Monthly Archives: May 2008

Facebook destroys privacy, eats babies

So apparently some intern law students have filed a complaint against Facebook for having the audacity to allow people to share their personal information with others.

Facebook certainly has privacy issues, as I’ve previously explored, and there’s no doubt that they’re trying to exploit this information for all it’s worth.

But the fact remains that, as Facebook points out, all this information is shared voluntarily. If you don’t want people to know your religion, don’t publicize it online.

The Facebook problem is a problem of user education, not Big Evil Corporations. People need to learn that as the Internet becomes more efficient at connecting and compiling information, they can’t rely on privacy through obscurity anymore. We must assume that anything we type into our computer and send over the Internet will eventually be plastered on a billboard for our parents, employers and ex-girlfriends to see and mock. And we must be vigilant about keeping our private information private. No matter how fun it might seem to break that rule just once.

Still proud of Émilie

I got really excited on Thursday night after hearing that Émilie Lafleur had made it through to the top 45 world spellers at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. The 45 included seven Canadians from the Canwest Canspell spelling bee, whose regional contests are sponsored by local Canwest papers. Émilie was the winner of the Montreal regional contest sponsored by The Gazette.

But in Round 5 yesterday, as the 45 became 24, all the Canadians missed their words and were eliminated, including Émilie. The word she missed (which will no doubt haunt her for the rest of her life) was tonneau, which is a pickup truck cover. (Ironically, the word has a French origin, which would have helped her had she not given it an “a” instead of an “o”.)

The contest went 16 rounds (it was down to 12 Round 8, and three by Round 12). The winner was Sameer Mishra, a 13-year-old from Lafayette, Indiana.

Still, for surprising even herself by making it this far, Émilie Lafleur deserves congratulations.

Gazette restarts Grand Prix blog

The Gazette’s Dave Stubbs and Randy Phillips have dusted off the Canadian Grand Prix blog and are posting to it again.

The Grand Prix, which brings in a gazillion tourist dollars from really rich people with excessively-bimboed girlfriends and features way-too-expensive cars, is next weekend (June 6-8).

The blog is part of a larger Grand Prix website, which also includes multimedia and stories from the paper and its special Grand Prix section, which will be running all week starting Monday.

Intern season at the Gazette

This week is New Intern week at work, when the newsroom is swarmed by snot-nosed idiot kids eager young journalists beginning their careers with a summer stint at the paper, replacing the veterans who get to use their vacation time. There are four reporting interns, a copy editing intern (who started two weeks ago), an online intern, a photo intern and a design intern (the latter two will start within the next few weeks).

The reporters get the most attention though. In only a few days they’ve all already gotten their first bylines, in stories published in Wednesday and Thursday editions (UPDATE: I’ve added more features they’ve gotten in through the weekend):

The reporting and editing interns almost always come from Carleton and Concordia universities, due to the requirements that they know something about Montreal and they be able to converse in French. No exceptions here.

Place your bets now on which one of these will move on to reporting for Maclean’s/Globe and Mail/Time Magazine/New York Times, which will spend the rest of their lives in community newspaper obscurity, and which will eventually decide that PR/NGO work/selling crack is more rewarding and pays better.

Heinrich wins CAJ award

The Gazette’s Jeff Heinrich, who has been following the reasonable accommodation situation in Quebec as the paper’s diversities reporter, and whose tireless work following the Bouchard-Taylor Commission got him a scoop on (part of) the report, has been honoured with an award by the Canadian Association of Journalists. And, of course, the paper is very happy about that.

The complete list of winners is in this press release.

The CBC was the big winner, picking up three awards in the three radio/TV categories, which I guess qualifies as a “sweep,” according to Inside the CBC. Other winners included the Globe/Citizen for a joint piece on a man who got into witness protection and then committed a “heinous crime,” and the Star for a series of investigations into charities’ finances (other related articles are in the sidebar).

Nosiree Bob

Just as the St. John’s Telegram sings his praises (the article is reprinted in today’s Gazette), comes the unconfirmed-but-they’re-really-sure-about-it news from the Globe that the CBC is phasing out veteran play-by-play announcer Bob Cole. This will be his final Stanley Cup broadcast, though he’ll stay on for regular-season games next year.

Listening to tonight’s game, it’s hard to challenge the decision.

Another radar trap alert service of dubious morality

LCN has picked up the scent of, a website that seeks to help drivers with speeding tickets by letting them know where radar traps are.

If that sounds familiar, it’s similar to a service being offered by SOS Ticket, which I wrote about in January. Both are perfectly legal, though the fact that they’re undermining police efforts, and they’re not all that effective in their task, do raise some eyebrows.

It’s also unclear how plans to support itself financially if it’s not asking for any money from users.

But hey, anything to help reckless speeders.

QCNA awards excellence in grandmother-turns-100 reporting

This is Nikki Mantell of the Low Down to Hull & Back News, which I have to admit is the most awesome name for a community newspaper I’ve ever seen. If she seems particularly cheerful to you, it’s not just because she’s so adorable with her golden turkey award, or because she has a secret crush on photographer Adam Franc. She also won an award for best local affairs editorial at the Quebec Community Newspaper Association Awards, which honour excellence in (anglophone) Quebec community newspapers. Her paper also won awards for best sports story, best feature photo and best front page, as well as a number of second and third-place finishes, making it a big winner that night.

Another big winner was, unsurprisingly, the West Island Chronicle, which had five first-place finishes, though two were for freelancer Peter McCabe, one was for a former reporter who now works at Canadian Press, and one was for an advertising salesperson.

The Chronicle also won the best overall newspaper award.

The best website category went to the Canadian Jewish News, followed by the Chronicle (strange since it’s identical to every other Transcontinental weekly paper’s website) and the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, which as you can see is all crazy-Web 2.0 without silly things like top stories.

Full list of award winners (PDF)

Georges-Vanier metro closes for summer

The Georges-Vanier metro station will be entirely closed this summer (June 2 to Sept.5) as the STM demolishes and reconstructs parts of the station inside and outside (STM !NFO PDF). In its place, a shuttle between Lionel-Groulx and Lucien-L’Allier (or a few blocks from Lucien-L’Allier anyway) will run every 10 minutes from the opening to closing of the metro. Trains will slow down through the station but won’t let anyone off there.

Bouchard-Taylor love wasting paper (literally)

So as I was taking a short break from doing my job yesterday, I downloaded this report that everyone’s talking about, in its original French. I expected a long report taking up far more paper than is necessary, and I wasn’t disappointed.

But I noticed something on one of the pages of the report:

I thought that was funny because the report had so many blank pages in it, to serve as bookends for the title pages. I did a quick count of the blank pages and mentioned to my boss that of the 310 pages in the report, 34 were entirely blank (not a single dot of ink).

She asked me to give her a couple of paragraphs saying that, and it turned into the shortest article I’ve ever written, in today’s paper. (It was a bit longer than that to begin with, but it was cut down for space, and also because it went on a bit too long, by a ruthless copy editor who ironically turned out to be myself).

Admittedly, both the environmental policies and the blank pages are common practice in government reports. The Johnson Commission report (PDF) has a similar notice (though it actually calculates how much of the planet you’re saving), and also has blank pages (though not as many).

Without the blank pages and title pages (including pages that repeat the title page or just include photos of the commission chairs, but not including the environmental/copyright notice above which is on an otherwise blank page), the Bouchard-Taylor report would have 60 fewer pages, for a 19% reduction in paper use.

Wouldn’t that have been better for the environment?