenced by two letters she cuts-and-pastes into the blog post, anyone has written about it. Orchard’s experience having buses show up late and not wanting to bike in the winter are not unique and she provides no unique insight into them. Journalists’ blogs should provide new information if not personal insight. They shouldn’t repeat what everyone else is saying.
  2. It’s blowhardism instead of journalism. Instead of explaining that delays are a result of a bus shortage, she rants about how “Montreal must do more” for public transit. Such comments make us feel good but are completely devoid of meaning.

There are other minor things like the horrible formatting, but those two are the most important.

Mainstream media outlets are clueless about this blog thing and are just throwing stuff out there to see what sticks. Unfortunately, that leaves us with a lot of junk. I don’t want my journalists to sound just like those uninformed idiots on MySpace. I want something new and interesting. The faster journalist-bloggers (and the media companies who don’t want to pay them a cent to do this extra work) understand that, the faster we’ll see blogs that are worth our attention.

And while I sympathize with people whose buses arrive late, I don’t think exaggeration is warranted here. This isn’t some third-world country. The vast majority of buses do arrive on time and take people to their destination without incident.

I lived for five years in the West Island taking a bus every day downtown to study. Up to three hours of transit time each day. Sometimes buses wouldn’t show up, and I’d be left out in the cold for up to an hour. But even when I got frustrated, I never condemned the entire system like others have. I moved closer to the city, next to a metro station where I don’t have to worry about catching a bus to get downtown.

Yes, Montreal (and Quebec, and the unions, and STM management and everyone else) should do more to ensure quality public transit. But Montrealers need to be a bit more tolerant toward small disruptions in service. Montreal’s transit network is among the most reliable in the world, and I think we’ve taken that for granted.

7,000 words and still the story is unfinished

J-Source has a short article by The Gazette’s Sue Montgomery about the story she wrote on Dawson College shooter Kimveer Gill. Despite it weighing in at 7,000 words and being nominated for an award, she considers it incomplete. Gill’s father and brothers wouldn’t speak to her (only his mother did), and the coroner hasn’t released its report about Gill’s death, which would have answered some lingering questions about how exactly he died:

Gill’s mother says her son had a bullet wound on his arm (where the police shot him) and one in the back of his head, leading her to suspect the police may have killed him. The police say Gill shot himself by placing a gun to his chin, yet Parvinder Gill says his face was intact when they prepared him for burial. What really happened? Why can we not see the surveillance camera tapes from inside the school that day? And why, if it was a crime scene, did the police drag Gill’s body outside to lie in the rain?

Toronto Sun sorry for plagiarizing Torontoist

The Toronto Sun has apologized after Torontoist noticed an article the Sun ran copied a paragraph word-for-word from a blog post of theirs two days earlier. Though the blog considers the matter closed, Craig Silverman does his usual complaint that the apology is too brief, doesn’t explain how the error occurred and doesn’t say if there was an investigation into the reporter’s past articles for instances of plagiarism.

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for one of the big papers to plagiarize one of my posts without credit. When is it going to be my turn?

CRTC may radically change cable TV as we know it

Those of you who have been following the TQS saga know that the CRTC has decided to reconsider whether over-the-air broadcasters should be able to request licensing payments from cable and satellite companies that retransmit their signals to Canadian homes.

But the hearings set to take place in April go far beyond that, and touch just about every regulatory aspect of cable and satellite distribution systems across the country.

It’s referenced as Notice of Public Hearing 2007-10, and is currently in the comment/reply phase. In it, the CRTC says it is considering changes to the following rules:

  1. The rule that so-called “Category 1 specialty services” (a handful of digital TV specialty channels that are protected as to format) be immune from direct competition in terms of format from other channels. This ties into a larger debate about whether specialty channels in general should have government-imposed monopolies, when in practice they tend to compete. (For example, TSN and Rogers Sportsnet are licensed as national and regional channels, though they compete for coverage of hockey games; CBC NewsWorld and CTV NewsNet are similarly technically-different-but-realistically-competing channels)
  2. Similarly, how distinctions between channels with high original Canadian content (like say Discovery Channel or TSN) and those with little original Canadian content (Spike TV, Mystery Television) should be measured, and what incentives should be given to those who have more CanCon (channel placement, mandatory availability, more advertising time, free cookies, etc.).
  3. The rule that more than half of the channels available to any customer must be Canadian. (I can’t legally choose a package that includes more American channels than Canadian ones, though this is rarely a problem in practice because of the dozens of mandatory Canadian channels that are added as part of basic cable service)
  4. Whether a rule should be added requiring distributors to have one minority-language channel for every 10 majority-language channels they add.
  5. Rules that restrict distributors in terms of related channels owned by the same company. (Specifically, whether distributors should have to prove that related channels did not get undue preferential treatment instead of putting the onus on complainants who do not have access to internal documents)
  6. Rules that set minimum requirements for third-language programming.
  7. In general, how HD versions of standard-definition channels should be regulated.
  8. The rule that requires distributors wanting to add a third-language non-Canadian service to make a Canadian service in the same language (if one exists) also available.
  9. Rules that require some specialty channels to get 75% of their content from “independent producers” unaffiliated with the network.
  10. Rules that prohibit on-demand and pay-per-view networks from including advertising
  11. What rules, if any, should be added to prevent on-demand services from competing with regular specialty channels
  12. The rule limiting specialty channels to 12 minutes of advertising an hour (this limit is already being phased out for over-the-air broadcasters)
  13. What rules, if any, should be added to require more vigorous vetting of specialty channel applications (according to the CRTC’s calculations, only 14% of the networks they’ve approved have launched and are still in operation)
  14. What rules the CRTC should not allow exemptions for on a case-by-case basis
  15. The rule that requires community channels be distributed as part of the basic service
  16. What basic service should mean for direct-to-home satellite providers Bell ExpressVu and StarChoice (who for technological reasons have to provide the same channels to the entire country)
  17. Whether the CRTC should get involved with customer service complaints concerning cable and satellite companies
  18. Rules that govern the ownership and use of cable infrastructure inside residential buildings (does your cable company own the physical cable coming into your home, and can they prevent others from using it for competing services?)

Basically, just about everything is up in the air here, as the CRTC looks to simplify and deregulate the industry.

The broadness of the hearing resulted in an overwhelming 213 comments from everyone involved on both sides. Most were positive about the idea of deregulation. The largest out cry came from small-market community stations who panicked at the idea their stations would no longer be required on basic cable. That should be sufficient to get the CRTC to drop discussion of changes in those regulations.

Many of the proposed changes are a result of the Dunbar/Leblanc report into broadcast regulations, which recommended sweeping changes to deregulate the broadcast industry. They include:

  1. Easing of genre protections in specialty TV services and merging the different classes of channels
  2. Removing limits on advertising (since most stations use much less than the maximum allowed, they argue that market forces are doing more to self-regulate this)
  3. Encouraging more competition in over-the-air networks by putting less emphasis on how new broadcasters will affect existing broadcasters’ advertising revenue and bottom line
  4. Eliminating many rules that restrict how distributors can offer non-Canadian channels (requirements that they must be packaged together with similar Canadian offerings, for example)
  5. Fine-tuning “priority programming” rules so that broadcasters can’t save money by creating cheap reality shows and showing them during prime-time wastelands like Friday and Saturday nights during the summer
  6. Radically changing or even eliminating simultaneous substitution requirements that give Canadian networks a huge economic incentive to simply rebroadcast American prime-time programming instead of developing their own
  7. Reducing requirements for broadcasters to use programming from independent producers
  8. Adding incentives for networks that have increased Canadian content in terms of mandatory carriage and other perks
  9. Drop the idea that “channel placement” means anything anymore (seriously, are you less likely to view a programming because it’s on a higher-numbered channel?)
  10. Allow the CRTC to impose administrative fines for violations of license, instead of brandishing the increasingly hollow threat of license revocation.
  11. Give up trying to regulate the Internet
  12. Delete the rule that requires all Category 1 channels to be distributed as a package
  13. Eliminate “winback” rules that prohibit cable companies from marketing to customers who have just cancelled their service
  14. Stop obsessing over format when licensing new FM radio stations since they can just go around and change their format without CRTC approval anyway
  15. Easing restrictions on campus community radio stations, eliminating advertising caps and allowing more flexibility in terms of programming

The report, unsurprisingly was praised by potential newcomers to the market and condemned by existing broadcasters, who say it’s “far-reaching,” particularly in recommendations for simultaneous substitution, the golden goose for CTV and Global.

I’d like to focus on a few of these issues that affect television consumers:

Simultaneous substitution

Simultaneous substitution has been an important part of cable TV for over 30 years. Put simply, it’s the rule that when a Canadian and American channel are showing the same show, the cable company has to replace the American signal with the Canadian one, including all Canadian commercials. So when you’re watching House on Fox, you’re actually watching the Global feed instead of the Fox feed.

The reasoning behind this is so Canadian advertising gets preference over American advertising. Advertising revenue stays in Canada and supports our networks instead of American ones.

There are minor annoyances with this rule:

  • Shows are not synchronized to the second, so you end up watching the beginning of an episode and then two minutes later have to re-watch it from the beginning.
  • We don’t get to watch the way-cool Super Bowl commercials in Canada
  • Though the CRTC requirement provides for replacement only when signals are of “equal or better quality,” in practice the quality is never better and in many cases worse, though not enough for the cable companies to want to fight over it.

But the big problem with simultaneous substitution is an economic one. Unlike CRTC rules that encourage the development of original Canadian programming, this does the opposite. It encourages CTV and Global to buy Canadian rights to American programming at a tenth of the price it would cost them to produce their own, and simply rebroadcast it with their own commercials. As a result, both networks try their best to max out on American simulcasts, to the detriment of Canadian programming.

Getting rid of simsub would force Canadian networks to compete with American ones. They could continue to simply simulcast the programming, and lose half their audience (assuming people just randomly select the Canadian or American channel), they could negotiate better deals with the American networks (whose border affiliates could charge more for advertising), air the shows at different times (so Canadians would have more choice of when to watch popular programs) or they could create their own programming.

Simultaneous substitution is nothing but easy money for Canadian broadcasters. It is a cancer on Canadian broadcasting and it needs to be stopped.

Unfortunately, the words “simultaneous substitution” appear nowhere in the notice of public hearing. Which probably means it’s off the table, and the CRTC is too chicken to seriously discuss eliminating it.

Specialty service competition

I still get confused about the different classes of licenses for specialty TV channels. Some are required on basic cable, others are discretionary. Some are analog, others digital. Some must be available on digital services but not necessarily as part of the basic package. It goes on.

The CRTC is looking to reduce the number of categories, which separate channels based more on when they began than what they offer. One of the goals would be to allow more competition between some channels which currently enjoy a government-regulated monopoly on their genre. Channels like MuchMusic, TSN, Comedy Network and others are prohibited from having direct competition.

In practice, these kinds of things are hard to enforce, and networks that are technically different are competing with each other. But this isn’t a loophole to be closed, it’s an evolution to be encouraged. The barrier to entry isn’t the same as it was in the 1980s when there were a dozen channels. With the exception of a few special-interest channels like CPAC (which aren’t likely to have competition anyway), these channels are profit-driven enterprises and shouldn’t enjoy special access to niche markets.

Commercial advertising

It’s interesting that not everyone is maxing out on their allowed advertising minutes. I remain a bit skeptical that some networks won’t increase advertising significantly if they get desperate for money, and I would recommend that programming minimums that are currently expressed in half-hour blocks that include advertising instead be converted to minimums that exclude advertising. That way networks can’t save costs on original programming by simply adding more commercials and making their length shorter.

The CRTC’s suggested approach, phasing the limits out and carefully monitoring the situation afterward, seems prudent and justified.

Regulation of the Internet

When news first came out in the fall that the CRTC was considering Internet regulation the response from the public was immediate and overwhelming. They have since backed down.

Besides the fact that there are no barriers to entry on the Internet, no finite public airwaves to distribute fairly, and (net neutrality notwithstanding) no undue commercial pressures that favour some content over others, the simple fact remains that Internet regulation is pointless because it’s impossible to enforce.

The CRTC has seen the light on this, so thankfully we can move on.

The hearing is scheduled for April 7, 2008 in Gatineau. Comments are accepted until Friday. 

Newspaper editors can never please everyone

I love it when the radical pundits of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict complain to the news media about their coverage.

A letter last week in the Gazette complains about a headline used on a story about two Israelis and two Palestinians dying: “Two Israelis, two Palestinians killed in West Bank clash.” You’ll note the article was published more than three weeks before the letter from Mike Fegelman of Honest Reporting Canada, an organization whose name sounds like they value fairness, but concentrates its efforts solely on trying to influence news coverage to make it more favourable to Israel.

The complaint in this particular case was that the headline did not make clear that the Palestinians instigated the attack and were killed in self-defence by the Israeli soldiers.

The idea that headlines should tell the whole story is a common complaint against newspapers. But headlines can’t tell the whole story by virtue of the lack of space available. If they could tell the whole story, there wouldn’t be articles underneath them.

But still, how about I suggest a headline The Gazette should have used for this brief article:

Two hero Israeli soldiers massacred by evil satanic terrorist Palestinian homicide killers in unprovoked cowardly attack, return fire in self-defence before tragically succumbing to their injuries; attackers also die in the fighting, ridding the world of two useless pieces of enemy scum

Now, that headline is a bit longer than the previous one, but it would more honestly tell the story, no?

Screw the court of law

The other complaint about The Gazette’s editing comes from both Honest Reporting and The Suburban, “Quebec’s largest English newspaper” (huh?). Both take issue with the paper’s removal of the adjective “terrorist” to describe attacks in a CanWest News Service news article.

The reason this “heavy-handed editing” (the removal of two words) happened is obvious: Despite its very public support of Israel, CanWest secretly employs Palestinian terrorist-sympathizing editors at The Gazette, who sneak into articles and try their best to skew the news against Israel.

The alternative explanation, that describing something as “terrorist” is a moral judgment and not a journalistic one (and if all Palestinian attacks are somehow by definition terrorist attacks, why do we need to add the word in the first place?) is too ludicrous to consider.

What gets me most about this argument is that it’s entirely academic in nature. Nobody seriously suggests that Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians are not terrorist in nature. Whether or not you believe the attacks are justified, or whether new Israeli settlements are justified, the nature of the attacks are very clear. It’s like arguing over whether we should call it murder when we say that a man shot his wife.

But the fact that people get so worked up over the use or non-use of a single word shows just how seriously people take this conflict and its most important front: the battle for public opinion.

Montreal Geography Trivia No. 9

Life-long Montrealers would probably say something about how the places in Column A relate to their counterparts in Column B.

And they would be wrong.


Ste. Dorothée Boucherville
Berri-UQAM Longueuil-Université-de-Sherbrooke
Trudeau Airport St. Hubert Airport
Papineau-Leblanc Bridge Louis H. Lafontaine Bridge-Tunnel
Sacré-Coeur Hospital Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital
Claude-Robillard Sport Centre Olympic Stadium
St-Laurent Blvd. and Cremazie Blvd. Pie-IX Blvd. and Sherbrooke St.

UPDATE: The answer, as slowly zeroed in on by the group below, is that the places in column A are south (actually west-southwest) of the respective places in column B, while they fit the definition of “Montreal north,” a seeming contradiction.

The disparity comes because the island is crooked. Its major east-west streets turn toward the northeast as they pass through downtown, and the “South Shore” is more accurately the East Shore, surrounding the island on the south and east but also continuing northeast.

It may be simpler to think of every street as having only four directions (and the streets and highways are named as if this is the case), but don’t think you’re going to get to the Eastern Townships by taking the 40 Est.

News should learn from Krista Erickson


CBC announced today that reporter Krista Erickson has been punished for breaking journalistic ethics in the most horrible way possible: They’re sending her to Toronto.

In what Jonathan Kay calls Pablogate, and Mario Asselin calls CBCgate, and is really not a gate at all, Erickson fed questions to Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez about Brian Mulroney’s connection to the current Conservative Party, which Rodriguez asked Mulroney during the Mulroney/Schreiber inquiry over the Airbus affair.

Through this story there’s been a lot of outrage but not much analysis of what exactly went wrong here. The CBC says there was no partisan or unethical intent, and I believe them. It was an unconventional method of getting answers to tricky political questions.

What this story is more indicative of, however, is the amount of informality in beat reporting. It’s nothing new. Reporters and the people they report on have been chummy for decades. That’s how they get the scoops, how they know what’s going on, how they get access to important people.

But the downside is that there can be a perception of partiality when there’s the slightest hint of cooperation between the two. It’s a real problem, and it needs to be tackled in a realistic way by news organizations rather than arbitrarily decided on a case-by-case basis when someone complains.

News organizations should learn from this incident, and update their codes of ethics to cover the problems inherent in beat reporting. The paragraphs the CBC quoted in their statement are far too vague. At the very least, add this situation as an example of what not to do.

UPDATE (Jan. 23): The CBC News Editors Blog discusses the subject without mentioning Erickson’s name (what are we, idiots?). Though it talks briefly about the problems of becoming part of the story and the need to be “inside” while still staying objective, it fails to go into depth about the familiarity problem other than to deny it exists.

Meanwhile (via the Tea Makers) Facebook groups supporting and against Erickson have popped up. Do I even have to point out that the pro-Erickson group was started by a Liberal Party activist and the anti-Erickson group by a Mike Huckabee-supporting Tory?

Clearer picture about overpasses

At-risk overpasses

I’ve updated my map of Quebec’s at-risk overpasses to reflect the current state of inspections at the Ministry of Transport. More than half of the original 135 overpasses have been inspected, and most have had weight restrictions lifted.

The map (which started six months ago) contains about 150 bridges and overpasses, including the 135 deemed requiring inspection by the ministry, others whose structures were looked at by municipalities in the past year, and historical notes of ones that have collapsed or been demolished.

In the map above:

  • RED indicates bridges and overpasses which have been closed, demolished or are to be replaced
  • YELLOW indicates bridges and overpasses which require repairs or continue to have weight restrictions
  • GREEN indicates bridges and overpasses whose restrictions have been lifted and no repairs are deemed necessary
  • BLUE indicates bridges and overpasses which still need inspection or whose inspections are still under analysis

UPDATE (Jan. 22): Radio-Canada mentions the map on their “Sur le Web” site, complete with video summary. They got it from the Courrier International blog.

Bye bye, ByeByeLogement

Here’s one of those “really stupid business plans” examples: A startup called ByeBye Logement launched a month ago. For the low low price of $7, you can put a classified advertisement announcing an apartment for rent of sub-lease for 90 days on their website. It becomes part of a massive searchable database (a global search reveals they have a grand total of three listings across Canada right now).

Now, you might ask, why should I pay money to add an apartment-for-rent listing to a website nobody’s ever heard of (and whose visitors can’t even get access to my contact info without signing up first) when I can post to Craigslist or MoreMontreal, high-traffic sites with thousands of listings, for free?

And if you’d asked yourself that question, you clearly would have done a lot more market research than the people behind