Monthly Archives: January 2010

Welcome to misquotania, Luc

Plateau borough mayor Luc Ferrandez went on a bit of a rant Saturday on his blog about the media’s handling of a story about changes to parking regulations. Apparently a Radio-Canada story was exaggerated with its headline, a Presse Canadienne story and an Astral Media story just re-reported the RadCan story without checking it, and everyone went crazy over a non-story that’s had no new developments since the election.

The outburst was enough for an Agence QMI story to be written about Ferrandez’s reaction (the QMI story quotes 24H, apparently unable to read Ferrandez’s blog for itself).

UPDATE (Jan. 10): Ferrandez has cut out the media-critical part of that post, explaining in another that it was un-mayor-like. To me, the best part about Ferrandez is that he’s un-mayor-like. But maybe it rubbed a few people the wrong way.

It’s funny (and unusual) for us regular folk to see a politician air these annoyances publicly like this. Normally they just call the reporter directly, or call the reporter’s manager, or complain to friends. If the case is serious enough, they might write a letter to the editor.

But what strikes me about Ferrandez’s post is that this is part of his education process as a rookie borough mayor. He’s not used to the idea of the media getting a story wrong and that error propagating more quickly than it can be stopped.

As much as I’d like to defend journalists and the media here, to say that he’s got it all wrong, instead I can only offer that he should get used to this. This isn’t the last time he’ll be misquoted, not the last time someone will get the story wrong because they went for the sensationalism over caution, were lazy or just confused.

Journalists are human. They make mistakes. And with all the cutbacks in the news business these days, those mistakes are going to get worse.

Smoke-free TV people still love us

Hey, remember last year when there were ads on TV with TV personalities talking to you with tears in their eyes about how they quit smoking?

Well, they’re back. Jean-François Baril, Dave Morissette, Stéphan Bureau and others, sitting in a room made up of post-it notes, recounting to a loved one either a thank you or a heart-felt plea to stop smoking.

The token anglo this time is CFCF’s André Corbeil.

Last year I called the videos creepy. Unfortunately, they’ve since disappeared from the website (to be replaced by this year’s batch) so I can’t re-evaluate that analysis very well (why not keep last year’s videos up?). This year’s batch seems less creepy for some reason I can’t identify. But it’s still weird, uncomfortable.

Of course, that’s the point. To take the comfort out of smoking, and to catch the attention of the inattentive television viewer.

Now, whether any of this causes anyone to stop smoking, that’s another matter.

Quebec Tobacco-Free Week runs from Jan. 17 to 23.

Bon anniversaire, Le Devoir

The first issue of Le Devoir, Jan. 10, 1910

100 years ago today, Henri Bourassa published the first issue of a newspaper he somewhat arrogantly called Le Devoir. It was a different time then, both in terms of technology (there was no concept of desktop publishing as there is now) and in terms of politics (the paper was nationalist, but that meant they wanted independence from London, not Ottawa).

Despite nearly failing many times (see a full chronology and another piece focusing on finances), the paper survives. And it’s celebrating. It has an entire section on its website devoted to 100th anniversary stories, and has put its special commemorative magazine online for free in “virtual paper” and PDF formats.

They’re planning on milking this for the entire calendar year, with special events and publications. It starts today, when they’re inviting readers to meet the paper’s artisans at Marché Bonsecours, from 10am to 1pm. There will also be a special presentation and a commemorative envelope (they do those?) issued to honour the anniversary.

Le Devoir isn’t the only one celebrating. Among the celebrations from other media:

Allow me to add on: Happy anniversary. Try to stay out of bankruptcy for another century.

Chronicle, Cités Nouvelles editors refuse demotions

On Friday, the West Island Chronicle and Cités Nouvelles, the two Transcontinental-owned weeklies covering the West Island, each had two full-time editorial employees – an editor and a reporter.

On Monday, they may have none.

Layoffs announced just before Christmas of the papers’ reporters (Raffy Boudjikanian for the Chronicle, Olivier Laniel for Cités Nouvelles) took effect on Friday. Technically they’re not permanent, but for an indeterminant period. But Boudjikanian doesn’t expect to return to the job and is now unemployed. Laniel was a temporary worker, replacing a reporter on maternity leave.

Albert Kramberger

Hearing about the job cuts and their own demotions from editor to sole reporter (and sole journalist), Chronicle editor Albert Kramberger and Cités Nouvelles editor Marie-Claude Simard told their employer on Christmas Eve that they would refuse their demotions and wouldn’t work for their papers if they were expected to do so solo.

Their superiors “seemed shocked to get the news”, Simard said, and they have been holding meetings this week with the union to discuss the matter.

Whether those meetings will go anywhere is another matter. A decision could be weeks away, and the demotions take effect on Monday.

As far as Kramberger is concerned, unless some stunning reversal on the employer’s part takes place, he’s already worked his last shift at the Chronicle, and he’s looking for another job.

Wayne Larsen, who was also demoted from editor of the Westmount Examiner, saw the positive side of his new role and is expected to stay on.

The emptying of the Chronicle is particularly distressing. Only five years ago, I spent a week there as an intern, and it had a skeleton staff, but still a staff. News reporters, a sports reporter, an editor and a photographer. The Chronicle was a perennial winner at the Quebec Community Newspaper Association awards, mostly because they had more resources than the other papers.

Now they’re all gone.

Transcontinental might choose to hire a new reporter at each paper, perhaps some kid straight out of university or a laid-off journalist who’s desperate to make ends meet. But the loss of institutional memory would be huge. They would end up as shadows of the shadows they once were.

With the Chronicle and Cités Nouvelles on their last legs, a void opens up for West Island community coverage. The best of what’s left is the weekly West Island section of The Gazette, which has four full-time editorial employees and relies on the resources of the larger paper. Beyond that, there’s little. Unlike Westmount or NDG, there’s no mom-and-pop paper running out of someone’s basement trying to compete with the big guys. Even The Suburban hasn’t really reached out to the West Island yet.

Transcontinental may have seen this as just two layoffs, but they’ve essentially abdicated their responsibilities to the West Island.

Now, who will fill that void?

Other coverage from CTV Montreal and The Suburban

To Ted Bird: “You were perfect”

When Ted Bird asked people to put his personal email out to the world in the wake of his seemingly sudden resignation from CHOM (his CHOM email address was shut down even before his departure was announced), he was hoping a few people might send him a note and say they would miss him. Turns out a lot of people did exactly that, and even he was surprised by the deluge of emails he got from fans.

One of those emails struck him particularly hard, and he suggested I share it here:

Every morning, Mr. Bird, I wake up at 5:30 so I can catch the very start of CHOM’s Morning Show. I don’t think I’ve had a worse morning than I did yesterday. When I heard the announcement of your resignation, I was extremely saddened. I truly believe that you are the reason that I have been a loyal CHOM listener for so many years.

I read the article about you in the Gazette this morning, and I find it almost comical that you said that the station is targeting a more youthful audience and that you aren’t getting younger. Coming from this 19-year-old, I can tell you that to me you were perfect. I laughed heartily every morning on the way to work. Between telling the city about what you did on your summer vacation, or Revisionist History, I had a hell of a good time. But there have also been times where I have been quite touched by your broadcasts. I was lucky enough to meet the side of Ernie Butler that was not only the humorist, but the loving, doting father as well the genuinely kind man. After he passed away, I made a point to listen to what you had to say, and just to hear you speaking so fondly of him brought me to tears.

I actually met you once just over a year ago as I was working as a cashier at Chapters, and I said “Hi” and although I spoke to you for all of 90 seconds, you were so pleasant. There you were; out with your son for the day, and I had to interrupt with my star-struck awe. But you were really nice about it. It makes a radio listener’s experience much more enjoyable when the host is actually as awesome face-to-face as well as on the air. I have an insurmountable amount of respect for you.

SO, I guess there isn’t much left to say except “Good Luck!” I wish you all the best on your future endeavors. I listened to you throughout my childhood, adolescence, and I hope I can say my adult life as well. Unbeknownst to you, you have taught me so much. Your presence in this city as a radio host has had a substantial and eternal impact upon me. And for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

All the Best,

Catherine Londei

Bird’s response:

Hi Catherine,

I don’t know how many hundreds of e-mails I’ve received in the last two days, and as much as I’ve been touched by all of them, your’s is the only one that made me cry. And as you know, there’s no crying in radio, goddam it.

I remember very well the day I met you at Chapter’s, and trust me – I was as gratified that you recognized me as you were that I made time for you, however briefly. On the celebrity food chain, local radio personality ranks somewhere between circus clown and fuzzy mascot (think about it – more people have heard of Youppi than have heard of me), and we get just enough public recognition that it’s flattering without being intrusive. But no matter what the level of celebrity, it’s a two way street and even the biggest stars in the world owe it to themselves and their fans to make sure that their connection with the audience is emotionally genuine.

In any event, thanks a pantload for bringing me to tears for the first time since Bucky F#*&ing Dent’s home run helped the Yankees beat the Red Sox in a one-game playoff in 1978 – my first year in radio and 12 years before you were born. Way to bridge the generation gap.

All the best,

Ted Bird

Bird is busy writing individual responses to everyone who has written to him. He can be reached at, and he’s now also cracking jokes on Twitter, to reinforce the image that he now has no life.

What’s happening to Montreal radio?

Aaron Rand

In the wake of Ted Bird’s departure from CHOM, I got an unsolicited email from Aaron Rand, one of the few remaining veterans of commercial radio in Montreal. It was actually a belated response to comments I made about him after he lost two co-hosts at CFQR. But he included some thoughts about the radio industry that he asked I share with you:

As someone who has been in the radio business for more than 25 years, the latest round of cuts, changes, format shifts – call it what you will – seem to have hit home particularly hard in Montreal.

Morning shows, especially teams, have been among the hardest hit. But while we all mourn the on-air losses of people like Tasso, Terry DiMonte, Suzanne Desautels, and now Ted Bird, I felt it important to point out that these changes, drastic and disturbing as they may be, are not unique to Montreal or even Toronto.  A bit of research suggests a much different and industry wide story. Plain and simple, the business is changing. The audience profile is morphing, and the worst economic downturn seen in a generation is forcing the hands of those who run the ship. It’s just happening sooner and more dramatically than anyone had a reasonable right to expect it to.

In markets from San Diego to Detroit, to Chicago to St. Louis, Vancouver, Calgary, New York, L.A. (remember Rick Dees?) morning shows are being blown up one after another. So the question isn’t why, the question is what’s going to work in the future, and how can you adapt and be part of that future.

When I read about Ted Bird (who I know only in passing) and his reasons for leaving, I was struck by one central theme. Not the fact that big corporations now control the business (it’s been that way for awhile), not that they seek to, as he said, take the craft out of the hands of the craftsmen (which naively maybe I choose not to believe) but by the fact that it stopped being fun for him. And in a business where translating that fun you feel into fun an audience can share, once you’ve lost that feeling, it’s time to move on, I respect Ted for that.

I still get up every morning (at 4 not 3) and look forward to going to work. Yes, I miss seeing the faces and hearing the voices of the friends I shared that studio with for what seems like forever, but I’m a realist. You can’t help but see and feel the business changing, and the choice is to either embrace that change, or be left behind by it.

Is it the right thing to do, am I still being true to myself as a performer by staying? Honestly, I don’t know, but I’m willing to at least give it a shot and then make that decision with a bit of perspective to reflect on. The truth is, I still have fun doing what I do on the radio every morning. The only difference is now I’m working with other talentedpeople who offer new perspectives, a different outlook, and maybe, a glimpse into what the future of this business will become.

It’s not better, it’s not worse, it’s just different, But it’s still fun. The day it no longer is, I’ll walk away too.

Aaron Rand

On a similarly philosophical note, local radio enthusiast Sheldon Harvey remarked about the state of radio in a post to the Radio in Montreal discussion group:

In a management seminar I attended in my early 20s, the instructor told us that, at some point in our lives, we would realize that money in life is not a motivator. At a young age, I think all of us think that the more money we have, the happier we will be. Eventually most of us realize that life is not long enough to spend it doing things that we really don’t enjoy and don’t believe in, regardless of what we are getting paid.

Rand is right that the economy is putting pressure on radio station owners to cut back, and one of the biggest expenses is those high-priced morning show veterans. And, like newspapers, even the best ones are suffering in this economic climate and changing media landscape.

My problem with commercial music radio, as I expressed when talking about Rand in October, is that they seem to have given up. With respect to all the professionals working at CHOM, CJFM and CFQR, I find most of their names and voices interchangeable. They seem to lack personality that sets them apart from the rest, because they’re not allowed to develop one on the air. It’s why some of them, like Kelly Alexander, are starting on their own with podcasts where they can actually connect on a human level with listeners.

Maybe listeners don’t want to connect with their DJs, maybe they just want the music. It’s a fair stance to take, and studies show that people want music – not talk – from their music stations. But then the music suffers from this same lack of personality. It’s all from the same tiny playlist. And while limiting variety concentrates hits and increases the likelihood that someone turning the dial will stop on your station to hear a familiar song, it also decreases the likelihood that someone will discover something new. And if they’re just listening to a bunch of songs they already know (some of which they like and some they don’t), what competition can that offer to iPods and other recorded media, which are programmed by the user?

Personality and discovery are the advantages that live broadcast radio have over iPods. And yet music radio stations seem to be reluctant to exploit them.

And they wonder why ratings are slowly going down.

UPDATE (Jan. 10): Mitch Joel has some thoughts on local radio from a marketing perspective.

Opus subscription comes with guarantee

The STM has launched its Opus subscription program, which allows people to register for automatic Opus card renewal through pre-authorized credit card payments or direct deposit.

Though the service offers no financial incentive (like a 12th month free), it does come with a replacement guarantee, which means that if you lose or break your Opus card, you can get it replaced, with the fare on it, for only the cost of the card itself.

The Opus system was supposed to offer this for all card holders, but for some reason it has been delayed. So far it is only offered for cards that come with photo ID.

Newspapers for sale!

CFCF's Paul Karwatsky reports outside the Gazette building (after signing autographs for some teenage girls who happened to pass by)

It wasn’t so much a question of whether, but when.

The hammer came down this morning, as Canwest Limited Partnership, the print and online side of the Canwest empire, joined the television arm in filing for creditor protection.

I can’t really tell you more than has been published by the Globe and Mail (UPDATE: The Globe has more in its Saturday issue), the Toronto StarBBC, ABC (Associated Press)Bloomberg, Canadian Press, Agence France-Presse, Reuters, QMI, UPI, CBCCTV, CTV Montreal, Le Devoir, Rue Frontenacthe Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Financial Post or the Canwest press release.

The Star also has a copy of CEO Leonard Asper’s memo to employees.

The gist of it is that the newspaper division (including the National Post, though it is not under this creditor protection filing) is up for sale, with the banks getting the ball rolling setting a floor bid. Unlike recent small-market TV station sales that were for a nominal amount, the newspaper chain is expected to fetch decent cash because most of the newspapers are still profitable.

The only question is who has a billion dollars to spare to scoop up an entire newspaper chain (because of how dependent they are on each other for content and services, Canwest is hoping to sell them off as a unit).

In the meantime, while about 50 former employees under salary continuance are getting screwed (none of these people are former Gazette employees), pensions, salaries and expenses continue as normal through a $25-million debtor-in-protection financing. This means employees (including me) still get paid as normal, freelancers still get their invoices processed, and suppliers still get paid for continuing operations. (UPDATE: Some freelancers are being affected by this filing, I’m now told, for bills between mid-December and the filing of Jan. 8.)

In Saturday’s paper, Gazette published Alan Allnutt makes that clear: Operations continue as normal.

Wish I had more juicy details, but they don’t trust me with that kind of information (would you?).

Continue reading

Tiny engine part killed two people

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has apparently completed a preliminary report into the crash of a helicopter last August that killed CTV cameraman Hugh Haugland and his pilot Roger Bélanger.

According to CTV, the report says a small part broke in an exhaust valve, causing the engine to lose power and forcing an emergency landing that failed to save the aircraft or the two people inside it.

Ted Bird quits CHOM over “creative and philosophical differences”

Ted Bird, one of the veterans of Montreal radio, has flown the coop.

Ted Bird

The official word from CHOM, Pete Marier and the Bird Man himself is that Bird resigned from his morning show job.

I’d originally reported here that he had been fired. I’ll swallow my pride and retract that. My sources were wrong, and I relied too much on unverified information in repeating them. My apologies to my readers and to CHOM.

Bird himself confirmed Wednesday that he resigned from the station “for personal and professional reasons”:

Just for the record, I did in fact submit my resignation from CHOM for personal and professional reasons, which VP and general manager Martin Spalding graciously accepted.  I no longer have an e-mail account at the radio station but if I owe anyone money or they want their driveway shovelled, they can reach me on my home e-mail at

It would be fair to say that there were creative and philosophical differences that took a lot of the passion and joy out of the process, and I’m not going to get up at 3am to go to a job that’s no fun anymore. CHOM is skewing younger and I’m getting older (51 this month) so it just didn’t feel like it fit.

Bird welcomes comments at his email address above, which he has asked me to share with his listeners.

The story is getting coverage in The Gazette and at CTV. Both are being flooded with comments from people who support Bird and others who support him being taken off the air.

Bird gave an interesting quote to The Gazette about the state of the industry, something I’ve heard a lot from other radio veterans:

Radio stations used to be owned by families. They were creative people with a passion and instinct for the business. Now stations are run by corporations. They’ve taken the craft out of the hands of the craftsmen. I have to work with creative people – as a collaborator – not be dictated to.

Following the usual playbook of pretending like people never existed when they leave, Astral wasted no time scrubbing references to Bird from CHOM’s website on Tuesday, even while ads showing Bird were still appearing. Bird’s blog and CHOM email have been deleted or disabled.

The move (or at least the announcement of the move) comes the day after Chantal Desjardins joined the morning crew. Desjardins moved over from CJFM (Virgin Radio 96) to replace Kim Rossi, who left for a new job in St. Catharines, Ont. Desjardins and Bird didn’t work a single show together as “Ted, Chantal and Bad Pete”.

The CHOM morning show was also in the process of finding a new name, running a contest asking for suggestions from listeners. That contest has suspended entries, though they will draw the grand prize on Friday for anyone who entered before the contest was rendered moot. For now, the show is being referred to as “Chantal and Bad Pete“.

On Wednesday morning’s show, Marier started by stressing that Bird resigned suddenly on Jan. 1 (though few people knew about it until Tuesday). He said he doesn’t know why Bird quit, but that it was for “personal reasons”. (He also took a shot at those pesky online rumours that are full of “BS”.)

Marier also said the station will be looking for a replacement for Bird, even suggesting that one would be in place by February.

That’s not to say Marier was quick to move on. He devoted a perfectly respectable 17 minutes of the first three and a half hours of the show (it was extended an hour because of the unrelated fact that afternoon host Rob Kemp has just had a baby). Considering this is a music station that’s lucky to get five minutes an hour to talk about stuff between music, commercials, news, traffic, sports and weather, that’s not bad.

Marier repeatedly stressed that Bird had not been fired (I feel guilty enough to want to send him flowers), and that there was no personal conflict between the two, who have long been friends (apparently some people suggested that Marier had something to do with Bird’s departure, which really makes no sense).

Listen to Pete Marier talk about Ted Bird on Wednesday morning’s show (MP3, runs 16:52)

Bird first joined CHOM 21 years ago as a news announcer, moving from CJFM. In 1993 he and Terry DiMonte moved to CJFM to take over the Mix 96 morning show. DiMonte and Bird later reunited at CJAD and in 2002 retook the CHOM morning show in a bid to bring the station back to its roots (and ratings).

You can get a taste of Bird’s history in this mini documentary about the morning show trio, back when it was Ted, Kim and Kemp:

Asked what he’ll do next, Bird was his usual wisecracking self:

I have no immediate plans, although my 8 and 10 year old sons, Charlie and Sam, want the three of us to set up an Internet radio station, where Sam suggests that some of our regular features include him falling down in the snow and hitting Charlie in the nuts with an apple.

Bird’s current and former colleagues said they were shocked by the news, which was given to employees in the late afternoon on Tuesday. Terry DiMonte, who teamed up with Bird for many years at three radio stations, called it a “sad day for Montreal radio.”

The Bay hates Canada

First they gave us those awful clothes for the 2008 games in Beijing.

Now, The Bay is offering U.S. Olympic team apparel in their stores:

Clearly The Bay has either given up on this country or, worse, is purposefully trying to undermine it. Perhaps they are being influenced by an evil foreign power, or they’ve become distracted by pretty American things, or maybe we just did something to piss them off.

Either way, as Canadians, we must rise up and perform our duty, assert our national identity and show the world we are Canadian.

I will be the first.

Hey U.S.A., sorry aboot all that, eh?

Hall honours Gazette writer

Ian MacDonald

Ian MacDonald, former Expos beat writer for The Gazette (among other things) has been honoured by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame with its Jack Graney Award, given to someone in the media who has made a significant contribution to the sport in their life’s work.

MacDonald, not to be confused with conservative political columnist L. Ian MacDonald, has been retired for a decade now, but still contributes Where Are They Now columns, as well as his weekly NFL picks during the season.

If you’re like me, your reaction was a resounding: “Wait a minute, there’s a Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame?”