Tag Archives: Hamilton-Spectator

Montreal wins Montreal-bagel war

The Journal de Montréal’s Benoît Aubin took a shot at my dear Gazette last week for its big feature taste test between Hamilton and Montreal bagels. (Via Steve Proulx)

The Gazette, you’ll recall, had taken the Journal to task for its “exposé” on businesses that dare to hire anglophones, calling it bad journalism. (I still think the fast food thing was worse.)

Needless to say, the dual-blind taste tests (which involved flying bagels from one city to the other to maintain freshness) ended in Montreal’s favour, and the city is now 3-0 in Gazette bagel taste tests. Hamilton is licking its wounds, or at least it will be once its Chamber of Commerce CEO realizes that coming in second in a two-man race isn’t “like getting the silver medal in the Olympics.”

Of course, I might point out that this had nothing to do with taste and everything to do with naming. But trademark lawyer battles aren’t as interesting as blind taste tests I guess.

So now you can sleep tight, confident in the fact that the best place to get a Montreal-style bagel is Montreal.

Now what about this “Montreal-style” steak spice mix?

Oh, and if you’re captivated by pointless newspaper gimmicks like I am, be sure to check out the most boring video ever made, featuring the Hamilton Spectator’s taste test and some bad pronunciations of “assuage” and “St. Viateur”.

The boring bagel brouhaha

Everyone’s gotten into a tiff over Hamilton (a small Ontario town, I think Sheila Copps came from there) selling what they call a “Montreal-style bagel.” Problem is it’s not a Montreal-style bagel. It’s got an icing sugar coating, which Montreal bagels don’t have.

Seeing an opportunity to make themselves relevant to the world, the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce has proposed a blind taste test so that we can tell which is the better bagel. The Gazette has accepted the challenge, confident that Montreal bagels will prevail.

There’s three problems with this:

  1. We’ve been through this before. A year ago, The Gazette and the Toronto National Post had a blind taste test of bagels by their staffers. Montreal won, and the Post ate crow. Why do we need to repeat this experiment with a lesser city?
  2. The entire point of the controversy was not, as in the Toronto case, that the other city claimed their bagels were better than ours. The problem is that they’re labelling something a “Montreal-style bagel” when it’s not. Call it a “Hamilton-style bagel” and the controversy is over. Everyone will accept its inferiority.
  3. How do you do a blind taste test for this? One is coated with sugar, the other is not. Even the most undeveloped tastebuds will quickly tell the difference and be able to detect which group the bagel belongs to. And if the Hamilton bagels are stripped of their sugar coating, then we forget the fact that the sugar icing is the point of the controversy in the first place.
  4. Bagels are meant to be served fresh. There’s simply no logical way to do blind taste tests of fresh bagels from two different cities simultaneously. The best they could do is set themselves up in Toronto or Kingston and have bagels rushed down on trains or planes. They’d still be a few hours old at that point. Of course, they’re not going to go that far for a friendly experiment like this, so either one set of bagels is going to be fresher than the other, or everyone is going to be eating stale bagels.

Why are we wasting the time of so many journalists repeating something we’ve already done, that has no journalistic value and above all doesn’t make any sense?

UPDATE: On Sunday, the paper prints this article, which is a cut-and-paste (typos and all) of this discussion forum, complete with thoughtless opinion from whoever had a minute of free time that day and wanted to rant.

Too much A-section planning never works

The Hamilton Spectator is “going local”. I’m not quite sure what that means exactly, but good for them.

One of the plans as part of its “going local” strategy is remaking its A2 and A3 pages. In most newspapers, these are the continuations of major stories off the front page. But the Spectator is going to make them into local news pages, probably with some sort of fixed layout.

Lots of newspapers make plans like these. A2 will always look like this, A3 will always look like this, the front page will always have this kind of layout.

The problem is that as soon as a huge story happens (say, an election or a local school shooting), about half the A section gets turned into coverage of that story, and these rules start flying out the window. Eventually, the first few pages start reverting to their previous habits: turns of unrelated front-page stories jammed in together with second-rate top news stories that didn’t make the cover.

Why bother fighting it? The A section is about news. Almost by definition it’s the section that you can plan the least in advance because you won’t know what kind of news you have until you have it. Give it the fluidity it needs, because otherwise it’s going to find a way to sneak in.