Monthly Archives: April 2008

TQS gutting news division

Well, you couldn’t say this one was unexpected. TQS is gutting its news departments across Quebec, laying off dozens of workers. (Radio-Canada incorrectly refers to this as “decimating”, when it’s clearly more than 10% of staff).

Regional news will be hardest hit, with just about every newscast outside of Montreal being cut to nothing. The entire news department is being eliminated, with 110% the only locally-produced show left. Here, some newscasts (like the morning Caféine) will be cancelled, and others reduced in length.

The changes are happening over the summer. By fall, TQS will be practically unrecognizable, and will no doubt find ways to suck even more than it already does.

The drastic cuts to local programming will require CRTC approval. But considering the alternative (bankruptcy and the loss of an entire network), a compromise will probably be worked out.

Jean-Michel Vanasse, by the way, will be among the victims.

UPDATE (April 24): The Canoe blog asks whether the loss of TQS’s news department is a big deal, since they don’t do any real journalism anyway. The Canoe blog. Sun Media’s Canoe blog. Yeah.

Media won’t cooperate with Habs riot investigation

Mere hours after demanding that police ruthlessly prosecute anyone involved in the Great Habs Riot and some even printing photos of suspects and asking people to identify them to police, local media are now refusing to participate in the investigation by handing over photos and video of the rioters. They are now in the process of fighting search warrants while evidence sits sealed under police custody.

The media have a legitimate interest in fighting such invasions. If they were seen to be agents of the police, they wouldn’t be able to do their jobs properly. Perhaps more worrisome, in situations like this the media itself could become a target.

But can you really pretend to take the moral high ground and a tough law-and-order stance, asking people to get involved and cooperate with police, when you refuse to do so yourself?

None of these rioters received promises of confidentiality, and none could have been stupid enough to think photos and video of them smashing police cars and store windows wouldn’t eventually get in the hands of police.

UPDATE: The Gazette’s Andrew Phillips responds on his blog, using the “slippery slope” argument. The Gazette’s article presents both sides of the issue, and Thursday’s paper has an editorial explaining the decision. The Journal’s Benoit Aubin also responds, giving mostly philosophical arguments about how the media shouldn’t act as deputies to the police.

Meanwhile, Richard Martineau, always ready to disagree with everyone, asks the question: Aren’t journalists citizens first? Should they not report when they witness crimes?

UPDATE (April 26): The court date is set for June 17. Can you feel the overwhelming speed of our justice system?

UPDATE (April 29): A letter-writer calls cooperating with police “doing one’s civic duty,” journalist or not.

Habs riot myths

In the aftermath of Monday night’s Habs riot, pundits from all across the punditosphere are giving their two cents about the situation, half based on what they saw on the TV, and most writing from their gut instead of their heads.

As someone who was there, allow me to shine some light on the inaccurate impressions some of these newspaper columnists and radio hosts might be giving you:

Myth: Real fans don’t riot

Reality: Says who? I don’t see anything in the definition of “fan” that precludes such activity. Plenty of pundits are suggesting that the looters wouldn’t know Kostitsyn from Kovalev, but they have no evidence to back up that assertion. The pictures show plenty of the people involved were wearing Habs jerseys and/or carrying Habs flags.

Myth: The police stood by and did nothing while downtown was destroyed

Reality: The police were caught off-guard (as were, I might add, most news outlets who wrapped up their celebration coverage at 10:30). When the crowd got too big to control, riot police were quickly shuttled to where they were needed and chased down rioters as if they were invading a country. The fact that nobody got seriously hurt should be testament to the fact that the police succeeded in their first priority: safeguarding the lives of citizens. They also did the best they could to protect stores from looting, even to the point of standing guard outside throughout the night.

And just what was the alternative? Should they have started firing into the crowd? Filled downtown with pepper spray to the point where no one (not even the cops themselves) would be able to breathe? Should they have spread out and put their individual lives in danger just to protect their squad cars?

Myth: The destruction was done by only a handful of troublemakers

Reality: Five police cars were torched simultaneously over a span of half a dozen blocks. Members of the crowd chipped in when it became clear the mob was in control and nobody would punish them for wanton acts of vandalism. Dozens of people threw glass bottles high into the air, with the intent to injure others. This wasn’t a few isolated cases, this was a mob.

Myth: It’s those crazy leftist activists who were torching police cars

Reality: Again, no evidence of this whatsoever. Some people involved were clearly homeless. Some obviously had a lot of money to waste. You can’t blame this on one identifiable group.

Myth: Most of the crowd were innocent bystanders there to celebrate their team and looked upon the looting/vandalism with disgust

Reality: There are no innocent bystanders (except the media, I hope). Even those who didn’t touch a thing cheered when vehicles looked on the edge of toppling. Others took pictures and video with their cellphones, posting the crappy, highly-compressed, badly-framed, five-second clips of nothing on YouTube with a bunch of exclamation marks noting how awesome it was. All provided a barrier between police looking to make arrests and those who needed to be arrested.

Just because they didn’t do anything doesn’t mean they didn’t contribute to the situation.

Myth: Montreal hockey fans are normally classy people

Reality: You’re kidding me, right? Have you ever been to the Bell Centre?

Myth: Had the police been more forceful, it would have taught people a lesson and the damage would have been minimized

Reality: The opposite would have happened. An arrest outside a shoe store on Ste. Catherine Street forced police to use pepper spray because they were quickly surrounded by angry fans crying police brutality. Never mind the fact that the guy they were arresting was doing everything in his power to resist them and injure them. Every action by police was met with an antagonistic response.

Myth: Closing Ste. Catherine Street will solve this problem next time

Reality: People will just find other places to congregate. René-Lévesque Blvd., St. Laurent, St. Denis, Sherbrooke Street. There are plenty of places. And closing a street will only work if you have the manpower to back it up. Literally putting police officers on every corner of a metropolis isn’t a simple task.

Myth: Once they look at the videos and pictures, police will be able to arrest everyone involved

Reality: Most of those pictures and videos are of such poor quality you couldn’t make out the face of your own mother on them. Even if they do have faces, they have to be identified, which means someone who knows the person has to come forward and rat them out. Then, assuming a positive identification is made, police have to prove that the person actually caused significant damage. Photos might show them kicking a police car, but few capture the more serious acts of vandalism. And those whose actions were minor will get very minor sentences, assuming they are even prosecuted.

Myth: These actions were planned and carefully orchestrated by the vandals

Reality: There’s no evidence of this, and it doesn’t meet with the facts. People didn’t “carry around jugs of gasoline” or Molotov cocktails, they set fire to pieces of cardboard they found laying around. They threw garbage (and garbage cans) they found on the street. It was entirely improvised. People did these things because those around them did too. That’s the power of the mob.

Myth: They just did this so they could post videos on YouTube

Reality: Not once did I see anyone commit an act of vandalism and ask someone to film it. Vandalism was done for its own sake. It was the bystanders who took pictures of the carnage and of themselves standing in front of it.

Metro party Friday night

McGill students are organizing a metro party on Friday evening, meeting at 9pm at the back end of the platform at Henri-Bourassa metro (why they don’t start at Montmorency is a mystery, but whatever). The Facebook page shows 77 “confirmed guests”, which translates to about 15-20 people actually showing up.

The party is similar to metro parties that took place in March, May and October of last year.

The Great Canadiens Conference Quarterfinal Riot of 2008

I haven’t been a Habs fan for very long. Once, way back when, I wasn’t really a sports fan at all. I might tune in to the odd championship game and cheer for the home team, but I couldn’t name more than a couple of players, if any.

I never saw Rocket Richard play. Or Jean Béliveau. Or Guy Lafleur. And I think I saw Patrick Roy play once, in that Stanley Cup-winning game in 1993. Really, my affection for the team grew out of necessity. As a copy editor, I was assigned to the sports desk at the Gazette, and I would read everything there is about the team. Now I watch all the games and know all the names of the players.

In my short time as a devout fan, I’ve never been ashamed of that fact. Not after missing the playoffs because of a loss to the Leafs. Not during many slumps. Not when fans would sing “na na na na hey hey hey goodbye” during Game 2, or would so overwhelm other teams’ stadiums you’d think they were playing a home game.

Last night was different. Though the news networks and politicians are stressing until their faces turn blue that last night’s riot wasn’t caused by “real Habs fans” (how do they know?), the images shown to the world speak for themselves.

Continue reading

One year and counting

A bit of union propaganda from the locked-out and on-strike workers at the Journal de Québec, who have been out of work for a year, and are still producing a daily newspaper off raised money while their old one deteriorates. Today, they’re encouraging people to boycott the Journal de Québec to protest the continued lockout.

UPDATE: Today’s special issue (PDF) is 56 pages, and filled with ads. Meanwhile, Steve Proulx argues that while he isn’t taking a position either way, it’s worth noting that the Journal’s current contract gives some rather extreme benefits to workers: high salaries, four-day weeks, paid days off on their birthdays, etc.

No more erorrs in the Gazzete

The Gazette’s Andrew Phillips asks on his blog about whether errors — factual, style, grammatical, spelling — are more prevalent in the paper now than they used to be. He points to a blog post at The Guardian, which argues that spelling particularly was much worse back in the days before spellcheck and desktop publishing.

I can’t really offer an opinion on whether the quality has gone up or down over the long term, since (a) I’m only in my 20s and (b) I work as a copy editor and my opinion is necessarily biased.

But as a copy editor, I’ll note that, unfortunately, proofreading is the least important of our functions. Pages must be laid out, headlines, decks, cutlines and other “display type” must be written, and photos must be inserted. But if the page is mostly wire copy (which has been thoroughly edited by the wire service), sometimes it might get typeset (at least for the first edition) without getting properly proofread. An editor might ask another to just look at headlines and large type because there’s no time for a full readthrough (this is especially true in sports, where a game will finish at 10pm, the article has to be written by 10:20pm and the page must be typeset by 10:40pm, a seemingly impossible task that’s done on a near-daily basis).

With the recent round of buyouts cutting staff in every section, one of the copy editing positions eliminated was specifically responsible for checking pages for obvious mistakes before they were typeset. Now that job falls on the editor who laid out the page, or the managing night editor. And it works, most of the time.

Was that a mistake? Should a dedicated proofreader be hired? Should there be more copy editors to double-check each other’s work? And if so, what positions should be cut to make room in the budget for new staff?

Or, put another way, would you be willing to pay a dollar or two more a month for your subscription if it meant half the number of typos you see now?

Tell Andrew what you think.

Montreal Geography Trivia No. 21

This one needs a diagram, so I’m gonna use my l33t ph0t0sh0p skillz:

Imagine you’re at point A, you’re trying to get to point B which is not far away, but an obstacle at X is blocking the road completely. C is the minimum detour between A and B using drivable streets.

Here is the question: For what point X on the island of Montreal is this minimum detour the longest?


Bryan gets it right below. A break along Senneville Road would be most disruptive, requiring a detour of over 16km through Ste-Marie Rd. and Anse-à-l’Orme Rd.

I guess that’s what happens when you live in a city that has only one road.

I’m a lover not a hater

My latest local blog profile is Angry French Guy (Somewhat ironic since his latest post totally disses me. The profile was written weeks ago and has been sitting in the can while this whole .qc craziness erupted)

Angry French Guy, aka Georges Boulanger, is a francophone who is trying to explain the perspective of francophones to us anglos.

“Driving a truck is not a healthy lifestyle,” he says. “Getting angry about the reasonable accommodation debate, Jan Wong and other nonsense from home while listening to my satellite radio was putting my life in danger.”

And for that, he’s gotten grief from both sides of the divide, with some fellow francos calling him a traitor:

His response: “Fighting off Barbara Kay on one side and now these clowns on the other. I must be doing something right.”

Anger really is the great motivator.

Jean-Luc Mongrain quits TQS

Jean-Luc Mongrain, the only person left at TQS who we can name off the tops of our heads, is calling it quits. Journal de Montréal’s EXCLUSIVE interview generated so much reaction, a whopping four comments, that it’s clear to see how much Mongrain’s work has touched Quebec.

As some consider potential replacements, Patrick Lagacé offers his favourite Mongrain memory, which certainly beats mine.

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.

.qc? No

The PQ’s Daniel Turp is flogging the idea that the Internet should have a .qc domain. Separatists with nothing better to do are angry over having to type “” to get to Quebec-based websites

It’s this kind of thinking that has forced Quebecers to file two tax forms every year, pay two different kinds of sales taxes, and deal with all the other pointless duplication of federal services just to make us be different for difference’s sake.

And until Quebec reaches the promised land, which PQ hard-liners unilaterally declare to be an eventuality, websites based here will need to have both a .qc and domain.

Can someone tell these people that they lost the referendum? Twice?

UPDATE: Wow. 14 comments. Most are, of course, insulting, but I’ve responded to some of the counter-arguments brought up below.