Monthly Archives: May 2009

Globe’s solution to recession: Add managers

The Globe and Mail is rearranging the deck chairs reinventing itself to create a sustainable future, and just days after excitedly launching a redesigned website, Editor-in-Chief Edward Greenspon has been fired, replaced by Report on Business editor John Stackhouse.

In a memo to employees from publisher Phil Crawley that’s filled with corpspeak, there’s lots of talk about a new focus on digital (I thought they were already focused on digital), and the news that he will be adding another senior executive to take on technology responsibilities that were under the VP of operations.

So as the paper cuts 90 staff in response to a recession, it is adding a new employee at the top.

Sadly, the Globe is not unique in thinking that guys in suits writing memos about synergy and “reimagination-inspired teamwork” are solutions to their problems instead of expensive wastes of offices and salaries.

Montreal Geography Trivia No. 37

Montreal Geography Trivia No. 37

Where is this, and what is that blur on the left supposed to be?

UPDATE: Tony gets the location right. It’s the Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral at René-Lévesque and de la Cathédrale. And most of you correctly guessed that it’s a film shoot with Montreal standing in for New York City.

But Tony gets the film wrong. Any guesses?

UPDATE 2: John R. gets it right below. This was from the filming of The Last Templar, an NBC miniseries that began last night. The blur is a stunt performer pretending to be Mira Sorvino on horseback chasing some bad guys out of the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. The scene, which took hours to film but only lasted a few seconds, was filmed late at night last May. I stumbled on it accidentally and took some pictures.

I equally stumbled on the show last night changing channels, and sadly got to it just a bit after this scene. I’d check it out on Hulu, but I don’t have access to that. I hope it turned out well.

Flats happen to the best of us

Flat tire

Flat tire at Union and de Maisonneuve

I was biking home the other day and stopped to take a picture of an empty BIXI station when I heard a pop coming from a few feet away. A police car had turned the corner onto de Maisonneuve Blvd. and its rear wheel went up on the curb.

Well, kinda. The pop was followed by a loud pulsating hissing sound as the car kept driving, and within seconds the tire was a write-off.

The two officers in the car were good-natured about their predicament (probably because it happened while they were on the clock and on patrol), joking with a passer-by.

Need some help with that?

Need some help with that?

They also got some good-natured ribbing from a couple of fellow officers who passed by on foot patrol.

Keep up the good work

Keep up the good work

The four officers quickly assembled the standard civil service work crew formation: One person working, and three supervising.

Inside CFCF 12

Except, they don’t call it CFCF-12 anymore. They call it “CTV Montreal”, in order to comply with the “CTV [Name of city]” naming convention imposed by national office. Neither do they call their newscast “Pulse”, because CTV wants it called “CTV News” (or, if you must, “CTV News Montreal”). And other than the newscast, which runs 19 times a week, there is no other programming produced at 1205 Papineau Avenue.

It's not exactly a velvet rope, but it contains the crowd.

It's not exactly a velvet rope, but it contains the crowd.

But when CTVglobemedia told its local stations that they were opening their doors on Saturday, I joined a few young aspiring journalists for a tour of the station, my first time setting foot in the building.

Continue reading

What’s wrong with this picture

De Maisonneuve Blvd. U-turn

This photo was taken on de Maisonneuve Blvd. downtown. I’ll give you a moment to study it.

UPDATE: So plenty of you are smarter than this driver, pointing out that de Maisonneuve is a one-way street and he’s going the wrong way. The driver was heading west (the right way) toward a construction zone that narrowed the roadway, and inexplicably pulled a U-turn and headed east. Fortunately traffic was low and he turned down Bleury. Not sure if it ever occurred to him he was going the wrong way.

National Newspaper Award winners (with links)

Just like last year, The Globe and Mail came out with the longest penis at the National Newspaper Awards gala Friday night in Montreal. Canada’s national newspaper won six awards out of 13 nominations, followed by the Toronto Star (4) and La Presse and the Hamilton Spectator at two each. Seven other papers (including The Gazette) and Canadian Press each picked up a single award.

The Gazette won in the sports category for a column by Red Fisher on the retirement of Patrick Roy’s No. 33 jersey, specifically his unpopular opinion that it shouldn’t be retired. It was also nominated for a short feature by city hall reporter Linda Gyulai on traffic cones.

La Presse’s André Pratte won again in the editorials category, and Julien Chung and Philippe Tardif won in the presentation category, where the paper was nominated twice. La Presse had eight nominations total.

So let the bragging begin:

The Winnipeg Free Press was the only newspaper with multiple nominations (two) to be shut out of the winners category. Their story makes it clear they were hoping for something more.

And the winners are…

Since the National Newspaper Award website list of winners doesn’t include links, I’ve copied my list below from my post about the nominations. Winners are listed first and bolded.

Winners in the cartooning and photography categories are posted on the NNA website.

Multimedia feature

News feature photography

Beat reporting

  • Michelle Lang, Calgary Herald: health and medicine
  • Rob Shaw, Victoria Times-Colonist: policing issues (see “More on this story”)
  • Jane Sims, London Free Press: justice

Explanatory work


  • Steve Rennie, Canadian Press (listeriosis)
  • Linda Diebel, Toronto Star (insider stories)
  • Jeffrey Simpson & Brian Laghi, Globe and Mail (Prime Minister Stephen Harper)

Short features

Local reporting

  • Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer: Ontario Home Owner Employee Relocation plan
  • Gordon Hoekstra, Prince George Citizen: forestry industry in B.C.
  • North Bay Nugget: E-coli outbreak


  • Julien Chung, Philippe Tardif, La Presse
  • France Dupont, La Presse
  • Catherine Farley & Sharis Shahmiryan, Toronto Star

Special project

Sports photography

  • Derek Ruttan, London Free Press: Football fumble (second photo)
  • Tony Bock, Toronto Star
  • J. T. McVeigh, Barrie Examiner




Arts and entertainment


Feature photography

International reporting


Editorial cartooning

Long feature

News photography

Breaking news

Rogers et al pissed at CTV “Save Local Television” campaign

One-sided ad from CTV Atlantic

One-sided ad from CTV Atlantic

If you haven’t caught CTV’s “Save Local Television” ads recently, you haven’t been watching television. CTV has blanketed its stations, the A television network as well as specialty channels like the Comedy Network and Space with these advertisements that predict a doomsday scenario for local television and demonize the cable and satellite companies for “taking our programming” and “giving nothing in return” (as if this arrangement benefits solely the cable companies at the expense of local broadcasters, and as if the cable companies are selling DVDs of Corner Gas).

The cable and satellite companies have responded with a giant STFU, and issued a press release saying they’re complaining to the CRTC that CTV is breaching the public trust with this one-sided campaign that is a “blatant violation of journalistic principles.” (More coverage from CTV-owned Globe and Mail, Canwest/Global-owned Financial Post, CBC-owned and non-profit cooperative Canadian Press)

You see, not only is CTV running these ads all over the place, it’s enlisting the help of its journalists to spread its message. Ridiculously one-sided news reports from CTV Atlantic, CTV Winnipeg, CTV Toronto and A Barrie simply throw journalism out the window. In all but the one case, no attempt whatsoever is made to get comment from cable and satellite companies. The exception, in the CTV Atlantic report, includes a 10-second clip in a two-and-a-half-minute report whose bias is evident when the reporter talks about broadcasters wanting “equal treatment”.

CP24 (which is owned by CTV) has a fluff interview with CTV Executive Vice-President of Corporate Affairs Paul Sparkes in which he crosses the line from misleading to outright lie, saying cable and satellite companies are “taking our programs, repackaging them, selling them to the consumer, making a profit, and paying us nothing.” Local television feeds are not “repackaged”, but passed through directly to consumers. Sparkes also dismisses an actual question about fee for carriage lobbed at him from his reporter.

This report from Graham Richardson is a bit more balanced, in that he actually talked to a Rogers VP without systematically picking apart everything he says. It is the exception, unfortunately.

CTV Montreal enlisted the help of the premier, although Jean Charest doesn’t specifically state that he supports a mandatory fee for carriage. (He also talks of how important local television is to his home town of Sherbrooke, even though it has no local anglo television station.)

Right of response

In response to the complaint, CTV issued a press release blasting Rogers as “underhanded” (at the same time arguing that discussions shouldn’t happen via press release).

Its only comment about the attacks on its journalistic integrity came from this paragraph:

Indeed, consistent with CTV’s efforts to provide balanced coverage of the issues surrounding the crisis in local television, CTV once again invites representatives from Rogers, Bell, TELUS, Cogeco, Eastlink and the CCSA to participate in tomorrow’s nationwide events.

I can only assume this means CTV reporters will only talk to cable and satellite companies about this issue if they send a representative to CTV’s political rallies on a Saturday to be heckled by a public that has only been told one side of an issue. That doesn’t sound particularly “balanced” to me.

Despite this, Shaw once again called CTV’s bluff, and Ken Stein, the senior vice president of corporate and regulatory affairs at Shaw Cable, agreed to an interview with CTV NewsNet’s Jacqueline Milczarek. Milczarek argued with him (politely) for more than six minutes, a huge contrast from the softball questions given to CTV executives.

Stein also appeared opposite CTV’s David Goldstein to debate the issue on an Alberta program, which went on for a respectable 14 minutes. Sadly, the debaters weren’t as respectable, accusing the other of misleading people. In short, Shaw says it produces local programming through cable access channels, while CTV argues (correctly) that those channels are financed entirely out of a CRTC-mandated fund. CTV argues that Shaw et al are stealing their programming and pirating it to viewers, and incredulously accuses Shaw of using “scare tactics” in this campaign (you know, the one in which CTV is using a heart monitor metaphor to say local TV will “disappear forever” if fee for carriage isn’t enacted).

The network also finally got some smart analysts on. Eamon Hoey looked at the larger picture, taking a dim view of fee for carriage, and got hounded by Milczarek. Carleton University’s Christopher Waddell also pointed out how CTV isn’t telling all sides of this story, and also got treated with skepticism.

Don’t get me wrong, these interviews with Milczarek are what journalists are supposed to be doing: getting people to answer tough questions. But compared to the fluff interviews about open houses with CTV executives, it seems clear that CTV is using its journalists to advocate for a cause, being soft on their bosses and tough on their competition.

Breach of trust

CTV is grossly abusing its public trust by forcing its journalists to participate in what is essentially a political campaign. Television viewers have the right to be fully informed about all sides to this issue and CTV is systematically denying them that right.

Of course, the fact that local CTV stations are owned by a giant conglomerate that puts profit above everything else and is pretending to care about local television to manipulate the public is the problem in the first place, isn’t it?

What’s even sadder is that it takes another group of giant corporate conglomerates protecting their own bottom lines to bring this problem to light. If a solution was proposed that benefitted both private broadcasters and cable and satellite companies at the expense of television viewers, who would be there to look out for us?

I’m going to CTV Montreal’s open house today. I’m pessimistic about their chances of convincing me to accept their corporate manifesto, but it’s a good chance to explore the station.

Why can’t the news be more honest?

Dow Jones, the company that owns the Wall Street Journal, recently issued some directives concerning employee use of social media (read: Facebook, Twitter). (Thanks, Lucas!)

Some of the rules make sense, like not using fake names, not expressing partisan opinions, and not engaging in epic flame wars with those who would criticize you. Some other ones are the kind of stuff you might not think of off the bat, like not Facebook-friending anonymous sources.

And then there’s the cover-your-ass boilerplate that sounds like it’s meant more to build a wall between journalists and readers than to ensure journalistic integrity: “Let our coverage speak for itself, and don’t detail how an article was reported, written or edited. Don’t discuss articles that haven’t been published, meetings you’ve attended or plan to attend with staff or sources, or interviews that you’ve conducted.”

Meanwhile, Bloomberg has issued orders that employees are not to write blogs that discuss work, aren’t allowed to link to competitors or even discuss them.

It’s unfortunate that even with the rise of the Internet, major news organizations still fear true transparency. They’re all about using Facebook and Twitter for marketing and finding that man-in-the-street source that turns an issue story into a human interest story. But the news media want to project an image that they are without flaws.

Steve Proulx explored this issue in a recent post, pointing out that they’re particularly awful when it comes to reporting bad news about themselves.

Quebecor, Canwest, CTV and others will dutifully report on the press releases issued by their parent companies, but when it comes to analysis, you have to seek out their competitors who are more free to explore the issues.

An exception to this is the CBC, who – probably because they’re a public broadcaster and are ultimately responsible to politicians instead of corporate shareholders – follow a culture where employees can be critical of management and don’t have to clear every Twitter post through corporate PR.

These are generalizations, of course. There are probably many middle managers at the CBC who believe in silencing dissent, just like there are some at private media who believe in transparency.

But when in doubt, many media err on the side of keeping embarrassing information to themselves, or at least trying to bury it.

That’s unfortunate, because it builds resentment among honest journalists, and mistrust among news consumers. Neither of those is healthy for a news organization.

We all have flaws. Some of them are embarrassing, others less so. Most distill down to something more complex than “we’re evil” and would probably be understood – even if not agreed to – by the audience.

Building a culture of honesty by putting one’s flaws out there for people to see gives people the impression that the news outlet they’re dealing with is like them: human.

Another bought degree at Concordia

As graduation season approaches, now is the time universities announce who will receive honorary doctorates at convocation ceremonies.

Unlike actual degrees which require lots of hard work, honorary degrees are bestowed upon people the university believes will make it look good. In many cases, mere celebrity will suffice. This year, Concordia is giving degrees to Air Farce veterans Don Ferguson and Roger Abbott, who graduated from Loyola College, as well as Canadiens legend Jean Béliveau.

Other awards are handed out to people who excel in their industries and set an example for students.

And then there are those whose titles include the words “CEO”, whose honours have more to do with how much money they’ve given to the university than how much they’ve contributed to society, as I wrote last year.

Richard J. Renaud

Richard J. Renaud

This year, two names fall under that category: Richard J. Renaud and Mel Hoppenheim. It’s no coincidence that the former has a building named after him and the latter an entire program.

Concordia doesn’t hide the fact that contributions to the university are a factor when deciding who to hand degrees to. In fact, it’s listed right there as one of the criteria (PDF). But the university tempers it by adding other categories of contribution – supposedly volunteer or creative work would also help, though I don’t recall any volunteers for the People’s Potato getting honorary degrees recently.

The big reason Renaud is getting his degree now instead of years ago is that he just retired from the Board of Governors last year (a seat on the board is another perk you get when you give the university millions of dollars). The board decides who gets degrees, and has a policy against awarding them to sitting members.

This isn’t to imply that Renaud has ulterior motives for his contributions to the university. The value of an honorary degree hardly justifies the price. But it’s sad that this supposed academic honour is bestowed upon the rich far more often than the poor. redesigned, broken

The new Globe and Mail website

The new Globe and Mail website

In case you haven’t noticed already, the Globe and Mail redesigned its website this week.

The site is excessively slow right now, which I assume is only temporary, but still quite embarrassing.

As if to underscore how little has actually changed, the video introduction by Edward Greenspon (which I can’t embed here but looks like it was shot in a basement in the 80s) talks a lot about how great the website has been doing but very little about what’s actually changing, beyond the “new nav bar” (exciting!)

The old

The old

Among the changes from the old site:

  • URLs lose their /servlet/story/RTGAM…/BNStory/home nonsense, replaced by search-engine-friendly URLs like this one that are based on the headline. This change will probably make the most difference for traffic reaching the site.
  • After going overboard on the grey in their last layout, it’s much less prominent here in favour of black and red (making it look a bit Maclean’s-ish).
  • Speaking of colours, each major section is colour-coordinated, including a rather garish purple for Globe Life.
  • Gone is Trebuchet MS, replaced by serifed Georgia for headlines.
  • The story pages are much cleaner and less cluttered, but for some reason photos are limited to 360 pixels wide.
  • No more page showing articles that were in that day’s print edition, supposedly because they’re all found in their respective sections now and don’t need their own page.

But the most pretentious change is the name: It’s being rebranded from “” to “The Globe and Mail”, because, Greenspon says, “it is the Globe and Mail and everything is integrated”. I can see the point (even if every newspaper says that and subsequently ignores it by spending 90% of its effort on the print edition’s front page), except Greenspon keeps referring to it as “” and the video ends with the old brand.

Overall, I think it’s a positive change, if a bit over-hyped.

The STM’s new brand

For those who haven’t noticed yet, the STM has redesigned its website to bring it into the 21st century. The previous version, while functional, wasn’t very pretty and looked quite dated.

The new version fixes that, with all the current design clichés:

  • Rounded corners
  • Gradients
  • The colours blue and grey
  • Flash-based Cycling series of main images
  • JavaScript-based collapsible menus
  • Helvetica and/or Arial, mostly in all caps

Fortunately, the design change is cosmetic. Most of the content is the same and even the URLs don’t change, so links aren’t broken.

The redesign fits in with the STM’s “Society in motion” brand, with a yellow and blue chevron forming a green one (it’s not clear what this represents exactly), and an increased emphasis on the environmental benefits of using public transit. The INFO STM page in Metro has also been redesigned with this new design.

They also launched Version 4 of Tous Azimuts, the trip planning application that uses the STM’s database of bus, train and metro departures. The new version is faster, easier to use and shows a map of trips, in addition to allowing smart searches of departure and arrival locations. If that’s not good enough for you, the STM also gives people the choice of using Google Transit, which has had access to departure schedules since October.

Important person in an accident

Hugo Dumas has the details of the car accident that sent TVA host Pénélope McQuade to hospital over the weekend on Sunday.

The short version is that she was driving down the highway when she tried to connect her iPod to her car audio system, and her car drove off the road, ejecting her through the sunroof. She’ll need months to recover.

This kind of non-fatal accident happens regularly on Quebec roads. Usually it’s only the ones that result in fatalities that make it into the paper, and even then it’s only a brief.

But McQuade is on TV, and that makes her more important.

On the positive side, hopefully her experience will convince other drivers to pull over before doing something as boneheadedly dangerous as fiddling around in the glovebox.

The report is that her face, arms and neck (those things visible when you’re on TV) are all in good shape. Let’s see her on some SAAQ ads when she’s better.