Monthly Archives: June 2008

Welcome Canadians

Quebec is tolerant. Crack Journal de Montréal undercover investigative reporter Noée Murchison found that out by not being assaulted at St. Jean Baptiste in a red t-shirt with a maple leaf on it, speaking English like a tourist.

You’ll remember Noée from previous hard-hitting exposés like how bus drivers don’t check transfers and how anglos can get jobs too during a busy shopping season.

Incidentally, if you’re doing undercover reporting for the biggest-distribution newspaper in the province, is it such a good idea to always have your picture in the paper? Aren’t people going to catch on eventually?

Indefinite lockout

There seems to be no end in sight for the Journal de Québec labour conflict which began in April 2007. As much as local unions are standing behind the workers and their MédiaMatinQuébec newspaper, those funds aren’t infinite. At some point, MMQ or the Journal are going to fold for good. Maybe both.

Meanwhile, Canadian Press has an overview of the difficulties getting Quebec Sun Media employees (basically now the Journal de Montréal) to “adapt” to the Internet. It casts the issue as if it’s the union being resistant to change, which I imagine is not how they see it.

Paris-Match screws up on Quebec

June 27, 2008

Speaking of Page One screw-ups about Quebec’s 400th anniversary, the local media is going nuts (and the local blogosphere doing the same) over the magazine Paris-Match‘s new issue about Quebec. It looks fantastic except for one minor error:

They thought it was the province’s anniversary, not the city’s. So the section focuses on the province, and mainly on Montreal.

Oops. I guess they don’t understand that subtle “à” vs “au” distinction. (Do they not have that in France?)

Here’s my question though: Why didn’t reporters pick up on this when they did all those laudatory stories about Paris Match’s upcoming issue earlier in the week? You don’t think they just rewrote a press release without thinking about it, do you? (At least Pierre Cayouette was scratching his head at the possibility they got this wrong before it came out)

UPDATE: This gem of a quote from The Gazette:

“We didn’t know there was a competition between Quebec City and Montreal and to be honest, it doesn’t really matter to us and to our readers. But we now see that it is sensitive issue here,” (editor-in-chief) Martin-Chauffier said.

I think someone needs to explain to this person that this isn’t a cultural difference, it’s a factual error.

UPDATE (June 30): The editor continues to not apologize for the factual error and hence imply that we misunderstood them and they know better than us what this is all about (Patrick Lagacé calls BS and isn’t letting him off the hook). I’m starting to understand why everyone hates the French.

Meanwhile, competing French media have taken notice of the mistake: Liberation has a piece from AFP on the matter (via mtlweblog) and 20minutes and Le Post also giggle at Paris-Match’s misfortune.

UPDATE (July 1): Regret the Error summarizes the situation with links to prestigious local bloggers.

UPDATE (May 28, 2015): Paris-Match screwed up again, saying Pierre Karl Péladeau wants to make Quebec City a country in a headline.

The Journal has a website

Journal de Montréal\'s union website

Well, not exactly. The Journal’s union has a website. Hot off the success of union websites from such outlets ad the Journal de Québec, TQS and The Gazette, workers at the Journal de Montréal concerned about the possibility of a lockout have started their own website called Journal du Journal (cute).

Well, actually the archives suggest the site’s been up for more than a year, but it’s the first I’ve seen of it (which is its first problem), so let’s pretend it’s new.

The Jean-Michel Vanasse show

Recently laid off as the tech columnist and tech blogger for TQS, Jean-Michel Vanasse showed up on TVA’s Salut bonjour week-end, where he’s their new resident web geek. But he’s also pulled a Dominic Arpin and started his own solo thing online. He’s started a new online-only weekly tech show at the aptly-named, that focuses on gaming, tech news and popular videos online.

The show is presented in high definition, which seems kind of unnecessary for a tech show that takes half its clips from YouTube and the rest from a handicam mounted on a tripod in front of the host (at 1280×628, it’s too large to even fit my screen). Trying to watch the 13-minute, 52MB video on his website, my computer could manage only about a frame every two seconds, making it completely unwatchable. Only after plenty of hacking sleuthing could I uncover this standard-definition version. Note to Jean-Michel: at least give people the option.

Otherwise, the show is what you’d expect from a tech show: a guy talking about games and videos in front of a Matrix-like display of floating ones and zeroes.

The website is still sparse. One thing it badly needs is a list of links attached to each episode. I’d like to see that video of Darth Vader doing the Thriller dance, and it shouldn’t be difficult for me to find it. A blog couldn’t hurt either.

Otherwise, it’s a decent effort for a first show. The only question is whether it will attract an audience large enough to pay for itself.

The show comes out every Friday.

CRTC caves, bends rules for TQS

The CRTC today decided to bend its rules requiring a minimum amount of local news, in order to keep cash-strapped TQS alive and allow Remstar to take over as its owner.

From the CRTC press release:

In this case, we have taken into account TQS’s precarious financial situation and will allow, as a short-term measure and on an exceptional basis, a reduced amount of local news. We fully expect that TQS’s situation will permit it to improve upon this amount within three years.

While these amounts are much lower when compared to other conventional television stations, the Commission recognizes that TQS has suffered, and continues to suffer, important monetary losses. For this reason, it has allowed for a temporary measure on an exceptional basis in order to give Remstar an opportunity to improve TQS’s financial situation.

“Much lower” is right. Whereas other television stations are required to have 18 hours a week of locally-produced programming, TQS Montreal requires only 15, of which 2 would be newscasts. Stations in the regions have it even worse. Quebec City gets 10 hours of programming, and Saguenay, Sherbrooke and Trois-Rivières only 1.5 hours a week.

The final numbers are only slightly above what Remstar suggested in the first place, and the CRTC is spinning this as them clamping down by raising a level that has been brought down crazy low so that it is slightly less crazy low.

That said, it’s nice to see that the CRTC plans to revisit this in three years. Somehow I doubt TQS will magically become solvent in that time, which probably means that this temporary measure will be de facto permanent. Remstar will see to that.

As you might expect, the union representing former TQS workers has denounced the decision, and demanded that the government get involved in the case. (And really, the only way to screw this all up even further is to get the House of Commons involved.)

But what’s the alternative? Enforce the same restrictions as the rest get, and TQS would file bankruptcy. Some suggest that’s even the way to go, because Montreal simply cannot sustain two private networks, two public networks in addition to community and ethnic stations.

I think another compromise might make more sense: Cut TQS’s broadcast license, and make it into a cable network. If they don’t want to bother with local news, they don’t have to. They can take their programming and bring it to the cable dial, where most viewers would still have access.

Local programming and news should be the price to pay in exchange for the privilege to broadcast on public airwaves.

Thanks to the CRTC, that price is lowered for the simple reason that one company doesn’t want to cough up the cash.

UPDATE (June 28): The Gazette’s Brendan Kelly has some thoughts on how everyone expected the CRTC to stand up for its rules and instead they totally caved.

On the 515

I hopped on board the new 515 Vieux-Montréal/Vieux-Port bus today before work. The new bus route is part of a number of changes that were made as the STM introduced its summer schedule on Monday.

The trip, which goes in a circle from Berri metro down to St. Laurent and de la Commune to Peel and up to René-Lévesque, took about 20 minutes, with most of the delays due to traffic (it was the afternoon of St. Jean Baptiste day, so traffic in Old Montreal was probably higher than normal).

The fact that it was only the bus’s second day of service explained a few of the kinks that still need to be worked out, which probably led to the fact that I was the only person on board the bus for the entire trip:

  1. Traffic. Especially in areas around Notre Dame, Saint-Laurent and de la Commune. The eventual idea is to make de la Commune no-parking and install reserved bus lanes. There is currently one that runs for a few blocks in the western part (where it’s pointless), and it needs to be extended back eastward. The turns at Saint-Laurent and de la Commune are particularly difficult for a 40-foot bus to try and maneuvre.
  2. Confusion. Unlike most STM buses, this one runs in a circular route. In both directions. In such a situation, trying to say what the destination of each direction is becomes difficult, because both directions will eventually get you there. Both eastbound and westbound stops on de la Commune, for example, could say they’re in the direction of downtown, because they are. It’s just one goes up Berri and the other goes up Peel. The confusion is made even moreso by situations like in the photo below where buses in both directions stop at the same stop. So riders have no clue whether the bus they’re getting on is going in the direction they want it to.

You’ll also note the signs have yellow backgrounds. The STM is still trying to figure out what to do with that colour. Once upon a time, they were used to denote special senior’s routes in the west end, until that pilot project was cancelled due to suckage. Then it was used for special shuttles. Now they just use it for any route they think is cool. But it gives the impression that this route is strange in some way, like it needs a special fare or something.

Despite its problems though, I believe in this bus. Old Montreal is woefully underserved by public transit, and the metro is too far to reach everywhere by foot. A bus which runs every 10 minutes will be useful not just to tourists visiting the Old Port, but to residents who want to get downtown quickly.

MP3 isn’t good enough for Corus

Corus stations in Montreal, including 940 Hits and Q92, have started streaming online feeds from their stations in Dolby AAC format, judging that 128kbps MP3 is just too lossy for the picky tastes of their listeners.

Listeners won’t notice any difference at all, since the streaming is done through a flash player and only the most insanely picky of audiophiles will think high-quality MP3 is too lossy. And those people won’t be listening to the crap music that comes out of 940 or Q92.

Global Quebec wins RTNDA award (also: CTV Montreal, CBC Montreal)

Top story: Summer begins!

Global Quebec is running giant ads with Jamie Orchard’s face on them praising the regional network for winning an award by RTNDA Canada. Indeed, Global Quebec did win the Bert Cannings award for best newscast (well, one of many Bert Cannings awards given out this year) for a newscast about “Transit Strike Day!” (yes, with the exclamation mark) last year. This was, of course, before Global Quebec was gutted into the embarrassing shell of a newscast it is now.

Meanwhile, it should be noted that the competition won more awards, two each for CBMT (CBC Montreal) and CTV Montreal.

On the radio side, CBC Montreal won three awards, and CJAD won one.

Oh, one more thing: these are all regional awards. Only CBC Radio Montreal won an award on the national level, unlike, say, CBC Saskatchewan which won three.

But hey, don’t let that stop you from patting yourselves on the back.

Natasha has a new job

Natasha Aimée Hall, who won 940 News’s Talk Show Idol and was hosting a show on Sundays until the station as a whole went under, is now working for CTV, co-hosting its Entertainment Spotlight program with perennial Mirror Tackiest Personality winner Mosé Persico.

I’ll let her explain the rest:

I shot my first show last Thursday and it will air this Sunday, June 29 at 6:30. Here’s hoping I didn’t do anything really weird on camera! I can only hope because shooting was a total blur. Doing it all again this Friday.

I’ll be doing jazz fest blogging again for the Gazoo (can’t believe that starts on Thursday!) and I’m still waiting to find out what the future holds for me at Corus Quebec.

Natasha blogged the Jazz Fest as a freelancer for the Gazette last year.

Le Devoir to cover Olympics

Le Devoir is teasing us on all the fun stuff they’re going to be doing about this summer:

  • Covering the Olympics
  • Some new weekly guess-the-writer game
  • The revival of its “Macadam” series, which nobody remembers but is basically a bunch of feature stories about things in Montreal
  • Covering Quebec’s 400th anniversary and writing about its history
  • Covering a bunch of meetings and visits of foreign dignitaries

Some of it sounds mildly interesting for those of us obsessed with the local media scene, but isn’t the rest of it just stating the obvious? If the paper wasn’t covering the Olympics, that would be a story.

Montreal Geography Trivia No. 27

I have today off because there’s no paper tomorrow, so here’s a quickie:

What are these?

UPDATE: N. Syed gets it close enough below. These are bridge and overpass structures that have been in the news over the past year. They include Montreal-area structures that were part of the 135 the Ministry of Transport flagged as potentially dangerous, nine municipally-run structures the city decided to inspect, as well as the overpasses in Laval that collapsed or were torn down and brought this entire issue to light in the first place.

Of those, most have been deemed safe, others have had major repairs (such as the 520 near the airport and Highway 15 near de la Verendrye), and three (de Blois/Highway 19, Henri-Bourassa/Pie-IX and Hochelaga/Highway 25) were condemned.

AMT planning new express routes

Route for new AMT bus from Vaudreuil to Côte-Vertu

The Agence Métropolitaine de Transport has put out tenders seeking operators for two new bus routes it is planning. The first links the Vaudreuil train station on the Montreal-Dorion/Rigaud line to the Côte-Vertu metro station along highway 40, to start service in September.

Departures would be Mondays to Fridays (excluding holidays) on the following schedule

Eastbound: 5:35, 6:00, 6:25, 6:50, 7:15, 7:40, 8:05, 8:30, 8:55
15:50, 16:20, 16:50, 17:20, 17:50, 18:20

Westbound: 6:10, 6:35, 7:00, 7:25, 7:50, 8:15
15:10, 15:40, 16:10, 16:40, 17:10, 17:40, 18:10, 18:40, 19:10

Estimated travel time is 35 minutes eastbound and 40 minutes westbound. The only stop between the two terminuses would be at Côte-Vertu and Beaulac.

New AMT route from Brossard to Nuns\' Island

The other one links the Panama bus terminus and Chevrier park-and-ride lot to Nuns’ Island (specifically, the new Bell campus at the northern tip of the island) by the Champlain bridge. It would start in August.

Departures are Mondays to Fridays (excluding holidays) as follows:

Toward Nuns’ Island (travel time: 23 minutes): 6:00, 6:20, 6:40, 7:00, 7:20, 7:40, 8:00, 8:20, 8:40
14:45, 15:05, 15:25, 15:45, 16:05, 16:25, 16:45, 17:05, 17:25

Toward Chevrier (travel time: 20 minutes): 6:25, 6:45, 7:05, 7:25, 7:45, 8:05, 8:25, 8:45, 9:05
15:00, 15:20, 15:40, 16:00, 16:20, 16:40, 17:00, 17:20, 17:40, 18:10

Both routes are suburb-to-suburb routes which represent an exodus from the hub-and-spoke system that defines rush-hour transit currently.

The AMT’s contract stipulations are also fun to read. They cover things like making sure the buses have wheelchair access and will be air-conditioned (by Jan. 1, 2009) to ensuring that drivers make eye contact when passengers board.

(via metrodemontreal and CPTDB)

Sports by Fagstein

If you notice something wrong about today’s sports section, feel free to blame it on me. Yesterday was my first shift in the big chair in sports (editor Stu Cowan is on a well-deserved vacation). It’s the most stressful job at the paper, especially on the weekends, because it involves filling eight blank pages of stories and photos from dozens of different sports, and half of the stuff arrives close to deadline.

Mind you, the job was made a bit easier this week since most of the stuff happened in the afternoon, including the Great Victory of Spain.

Incidentally, today’s Driving pages are also my creation, having been put together last week.