Category Archives: Slow News Day

Paperweight story

Reporter: Hey, the Sun’s been shut down for a month now, but I still see those plastic paperweights holding down papers at the newsstands. I bet they must be collector’s items by now.

Editor: Sentimental. Talks about the media in a way only journalists care about. I love it!


Reporter: I talked to newsstand people, and they say nobody’s asking them for the paperweights as collector’s items. There’s only this guy who worked there who wants some mementos. I guess a seven-year-old fourth-rate newspaper isn’t as cool as we think it is.

Editor: Damn. You’ve wasted all this time on the story, write it up anyway.

Reporter: OK. Here it is.

Two Gazette legends exposed

In the video above, editorial cartoonist Terry Mosher (Aislin) goes behind the scenes as he draws five cartoons of the federal party leaders as sports-themed bobbleheads (you can see the cartoons on the Viewpoints page).

Meanwhile, CBC interviews Red Fisher, who has been covering the Canadiens since the dawn of time.

One day I hope to be able to meet them, and be referred to as something beyond “that kid over there.” But that’s years away.

Journalism, politics sink together to a new low

I was busy dealing with real news tonight, so I completely missed the broohaha over this incident with Stéphane Dion and ATV News.

For those who haven’t heard of it, you’re lucky to have limited exposure to the echo chamber of political gossip reporting. Here’s the deal: ATV (an Atlantic TV network owned by CTV and rebranded CTV Atlantic) had Stéphane Dion on for an on-camera but pre-taped interview. Host Steve Murphy asked Dion a question about what he’d do about the economy if he was prime minister today, and Dion started answering before realizing he didn’t quite understand the question. It was an awkward exchange with a few false starts.

Dion asked if they could re-start the interview, and Murphy agreed. Murphy also, according to CTV, “indicated” that the bad part of the interview would not be aired.

Except later, after the interview, people at the network huddled and decided to go back on their word and air the outtakes, deeming them to have some news value.

Thanks to Stephen Harper’s decision to devote a whole press conference to this “gaffe,” it’s been analyzed from all angles:

I don’t have much to add, so I’ll keep it brief:

  • CTV’s transgression was not a breach of journalistic ethics. There was no promise of confidentiality, no pre-agreement, and no information was gained through deception. Murphy did, however, go back on his word by airing the outtakes after he “indicated” he wouldn’t.
  • Dion’s campaign is right when they say the purpose of airing this was to embarrass Dion. It’s a secret every journalist keeps, even to the point of deceiving ourselves. Political campaigns so ruthlessly control the narrative, that latching on to something they don’t want you to talk about gives us a thrill. It’s not that CTV is biased against Dion. It’s simply biased against politicians and in favour of scandal.
  • CTV wasted minutes of airtime putting this interview out there. This time could have been spent on news, and the interview outtakes posted to a blog somewhere. Had that happened, we would not be discussing journalistic ethics here, but the clip would have gotten just as much traction online.
  • The clip has little news value. It shows that Dion is a logical thinker, perhaps to a fault, in trying to wrap himself around the exact hypothetical situation. But that’s not why CTV chose to air it. The fact that they did not specify what news value it contained is a good indication that there was none.
  • Some have mentioned that Dion has a hearing problem and that may be related. It’s not. The question was clear and the room was quiet. It was a logical comprehension question, mixed in with some grammar issues.

Conclusion: Steve Murphy and his cohorts at ATV are douches, and Stéphane Dion a human francophone who can be annoyingly professorial at times. And it’s just a matter of time before someone unearths an interview outtake of Stephen Harper that makes him look bad.

Now can we get back to the issues?

UPDATE (Oct. 24): J-Source looks back on this story with some interesting background on what happened at ATV and CTV News offices.

That one.

I’m sorry, apparently I forgot during last night’s debate to be offended that John McCain used the words “that one” and pointed to Barack Obama when pointing out something about Obama’s senate record. Apparently it’s a codephrase that everyone but me knows about and is inherently racist.

Remember all those white racists in Alabama chanting “that one” and pointing to MLK? He was clearly trying to appeal to the racist electorate.

Now we need to make this into the issue of the election, because it’s so much more important than those boring things like the economy, tax policy, the environment or foreign policy.

Journalists watch TV

To those of you who might think that our local papers are getting too lazy in their reporting, and look to the respected media like the Globe and Mail and New York Times for insightful analysis on important issues, I point you to the following:

The Globe and Mail has an article about how big Vanna White’s head is. Literally. Who knows how much CBC paid the Globe to write an article about Wheel of Fortune just before it starts airing on the network, but this is certainly an interesting angle to take on it. Will the next piece be an in-depth look at Alex Trebek’s moustache?

Meanwhile, the New York Times summarizes last night’s Colbert Report, regurgitating the jokes made by New York governor David Paterson, who was the headline guest.

Nobody reads fine print (except ours, right?)

The Gazette has a Canwest-penned article in today’s paper (complete with adorable photo of Montreal-guy-who-visits-websites) about how people don’t read the fine print when visiting websites and entering into contracts with web companies. It cites their obscene length as a key factor:

In the case of online ticket purchases, if you actually click to read Ticketmaster’s fine print before buying concert tickets, the terms run nearly 6,200 words. It takes far longer to read than the three minutes and 15 seconds Ticketmaster gives you to make a decision to buy tickets.

It also points out that the terms can be abusive to the point of absurdity:

They’re often lengthy and complicated. Sometimes they can be changed unilaterally by the company, and they usually include a limited corporate liability clause.

Readers are encouraged to comment on this article. In order to do that, you have to agree to this 785-word license release, which also requires you to read and agree to this 10,509-word general website terms of service. Both contain an absolute liability waiver, and the latter contains a clause that allows the company to unilaterally change the terms without notice. It also contains gems like these:

  1. Except as provided herein, you agree not to reproduce, make derivative works of, retransmit, distribute, sell, publish, communicate, broadcast or otherwise make available any of the Content obtained through a Site or any of the Services, including without limitation, by caching, framing, deep-linking or similar means, without the prior written consent of the respective copyright owner of such Content.
  2. You shall not have any right to terminate the permissions granted herein, nor to seek, obtain, or enforce any injunctive or other equitable relief against, all of which such rights are hereby expressly and irrevocably waived by you in favour of
  3. You acknowledge having obtained independent legal advice in connection with this license, release and waiver, failing which, you shall be deemed to have voluntarily waived the right to seek such independent legal advice.

Don’t let it be said my bosses don’t have a sense of humour.

(By submitting a comment to this blog post, you hereby agree that Fagstein is awesome.)

Flying babies are awesome

Patrick Lagacé points to this report about a kid in Georgia who bounced a baby across a room by jumping on an inflatable pillow. He’s now facing charges for child cruelty.

Of course, because there’s video of the incident, TV news was all over this story. Sure, the video is disturbing, but people will watch it. So they play it over and over. That’s an average of one baby launch every 7.5 seconds.

Did they think we’d forget after the first 15 times what it looked like?

STM, media need to learn Bullying 101

The local media is busy rewriting this STM press release (or republishing this Presse Canadienne piece with its incorrect web address) about how students will be forced to use the new Opus smart card as a transit pass this fall. The card, valid for two years, will have a picture and personally identifiable information on the back.

For some bizarre reason, the STM started this campaign without updating its web page on the card so that students could learn more about the new system.

One of the claims by the STM, as highlighted by The Gazette, is that the card will eliminate fraud and, hence, taxing by fellow students. The way this will be done, it suggests, is by revoking the card’s credentials once it’s reported stolen.

Let me repeat that: Once it’s reported stolen (This is assuming, of course, that the student in question knows the serial number of the stolen card or the STM can search a large database of personal information to find it).

Now, to those who have never been bullied in high school: What do you think is going to happen after someone has taxed you for your transit pass and you report it stolen?

Of course, the fact that ID and pass are on the same card, and that ID should be checked any time the card is used, should automatically make it impossible to use the card of anyone but an identical twin. But, as we all know, verification of student ID cards is hardly 100 per cent.

STM drivers do OT: The horror!

Matinternet has a piece about an Info690 report that plagiarizes (without attribution) an OMGclusive article in the Journal de Montréal this morning that says bus drivers in Montreal are doing a lot of overtime, a few of them even doubling their salary with all the extra work they do.

I guess this is news for some people. If you’ve ever seen an STM driver’s schedule (four hours on, two hours off, three hours on, etc.), you’d start to understand a bit better.

The articles, of course, offer no solutions to this problem. The STM is doing the best they can to hire more drivers, but that takes time, and the number of retirements is creeping upward at the same time as the transit agency wants to add more service.