Tag Archives: media ownership

Transcontinental to talk about their black friends more

Transcontinental’s Serge Lemieux: Cultural communities Yay!!!!!111

Transcontinental, which owns 61 community weeklies in Quebec (22 of them on the island of Montreal), has decided to reverse its position banning brown people from its papers.

At least, that’s the best I could figure out from this editorial, which is running in all of Transcontinental’s newspapers this week. In it, the general manager of Transcontinental Newspaper Group, Serge Lemieux, has finally clued in to the idea that covering community issues involves covering cultural communities as well. Apparently it took the Bouchard-Taylor Commission into reasonable accommodation for him to figure this out.

The article doesn’t mention exactly what they’re going to do, only that they’ll be “celebrating cultural diversity.” In fact, it goes into more detail about what they’re not going to do, specifically that they won’t be publishing articles in “all the world’s languages” because they find it “undesirable” to do so. Instead, they’ll publish articles “exclusively in French or English (as the case may be)” (French versions of this editorial don’t mention articles in English).

We’ll see what they have in mind.

Speaking of nonsensical Serge Lemieux columns, this one, which in the same breath blames the media for oversensationalizing the issue of reasonable accommodation and says the commission looking into the issue has been a good idea, is also appearing in Transcontinental papers this week.

Ironically, both these articles serve to remind us, in case we didn’t know already, how little local journalism actually comes out of Transcontinental weeklies. A large amount of content is syndicated across many papers, their websites are identical and even most of their logos have the same design elements. All that’s left are some fluff stories about aging grandmothers, rewritten press releases about local events, and a couple of local issue stories written by overworked, underpaid journalists.

But I guess “celebrating cultural communities” will fix that.

Québec à la une: An advertorial in three parts

I was tuning into TVA this evening to catch the series finale of Vlog, when I stumbled on a documentary about the Journal de Montréal called Québec à la une.

The documentary is an interesting look at the history of the newspaper known for its attention-whoring headlines, spending its first episode concentrating on the October Crisis that brought it into the mainstream and launched its Sunday edition.

But I can’t get over the fact that this is airing on TVA, which is owned by the same company that owns the Journal. In fact, Quebecor is run by Pierre-Karl Péladeau, and his father Pierre Péladeau is the guy getting a posthumous public blowjob in this rather one-sided documentary. (No mention of the Philadelphia Journal here.)

The appearance of the younger Péladeau on screen after the end of the documentary talking about how great Quebecor and the Journal de Montréal are sealed the deal. I’m still not sure if that was a paid advertisement or part of the documentary. Of course it doesn’t matter, because Péladeau would have just been paying himself.

It’s unfortunate, because a look at the big Montreal newspaper upheavals of the 1960s and 70s makes for interesting storytelling.

Québec à la une airs Tuesday, Dec. 4 and 11 at 9pm on TVA. The show is also available for free for Videotron Illico digital TV subscribers on its video-on-demand service (Channel 900, under “TV on demand” -> “TVA on demand”).

People hunger for local journalism

This week in Quebec City, unions for various media outlets met to denounce the “Montrealization” of French-language media in Quebec. Much like the Torontoization of English media in Canada, it’s all about big media companies reducing “redundancy” and centralizing similar services in one location.

The problem, of course, is that eventually the disconnect between this remotely-produced journalism and the local environment becomes apparent. We start seeing “regional” newscasts instead of local ones, to save money. A story about a province-wide issue is covered by a single journalist out of a big city and then copied to regional news outlets with no local spin added.

Newspapers are being split into two categories:

  1. Major dailies, which rely mostly on wire service stories, syndicated features like comics and crosswords, and a few columnists and police report rewriters.
  2. Community papers, which produce mostly fluff from its grossly underpaid journalists

The problems of local journalism are having a backlash effect though: Former Minneapolis Star-Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer-Press employees are producing a local news website called MinnPost, which is filling the gap created when the big papers failed in their commitment to local news (via).

The site has just launched, so it’s hard to say if it’s financial model is going to work (it probably won’t), but it’s still good to see things like this. One thing I’ve learned writing this blog and covering local issues is that people are very interested in what’s going on around them.

The problem is that local journalism will never make you rich. And big media is obsessed with making itself rich. But fortunately some journalists have a higher calling.

CanWest continues to spread

Despite cuts at their newspapers, CanWest has plenty of money to buy up media properties. Today it added six new community publications in the Windsor area, bringing its total up to 30.

CanWest, the largest newspaper publisher in Canada, called the acquisition “yet another example of CanWest’s commitment to developing strong community voices across this country.”

Also today, CRTC hearings into CanWest’s bid to take over Alliance Atlantis are being held.

Respect? Pleasure? On Montreal radio?

In an effort to fool reassure the public that their purchase of Standard Radio to create an even huger media megalopoly isn’t a bad thing, Astral Media ran full-page newspaper ads this weekend:

Astral ad

The ad, which implies that Mix 96, CHOM FM and CJAD won’t … uhh … change the logos they put on their baseball caps, I guess… includes this bit of hilarity:

… Please be assured of our commitment to continue providing the same great listening pleasure you have come to enjoy. Respect for our broadcast audience and the public in general is a core value of Astral Media…

I can only guess from this that Astral Media haven’t actually listened to CHOM or Mix 96 for more than a few minutes.

(The fact that CHOM and Mix 96, two radio stations that should be competing directly, are controlled by the same owner, is an entirely different issue.)

CTV is drunk with cable power

Just when you thought concentration of media ownership wasn’t such a bad thing, CTVglobemediaempire is asking the CRTC for the power to threaten to pull its cable channels off the air as a negotiating tactic with cable and satellite providers. This includes channels like Bravo!, the Comedy Network, CTV NewsNet, Discovery, MuchMusic (and the entire Much family), Space and TSN/RDS.

Aside from the outrageousness of punishing viewers as a negotiating tactic (as well as the legal ramifications of not giving us something we’ve paid for), most of these channels are licensed in a way that prohibits direct competition from other specialty channels.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If CTV wants to treat these channels like they’re private property to do with as it pleases, then the CRTC should allow free competition from other services.

Cross-promotion isn’t more important than journalism

Le Devoir (somewhat snobbishly) reminds us why they’re independent in criticizing the idea of “selling news” being more important than fair, objective reporting.

Frankly, I think major media outlets far underestimate the intelligence of their news consumers when they cross-promote between shows on a network or between different media that they own. When Global TV does a story on The Gazette that CBC and CTV don’t touch, we know why. When TVA talks about a story in the Journal de Montréal that morning, we know why. When Radio-Canada reports on what was on Tout le monde en parle the night before, we know why.

These transparently corporate maneuvres overriding solid news judgment only serve to erode confidence in journalists’ objectivity. I think that’s worth a but more than some free advertising.

UPDATE (Oct. 23): TVA gets a slap on the wrist for doing a news story on Le Banquier. I’m actually quite surprised by this, considering how widespread such reporting is. But good for the Quebec press council for pointing it out.

Quebecor’s newsrooms 99.9% separate

Quebecor Media is getting a slap on the wrist from a committee setup to oversee the separation of its newsrooms. They found three instances where the Journal de Québec took photos from TVA, which violates the promise Quebecor made to the CRTC to keep their newsrooms completely separate.

I think the cat’s out of the bag when it comes to merging newsrooms. Quebecor has already combined its online properties into the monster Canoe. They’ll just keep finding ways to consolidate their assets without pissing off the CRTC too much.

Another thing that’s interesting about this situation is that two of the three instances happened while the Journal de Québec was in a labour disruption (which is still going on, by the way). The union might have something to say about that.

Newspapers are a sinking ship – and have only themselves to blame

Peter Hadekel has an article last week (I’m catching up on my paper-reading) about how Osprey Media’s purchase by Quebecor is good news for newspapers.

I have to disagree. Not because I think it’s a bad sign, but rather because of news like this: Large increases in online ad revenue far from offsets gigantic drops in print advertising.

Now I’m not going to pretend like newspapers are going to cease to exist. They still serve a useful function. We still have print advertising in this world, and there’s really no more convenient way to get news while commuting to work than bringing the paper with you.

But that doesn’t mean these papers are going to remain the news powerhouses they are now, to say nothing of returning to the days when they were actually important in our lives.

The reason is partly to do with new technology, 24-hour TV news, and the Internet. But just as important are the huge cutbacks to news gathering that make readers wonder what it is exactly they’re paying for.

Among the bone-headed ideas that for some reason newspaper publishers think aren’t alienating their readers:

  • Increased use of wire copy in an age where just about any wire service story can be accessed for free online. National, international, entertainment and business coverage is becoming saturated with AP, Reuters, Bloomberg and AFP copy, and the pool of local reporters is shrinking. Papers lose their individual voice, and there’s nothing interesting in these pages you can’t just as easily learn from watching the hourly news update on CNN.
  • Giving lip-service to online properties.
    • Stories that aren’t subscriber-locked are hidden behind a massively-complicated navigation system, and surrounded by ads to the point where you can barely find them. As a result, bloggers and others who share stories with their friends link directly to “printer-friendly” versions, thereby robbing companies of online ad revenue.
    • Online classified sites all suck hard compared to Craigslist (some even arrogantly ask for money to have your ad included in their database).
    • Nobody seems to know how to do online multimedia properly. They send their reporters untrained with a video camera to shoot pointless, uninteresting video which they throw up unedited just so they can pat themselves on the back and say they’re clued in to the online world. The web infrastructure used with these photo galleries, audio slideshows and video clips provide no means to link to them directly and therefore no way for people to point them out to friends.
    • Stories posted online contain no clickable links whatsoever, and related stories aren’t linked to each other. Formatting issues like accents and soft returns are left unfixed, and anything with even the slightest bit of unusual formatting in the print edition looks like an unreadable mess online.
  • Infotainment, like reporting the previous night’s American Idol results (as if anyone who cared enough about the show would not have either watched it or gotten the news elsewhere), is on the rise at the expense of real journalism.
  • Elimination of foreign bureaus means many international issues are covered with fewer and fewer voices, with no analysis of what these events mean for you.
  • Shrinking newspaper space means more stories are covered in 50-word briefs, and the one thing newspapers provide that TV and radio don’t — detail — is lost.
  • Copy editing positions are being eliminated, resulting in glaring mistakes in newspaper copy and a lessening of newspapers’ reputations.
  • Opinion pieces are written up by old conservative economists and political has-beens instead of fresh-faced thinkers with bold new ideas.
  • An increased reliance on freelance writers means more interesting stories, but only of the sort that can be put together in a day. Stories that take longer to create, including those of beat writers, are left on the back burner to rot.
  • Papers spend millions on marketing campaigns and TV ads instead of improving quality.
  • Media convergence has meant a decrease in critical reporting of related media. Reporters and editors are either afraid to criticize their corporate bosses or are told outright not to say things that would make the company look bad. Newspapers write articles about TV shows for networks owned by their parent company. Readers see right through these things, and lose trust in their journalists.