Monthly Archives: February 2010

You’re going nowhere, Sanka, and you’re thrilled to death about it

From The Gazette, Feb. 10

Saw this ad in the paper today. It’s nice that MoneyGram is willing to support athletes going to the Games, not to mention athletes from another country – and advertising it in a Canadian newspaper. But, of course, the Jamaican Bobsled Team gets support from all corners of the globe (at least ever since Cool Runnings came out).

It’s unfortunate that the team didn’t qualify and won’t be there.

On tue la une: An adult conversation about the media revolution

I'm using this still of Rue Frontenac's Gabrielle Duchaine to illustrate this post because my focus groups have told me that readers respond better to pictures of young pretty girls looking really serious with their hair flowing in the breeze as a camera slowly zooms in on them than pictures of Florian Sauvageau explaining the relationship between journalism and advertising while waving his hands around

In case you haven’t seen it yet, there was an interesting documentary, shown over the past two weekends, about the revolutionary changes happening to journalism and the media. It featured interviews with (francophone) journalists from various (Montreal) media, as well as with experts and people involved in the new media journalistic ventures that are slowly taking their place.

The second part of it aired this weekend on … V? Wait, that can’t be right. … Really? OK, V. You can watch the whole thing online starting here. It’s produced by B-612 Communications, which gave us La Maison de Maxim Lapierre, of all things.

What struck me about this documentary wasn’t so much that it brought anything new to the table – if you have even a passing interest in media you probably already know what’s going on – but the serious, sober way in which it’s discussed. It consists almost entirely of individual interviews, with Nathalie Collard and Patrick Lagacé of La Presse, with Richard Martineau and Benoît Aubin of the Journal de Montréal, with Gabrielle Duchaine of Rue Frontenac, with Stéphane Baillargeon and Bernard Descôteaux of Le Devoir, with Patrice Roy of Radio-Canada, Pierre Bruneau of TVA, Jean-Luc Mongrain of LCN, Jean Pagé and Ève Couture of V, and many others.

It’s jarring to see people like Martineau, Mongrain and Pagé speak so seriously about this, considering the personalities they’ve developed on TV. Maybe it’s just an impression I got, or maybe it’s an indication that they’re putting on a show for TV that doesn’t necessarily reflect their true personalities.

The doc also features interviews with people on the other side of the equation, like Jean Trudel of, Frédéric Guindon of, as well as experts like Florian Sauvageau of UQAM Université Laval.

If anything, the film relies too much on interviews, combined with a little bit of voice-over and edited with extreme close-ups. It also has bite-size bits of information scrolling along the bottom – some of which is dubious, like the claim that only UQAM offers a bachelor’s degree in journalism in Quebec, by which I can only conclude that either Concordia isn’t considered in Quebec or that it doesn’t offer a bachelor’s degree acceptable to the producers.

It also confines itself – it doesn’t talk to anyone at any anglo media, nor anyone at any media based outside Montreal. (Sauvageau is the closest thing they get to a regional perspective)

And it doesn’t talk to Steve Proulx. Or me. Or a bunch of other media experts named Steve.

Still, as a balanced discussion into the future of the media, and as a way to see your favourite media personalities in high definition, it’s worth a watch.

Street View expands in Canada

After launching in a few major cities in October, and then expanding to more second-tier cities in December, Google Street View has expanded to just about every populated area of the country.

Before: North American Street View map in October

After: North America on Street View

Of note is that now the entire Trans Canada Highway, from St. John’s to Victoria (or Sydney to Vancouver, if you prefer) is on Street View. If someone wants to waste a lot of time, they can construct a video simulating a drive from one end of the country to the other.

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Olympic theme songs to build your national pride

If you were watching the U.S. broadcast of the Super Bowl on Sunday, you missed a few dozen CTV commercials reminding you that the Olympics are coming. Among them, this video featuring Montrealer Nikki Yanofsky singing the English version of CTV’s Olympic theme song, I Believe:

Of course, this being Canada, there’s also a French version, sung by Annie Villeneuve, called J’imagine:

How does this compare to previous Olympic songs?

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The Daily Miracle: Exaggerated, but only slightly

(From left) Arthur Holden, Jean-Guy Bouchard, Ellen David, Sheena Gazé-Deslandes and Howard Rosenstein in David Sherman's The Daily Miracle

Over the weekend, I joined a group of journalists (in fact, two distinct groups – one veteran and one up-and-coming) to see a production of the Infinitheatre play The Daily Miracle, written by former Gazette copy editor David Sherman.

I’ll spare you the usual theatre review stuff, because (a) I’m not a theatre critic and (b) it’s already been talked about in The Gazette (along with a feature article), La Presse, Mirror, Hour, the Suburbanthe West Island Chronicle, the McGill Tribune, the Concordian, the Link, Le Quatrième and maybe some other places too.

We’d first heard about this play years ago, when Sherman left his copy editing job at The Gazette. By the time he made his leave permanent to become a playwright (and work on his first play Have a Heart for Centaur), there were rumours floating that he would use the copy desk as the basis for a production – and the editors potentially as models for his characters.

I should add here that I know Sherman – he was a copy editor when I was an intern at The Gazette, and he was one of the people who I got the most on-the-job training from.

Though I got a sneak preview at a reading a while back, the people I went with on Saturday didn’t quite know what to expect from this play. Though the name of the newspaper is the Montreal Star (taken from the former newspaper of the same name – they even used the same logo on computer screens and papers on set) and its parent company is called WestPress, it’s pretty clear which major newspaper the play is based on. Even some of the characters are familiar, either as composites (Gazé-Deslandes’s Carrie, the pretty young desk intern) or as near-ripoffs (Jean-Guy Bouchard’s Roland reminded most of my former colleagues of a particular person with a similar personality and accent).

But what’s most familiar is the work. The play, staged at the Bain St-Michel (literally inside a pool that had been converted into a theatre) is set in real time, between the 10:30pm first edition deadline and the midnight final. It’s a time when copy editors and other night staff get chatty (the stress of making first edition deadline having just been lifted) and start airing their grievances with the paper and the news industry, along with spreading personal gossip.

It’s hard to evaluate the play objectively because I’m so familiar with what it’s based on. It’s the life I lived for three and a half years at The Gazette. I know the terminology, I know the stress, and I know the characters and their roles.

Still, for the benefit of those who don’t work on a copy desk, I can tell you that what happens in this play is a dramatization. I for one never saw anyone come to work five hours late, pop pills like they were candy and start sexually assaulting his coworkers. But maybe it’s just because I wasn’t there in the old days.

One of the people who saw the play the same night as me was Thomas de Lorimier, who works as a copy editor at La Presse. He agreed that there was a lot more drama here than you’d see on a normal night (but then, that what we’d want in an entertaining play, right?) but that the elements of the characters’ personalities and the way things work are what you’ll find on the copy desk of a major newspaper. A line about how disasters in China need a triple-digit death count before becoming news is entirely true. Having a picture of a pop diva on the cover solely because she’s famous and she performed at the Bell Centre that night is also spot on, as are the staff’s reactions to the burying of (what they considered to be) real news in order to emphasize fluff.

One thing de Lorimier and I both agreed on that was missing from the play was pun-offs. That’s when an editor takes a story and makes a really bad pun (like saying Haiti’s “all shook up”) and other editors jump in with even worse ones. It’s part defence mechanism against the horrors of life they’re exposed to on a daily basis, and partly a way to hone their skills as wordsmiths.

It’s a skill Sherman clearly doesn’t need too much help with, judging by this play.

If you’re interested in getting a dramatic look at a newspaper’s news desk on deadline, The Daily Miracle is a good way to spend an evening. It’s on every night until Sunday, Feb. 14. Details at

Montreal Geography Trivia No. 68

What is the significance of the shaded area of this map?

UPDATE: COOL FAT MICHAEL FROM THE JERSEY SHORE ‘87 and Jim both got the right answer: these are the borders of the village, town, city and ward of Sainte-Cunégonde, sandwiched between St. Henri (whose eastern border was Atwater) and Montreal.

Not only was this independent city tiny (in 1840 it had 10 inhabitants), it was also short-lived. It was developed after it was bought by Alexandre Delisle and William Workman around 1850. At first, it relied heavily on bordering St. Henri for basic services like schools and a church, but the village’s inhabitants, upset with the distance they’d have to travel and the taxes they’d have to pay, wanted some of their own.

Ste. Cunégonde was founded as a parish in 1875, taking its name from Cunégonde de Luxembourg. It was incorporated in 1887 and became its own city in 1890.

But around the turn of the century, Ste. Cunégonde faced the same fate as many other towns around Montreal at the time: merger. In 1905 it became a ward of the city of Montreal. By the midpoint of the 20th century, the boundaries ceased to have any meaning.

Today, the only remnants of the town are the buildings (including the old Sainte-Cunégonde church, now the Korean Catholic Mission on St. Jacques), and the street and park named after it.

For more on the village, you can read this book, published in 1893 by E.Z. Massicotte.

PJ’s first days at CHOM

From left: Chantal Desjardins, Pete Marier and PJ Stock, the morning crew at CHOM

There are a lot of people on the Internet who don’t like PJ Stock. The former NHL player (who had twice as many penalty minutes as games played) has jumped into media in his retirement, as an analyst with Hockey Night in Canada and until recently a show host at the Team 990. He has been criticized for everything from being clueless about hockey to having a tenuous grasp of the rules of English grammar (not that I agree with these criticisms).

On Wednesday, two days after his contract expired at the Team 990, Stock officially joined the morning team at CHOM-FM, effectively replacing the departing Ted Bird.

It’s odd that PJ is considered a full member of the team because he’s only present half the time. The deal is he comes in from 7 to 9 Mondays to Thursdays (Desjardins and Marier do the full show from 5:30 to 9 Mondays to Fridays). And even when he’s present, it’s mostly Marier doing the talking. Desjardins reads the news and Stock reads sports (Abe Hefter is still reading sports news while Stock isn’t present).

Aside from the peanut-gallery comments that are common throughout the show, Stock’s actual talk time is about 10 minutes a day. This includes “Stock Options” (the latest bad pun on his name), a sports commentary segment at 7:20am. (Day 1, Stock criticized the Canadiens for being overhyped – hardly a unique idea. On Day 2, he criticized the media for not being more hostile to Tiger Woods’s wife for allegedly attacking him with a golf club – something even Marier wasn’t comfortable endorsing.)

Rather than try to summarize it all, I’ll let you listen to compilations of his sports reports and banter from his first two days:

Day 2 includes his first major blooper, when he couldn’t figure out how to turn on his microphone.

Stock the jock

It’s clear from his first days on CHOM that Stock is the sports guy. If you don’t like sports, and you don’t like how much time is spent on the radio talking about sports and the Canadiens in particular (there are people who listen to CHOM who don’t like sports, believe it or not), then you’re not going to like PJ Stock.

Hell, even if you’re a die-hard Canadiens fan, you might not like Stock. He calls it “Pete Marier’s favourite team” and doesn’t seem to share his city’s blind support for the bleu-blanc-rouge.

Otherwise, Stock is comfortable on the radio. He’s not awkward, he doesn’t slur his speech or say “umm” a lot. He’s not a radio professional by any means but he fits in well.

I don’t know how long this weird schedule can last though. It’s understandable that Stock wouldn’t want to get up at 4am the morning after a Habs game, and that travel to and from Toronto might make him unavailable on Fridays, but this just highlights the fact that to Stock, Hockey Night in Canada comes first and his job at CHOM comes second.

I have a feeling that, eventually, he’s going to have to choose between the two.

Five ways for Montrealers to watch U.S. Super Bowl ads

Note: This post has been updated for the 2011 Super Bowl. For the latest on Super Bowl ads on Canadian cable and satellite, click here.

For 364 days a year, Canadians don’t care about what the CRTC calls “simultaneous substitution” – the policy whereby cable and satellite providers replace a U.S. channel with a Canadian one when both are running the same program. (The logic behind this is so the Canadian station gets all the Canadian viewers and can charge higher advertising rates.)

For Montrealers especially, the U.S. ads are pretty forgettable. Local ads for Burlington businesses or ads for products and services that Canadians don’t get. Besides, commercials in general are meant to be ignored. Nobody really cares whether the Ford ad lists prices in Canadian or U.S. dollars.

But then there’s Super Bowl Sunday. And while two teams fight for the National Football League’s championship trophy, many television viewers will be looking at the full experience, which includes a halftime show and insanely-expensive commercials. Advertisers turn Super Bowl commercials into events, building up hype and spending through the nose on celebrities and special effects to justify the through-the-nose spending they’re doing just to get the airtime.

So if you’re a Montrealer watching the Super Bowl and want the U.S. commercials, what can you do?

Here are your options:

  1. Watch the U.S. network over the air. As much as the CRTC would like, it can’t stop U.S. stations from transmitting across the border. So you can hook up an antenna and watch it that way. The U.S. network affiliates in Vermont and New York have good coverage in Montreal if you have a good antenna. The catch is that since 2009 they broadcast only in digital, which means you need a television with a digital tuner (most recent HDTVs have this) or a converter box (like this one or this one). Elias Makos has more details for Montrealers wanting to watch U.S. stations over the air.
  2. Watch west-coast feeds. This method has mixed success. The cable and satellite companies are supposed to replace all feeds they’re asked to, but some forget (or aren’t asked?) to do this for west coast feeds, which carry the Super Bowl live at the same time as the east-coast stations do. There’s no guarantee of success with this.
  3. Watch the ads online. These advertisers aren’t about to sue people who put their ads online, and they’re more than welcome to you watching them as many times as you want after the game. YouTube and Spike TV have special sites setup with Super Bowl commercials. The latter includes an archive of past Super Bowl ads. Adweek has a section on Super Bowl ads too
  4. Get the feed illegally. If you subscribe to DirecTV or other U.S.-based satellite services, this whole post is moot and you’ll get the U.S. feeds. You can also try hunting for website streaming the Super Bowl from a U.S. location, but the NFL works diligently to shut those down, and if the entire point is to watch the ads, then you might as well just go to YouTube and see them there legally.
  5. Go to a friend’s house or bar that has done one of the above. Of course, the harder it is for you to get the feed, the harder it is for them too.

Ways that no longer work:

  1. Watch the U.S. network in HD on Videotron Illico digital TV. Videotron made a point of announcing in the past that they would have the U.S. feed untouched in HD. They can no longer do this for customers in the Montreal area with the setup of CFCF-DT in 2011.
  2. Watch the game on Bell TV. The CRTC closed a loophole in 2009 that would have allowed Bell to give most of its subscribers access to the U.S. Super Bowl feed. If you use Bell TV satellite service, you’re out of luck., not quite tout

3600 secondes d'extase is all over Marc Labrèche will show his face anywhere.

In case you hadn’t noticed from coverage by La Presse, Canoe, Rue Frontenac, Branchez-Vous, MSN, Radio-Canada and, like, every other news media in Quebec, Radio-Canada last week launched, a video portal with content from Radio-Canada but also some other television networks like Télé-Québec, TV5, ARTV, TFO and others, including some European francophone channels. (The inevitable comparisons to Hulu followed quickly, even though Canadians can’t use Hulu and therefore don’t have much basis for comparison).

Notably absent from that list are V, the former TQS network that already puts all its content online on its own website, and anything owned by Quebecor, including TVA. Quebecor’s strategy is to leverage its video content to improve the bottom line for its Videotron cable service. So the only way to get TVA shows on demand is to use Videotron’s Illico video-on-demand service (which has most TVA content for free).

Still, even if it was just Radio-Canada stuff, it would be pretty cool. I’d finally get a chance to see two of my favourite shows – Tout le monde en parle and Infoman – on demand (I usually miss the initial airings of both).

Oh but wait, neither show is part of’s vast repertoire.

How can that be? They’re both Radio-Canada series. And because they’re both about the news, you’d think they’d have a short shelf life. Wouldn’t you want them to get maximum exposure in a short period of time? Are people going to buy DVDs of these shows in three years? (Well, maybe…)

Despite being on Facebook and Twitter, hasn’t been communicating very well with users. Its first response on Twitter came a week after it launched, in which it reassured me (don’t I feel special) that it’s just getting started. I can understand that, though there’s still a lot of viewer inquiries and stuff that’s not being responded to, making it seem like it’s being ignored.

There’s also technical problems, like videos freezing halfway through, or (as I experienced) not being able to resume after a long pause. But I can understand that too, assuming they eventually fix it.

So what’s up with TLMEP and Infoman? I sought out to inquire. I sent messages to Radio-Canada (for both shows), and to the production houses behind those shows: Avanti Ciné Video and Les productions Jacques K Primeau (TLMEP) and Zone 3 (Infoman). The only response I got was from Radio-Canada’s Marie Tetreault, who said that they couldn’t include these programs because of rights issues. (One of those annoying problems that even forced them to temporarily pull their own launch video).

“Il n’est pas prévu d’offrir la version intégrale en différé de Tout le monde en parle” was the final word.

So those hoping that these shows would soon be added to, don’t hold your breath. They’ll have the entire series of Et Dieu créa … Laflaque!, Virginie, Tout sur moi, and the RBO Bye-Byes, but two of its biggest shows won’t be added because Radio-Canada doesn’t want to go through whatever trouble is necessary to secure the appropriate rights.

I could understand if this was a 20-year-old TV show, conceived long before the Internet existed, and which has some rights holders who can’t be reached or something, but surely RadCan can come to some arrangement with its own shows to clear online on-demand rights for new episodes.


UPDATE (Feb. 16): La Presse explores producers’ worries about eating into their revenue.

TRAM 3 at Longueuil: Right decision for the wrong reason

This morning, apparently, the Montreal Metropolitan Community (which coordinates issues affecting Montreal and its suburbs) decided that, beginning in July, the Longueuil metro station would be subjected to the same fare rules as those in Laval: Montreal passes would not be accepted, and users would instead need a TRAM 3 multi-zone pass to enter the station.

The news came out not through the STM or the MMC, but via Longueuil mayor Caroline St-Hilaire, who sent out a press release expressing her outrage:

“Je ne peux pas et je ne vais pas cautionner ça!”, a déclaré Caroline St-Hilaire, en indiquant que toutes les dispositions nécessaires seront prises pour que l’entente signée et valide jusqu’en décembre 2011 soit respectée.

This led to stories at Radio-CanadaCyberpresse and Rue Frontenac, which follow the narrative St-Hilaire has created. Metro goes a bit further, adding that about a quarter of people who use the Longueuil metro use the $70 CAM instead of the $111 TRAM 3. (UPDATE: The STM’s Odile Paradis says it’s more like 15% of users, or 3,000 to 4,000 people.) The TRAM 3 gives access to the Réseau de transport de Longueuil bus network and the Agence métropolitaine de transport’s commuter trains in Longueuil.

Why this change? Well, it makes sense, especially considering what’s going on in Laval. The AMT has established zones for transit that crosses into multiple territories, and Longueuil is clearly in Zone 3. The fact that it accepts CAMs just like the rest of the STM network is more historical than anything. That’s just the way it’s been.

Even St-Hilaire accepted, it seems, that this would eventually change after 2011. But she’s mad that Montreal and the STM appear to have gone back on their word and is doing this ahead of schedule.

(The Parti Québécois, meanwhile, jumps on an opportunity to pander to suburban voters and demands that government step in to not only reverse the decision but to reduce the fares for Laval users as well.)

This is happening, St-Hilaire says, because of Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt, who is refusing to pay for Laval’s share of the taxpayer cost of the metro because he feels his city is being discriminated against. So he decided to take the transit system hostage until Montreal acquiesced to his demand that Longueuil be treated the same as the Laval stations.

Ironically, while this decision would theoretically mean that Laval will start paying its share, the release also says that Longueuil will refuse to pay its share for the metro until further notice.

Vaillancourt, meanwhile, says his city will now start paying its share of the STM’s metro deficit, but it won’t pay retroactively for the years that Laval paid more and Longueuil paid less.

This is absolutely ridiculous. These mayors are all acting like children, and apparently no adult is either able or willing to step in. Instead of suing Laval so the city lives up to its contract, or having the provincial government step in and order them to respect their agreement, everyone is acting as if Vaillancourt has a legitimate bargaining chip in his hand and is bending over.

Can I start refusing to hand over tax money until I get free pizza delivered to my apartment?

Still a good idea

If St-Hilaire is right and there is an agreement until 2011, then the decision should be overturned and postponed until then. But requiring a TRAM 3 pass at Longueuil just makes sense.

The people who will be affected by the change are people who don’t use the RTL bus network, either because they live near the metro station (a tiny minority) or because they drive to it in their cars. We’re talking about 3-4,000 people, including those who park in the 2,370 parking spaces outside the Longueuil metro. And to park there, they have to pay about $100 a month in parking fees. In other words, if they’re taking the bus from home and using a TRAM 3, they will pay significantly less ($111) than they did parking at the Longueuil metro and using a CAM to get into the station ($170). Less convenient, but cheaper.

Perhaps there’s a group of people I haven’t considered who would be driven into bankruptcy by this decision, but I can’t imagine they will be a large number.

Of course, St-Hilaire loses nothing by taking the stand she takes. Longueuil people like to use their cars, and they like not having to pay for things if they can get away with it. Just like everyone else.

It’s time for Longueuil to realize that it is a suburb, and transit is more expensive there because of that. And it’s time for politicians in all three cities to realize that holding your breath and screaming “NO NO NO!” is not a valid negotiation tactic.

At least, I desperately hope it’s not.

UPDATE (Feb. 5): Nathalie Collard of La Presse agrees that this is silly, as does Projet Montréal, which suggests reducing the number of trains going to Laval and Longueuil.

La Presse also has a vox pop on the subject, and you can imagine what the opinion of the populace is.

UPDATE (Feb. 10): A Facebook group has started up.

Bill Tierney replaces Huntley Addie as West Island Gazette columnist

Out: Huntley Addie

Those expecting to see the weekly column of Huntley Addie in the West Island Gazette last Thursday (you know, all four of you) might have been surprised to see someone else in that place: former Ste. Anne de Bellevue mayor Bill Tierney.

Tierney, who had been mayor of the city since 1994 (excluding the time it was a merged part of Montreal), lost the November election, apparently because citizens didn’t like his idea of having parking meters.

With all this free time on his hands now (tell me about it), he’s been invited to write a weekly column about West Island issues in the section of the Gazette distributed to subscribers in West Island and western off-island areas.

In: Bill Tierney

When asked what happened, Addie, a teacher at John Rennie High School in Pointe Claire, told me it sort of goes back to the Canwest creditor protection filing, which screwed him as much as it did every other freelancer. It made him realize that he’s doing far too much work for far too little pay (West Island Gazette columnists are paid $50 per 700-word piece, or about seven cents a word). So he kind of resigned, reluctantly. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that he gave up.

You can read Tierney’s first column here. His second column, published today, is about apathy in local politics.

West Island newspaper editors give up on former jobs

A month after their positions were eliminated, and after surprising their bosses by saying they would not accept demotions, the editors of the West Island Chronicle and Cités Nouvelles have both confirmed that they’re not going back to their jobs. Negotiations between their union and Transcontinental Media general manager Serge Lemieux did not result in a decision favourable to them, and they’re leaving their newspapers.

For reasons that are still unclear, Lemieux apparently agreed to consider reinstating the editor position at Cités Nouvelles, but not the Chronicle. Both newspapers previously had one editor and one reporter. Even then, Marie-Claude Simard said she wouldn’t be interested in returning to her job at Cités Nouvelles.

So all that’s left for her and Albert Kramberger is to discuss their severance packages.

Of the four journalists at the two newspapers, only Olivier Laniel of Cités Nouvelles is still there. His reporting has been the only news in either paper since the beginning of January (his Cités Nouvelles articles are translated for the Chronicle). Raffy Boudjikanian, his former counterpart at the Chronicle, has already moved on and has been getting some work at the CBC.

One journalist covering the entire West Island for two newspapers.

It’s possible Transcontinental might choose to hire someone new, at least for the Chronicle. Maybe they’ll pick some eager kid straight out of university. And that kid will jump into a job with a lot of responsibility and little pay, and wonder: How did I get so lucky to land this job?

It’s amazing how much history can be erased with a simple turnover.