Tag Archives: National-Post

I, for one, welcome our new consortium overlords

Over the past few months, rumours had been circulating around the newsroom that some local rich guys were interested in buying a part of the Canwest newspaper chain, including The Gazette.

Today, those rumours prove true. A consortium led by Jerry Grafstein, Raymond Heard and Beryl Wajsman announced it will be submitting a bid to buy The Gazette, the Ottawa Citizen and the National Post, pending due dilligence.

The coverage – Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, CBC, Reuters, Editor & Publisher, Financial Post – all say the same thing, quoting liberally from the news release and saying the three consortium leaders believe in local control of local newspapers.

No price has been mentioned, nor are the other financial backers named.

All three have media cred: Grafstein, a recently retired senator, founded Citytv in Toronto. Heard was managing editor of the Montreal Star and then worked as news director at Global TV in the 80s. Wajsman is the editor of The Suburban and publisher of The Métropolitain. The Globe’s Jane Taber has analysis of their political leanings, in case anyone really cares.

Unions (and unionized employees) look favourably at the central idea of this bid (Lise Lareau of the Canadian Media Guild calls it good news) because it seems to reject a lot of Canwest’s anti-union moves, like centralization and outsourcing, and it’s making all the right noises about local control of local newspapers.

There’s also the unsaid implication that these three care more about respect than profit. (Like sports teams, media outlets tend to be more about ego than the bottom line.)

Looking at Wajsman’s newspapers, there’s at least some reason for optimism. The Suburban is big for a community paper, and while it’s not pure as the white snow, it’s not filled with press releases and it does actually employ journalists. The Métropolitain, meanwhile, is more of a think-tank than anything else, and is clearly not motivated by profit.

But looking at those newspapers also leaves some worried. Wajsman’s editorials are a bit much for even some staunch federalists, and the papers have some clear editorial biases when it comes to things like the Israeli-Palestinian issue (something the Suburban doesn’t have to deal with much but which The Gazette would have to deal with on a daily basis).

Many will also focus on Wajsman’s political past. One person reminded me of his alleged connection to the adscam scandal, others have already created a Facebook group to protest his bid because of his pro-Israel, pro-business, anti-union stances.

Though I disagree with most of what he writes in Suburban editorials (and most of the opinions written in The Métropolitain), I’m tempted to ask how a right-wing, pro-Israel owner will somehow be different than Canwest. And if “progressive anglos” don’t want their paper to fall in his hands, they’re more than welcome to submit a bid of their own.

There are other obstacles to Grafstein and Co.’s plan, even if they have the money. The biggest is that Canwest (and the banks arranging for the chain’s sale) want Canwest Publications sold as a unit. That centralized services include websites, customer service, advertising, page layout and Canwest News Service. Undoing that might be difficult and expensive (but it might also mean hiring more journalists, programmers and copy editors, which would clearly work in my favour).

And there might be other bids. The Globe is convinced Paul Godfrey is putting one together with his own financial backers. Other names being bandied about include Torstar, Quebecor, Transcontinenal, FP Newspapers and that guy Joe at the end of the bar.

The CBC-Post monster is getting bigger

Hey, remember when the CBC and National Post signed that content-sharing agreement and everyone was like “dude, WTF?”

Well, it looks like they’re extending it to include coverage of the Vancouver Olympics (press release, press release on NP site), producing a “co-branded” website for coverage.

The CBC used to be king for Olympics coverage, but then it lost the rights to CTV, so it will for the first time since 1994 be covering an Olympics it doesn’t have rights to. And considering how television rights crippled CTV so much it had to show still images instead of video, expect CBC to face similar obstacles in February.

Similarly, the Post’s competitor the Globe and Mail is the official national newspaper of the Games. That won’t mean exclusive rights and it’s not clear if there are any editorial implications of this designation, but it puts the Post one step behind, at least psychologically.

But … the CBC and National Post hate each other.

Or, at least, that’s what they want us to think.

Anyone else think this is like the second season of a bad sitcom where the two main characters’ anger toward each other boils over and they explode in a torrent of rage that’s suddenly interrupted when they spontaneously get aroused and start passionately sucking face, leading to a long night of hot sex?

Are the CBC and National Post … getting it on? Is this Olympics website their illegitimate love child?

If so, when’s the hangover and walk of shame?

We’re Number 2.7!

Lookin' good

Lookin' good

The Audit Bureau of Circulations (the people who measure how many people subscribe to newspapers, as opposed to NADbank which measures how many people read them) has released numbers for this summer.

Media In Canada looks at the national numbers, and InfoPresse looks at Quebec. Both cite The Gazette as bucking the trend, with a 2.7% increase (it went up more than that in the spring numbers).

The National Post went down considerably (20% due mostly, I’m guessing, to their decision to not publish Mondays this summer), the Globe went down too (8%), as did Le Soleil (5%) and, just barely, La Presse and Le Devoir (less than 1%).

Sun Media, which owns the Journal de Montréal and Journal de Québec, is part of rival CCAB, and so numbers aren’t available for those newspapers.

Still, a conclusion is hard not to reach here. The Gazette is the only paper with a significant circulation increase, and it is also the only paper that currently employs me.

I expect my huge bonus cheque will be waiting for me in my office mailbox this week.

The CBC National Post

No, it wasn’t a bad dream. The CBC and the National Post have indeed signed a content-sharing agreement.

The sworn ideological enemies have decided to help each other out in areas of weakness, with the Financial Post providing the CBC with business news, and the CBC providing the Post with sports news.

Though the deal is being mocked in the usual places (reaction from others has been essentially “WTF?“), it’s not so unusual for two media companies to share content. It’s the entire point behind wire service, after all. And the Post has been looking at new content sources, signing a deal with breakingviews.com recently as well.

But the fact that the CBC – a Crown corporation – is involved makes this unusual. And the fact that this might reduce the number of unique voices in both sports and business reporting is kind of sad.

Otherwise, it’s just a content-sharing deal between two news outlets. What makes it noteworthy is their previous animosity (and the fact that they’ll have to include a disclosure when reporting about each other now).

National Post amused by our wacky cop cars

My post about Montreal’s stealth police cars prompted an article in the National Post in Wednesday’s paper (an article written by a former colleague of mine at the hippie university paper).

I mention this in its separate post not just because of the fact that the article quotes me and the Post used one of my photos on Page 3, but … uhh … [insert better reason here later].

They used this photo (though heavily cropped on the sides – I’d be outraged, but I’ve done it enough times as an editor):

Invisible cop car giving a ticket

Of course, I took this photo not thinking that a national newspaper would want to use it. I spent little effort composing the shot, took it at a low resolution (the lowest my camera goes is 1728 x 1152, fortunately that was enough to make it printable) and didn’t bother getting names or other information.

On the flip side, it’s something that happened randomly as I was out shopping. If it wasn’t for the fact that I almost always have my camera with me, I’d have never gotten the shot. Instead, I stopped, pulled the camera out of my backpack, and took a few shots before continuing on my way.

Let that be a lesson to you freelance photographers and bloggers out there: always have your camera ready, and don’t assume you know how a photo might be used later.

Don’t buy the Post today (you can’t)

The online-only National Post for Monday, June 29, 2009

The online-only National Post for Monday, June 29, 2009

Today is the first day of the National Post’s no-print Mondays announced in April and reiterated last week. For nine weeks, until the end of the summer, the paper won’t be printed on Mondays and its content will only appear in virtual form.

But the paper is still being edited and laid out as if printed on broadsheet paper. It has four sections (eight-page A section, four-page business, four-page arts/life and eight-page sports) and other than its size (and the fact that there’s colour on every page), it looks no different than any other edition of the print National Post.

Needless to say, this version of the paper is also very light on advertising, though there are some full-page ads that look as if they’re separate from the sections.

National Post to stop printing Mondays this summer

Reuters reports that the National Post has decided to stop printing on Mondays for nine weeks this summer. The move is an effort to save money for the paper which has been bleeding money out of debt-ridden Canwest (my employer) since it launched a decade ago.

Canwest says the move will involve no layoffs. A digital edition, which looks identical to the print edition, will still be produced, CP says, meaning the stories will still be written and laid out, but simply won’t be printed.

The Post already doesn’t publish on Sundays, meaning important news that breaks on a Saturday morning will have to wait up to 72 hours before it’s in the hands of readers.

Canwest has until May 5 to deal with its lenders (or get yet another extension).

UPDATE (May 2): The Post explains itself in a note to readers.

Gazette wins, Post loses in ABC circulation numbers

The Audit Bureau of Circulations released numbers this morning for Canadian newspapers in the six months ending March 31.

The biggest loser was the National Post, plunging a horrifying 20% in that time. This was due mainly to the decision to pull the Post out of smaller markets (like, everywhere between Calgary and Toronto).

The big winner was The Gazette, whose paid circulation increased 13%. In fact, Quebec papers in general seemed to do well:

  • Le Devoir up 2.82%
  • La Presse up 1.19%
  • Le Soleil up 0.52%

Neither Journal’s numbers were in the story (probably because they went down aren’t part of ABC), but in any case would be hard to judge by due to labour conflicts at the papers this year and last.

Last month, NADbank numbers showed readership over the past year was stable.

Post wins pointless design award race

The Society for News Design has announced the winners of its annual awards.

For the uninitiated, the Society for News Design is the big newspaper design group and winning one of their awards is a badge of the highest honour for newspaper designers.

Or, at least it would be if they were more selective. The SND gives out almost a thousand awards each year, and considering there are 10,725 entries from 346 newspapers, that means that each entry has a one in ten shot of winning an award, and each newspaper should get three awards on average just for showing up.

Perhaps for that reason, the number of newspapers participating in this exercise has dropped. Notably missing from the list below is the Globe and Mail, for example.

Still, it’s seen as a penis-measuring contest, so let’s whip out those rulers. The 108 awards given to Canadian publications break down as follows:

You can seee a full list of winners by searching the database (there’s too many of them to list all on one page, after all). You’ll probably also see special pages devoted to SND wins in the above publications. Updated with links to self-laudatory stories in the four multiple-award-winning papers.

National Post apologizes for reporter’s Twitter tantrum

Some people see Twitter as a form of instant messaging. But those people can quickly forget that what you say on Twitter is just as public (if not moreso) than what you post on Facebook.

National Post technology reporter David George-Cosh learned that the hard way today when an expletive-filled argument he had with a source on Twitter was publicized (and republicized and republicized), making him (and the paper) look pretty bad.

The result, mere hours later, was an apology posted to the Post’s Editors blog (which doesn’t name the reporter it’s apologizing for, nor the person it’s apologizing to, nor the nature of the conduct, but who needs specifics for these things?). (Via Regret the Error)

Reporters are human, and like everyone else they’ll have off days and they’ll get into arguments. But when they happen online, those arguments can easily become public, and this is probably not the last time we’ll see apologies for personal conduct of people associated with media.

In this case, the reporter’s actions were in a professional capacity (which makes it the paper’s problem), but I wonder when the time will come where reporters, columnists and other public figures associated with a publication’s brand will have clauses in their contracts about what they can post to their Facebook profiles, personal blogs or other public and semi-public forums online.

UPDATE: April Dunford, the victim of the tirade, has similar thoughts on her blog.

UPDATE (Feb. 12): More reaction from Roberto Rocha and a let’s-attack-the-victim post from ZDNet’s Jennifer Leggio (which gets its basic premise wrong). Additional commentary from Mathew Ingram and the Telegraph’s Shane Richmond.

UPDATE (May 25): Three months later, George-Cosh writes about the “incident” on his blog, saying he’s learned some hard lessons, though he still makes excuses for his behaviour.

Journalism died today

OK, maybe I’m being a bit over-dramatic. But if you’re considering leaking a document anonymously to the media, confident that you’ve been promised your name will be kept secret by the journalist, think again.

Today, the National Post lost an appeal which pitted confidentiality of sources against the interests of law enforcement. And the court has ordered the Post to reveal the identity of an anonymous source.

The case stems from the Shawinigate controversy (I’m not a fan of “-gate” terms, but this one just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?), in which then-prime minister Jean Chrétien had apparently helped to secure a generous loan for a hotel in his home riding, next to a golf course he technically still had a financial interest in.

Specifically, the case concerns a document received by Post reporter Andrew McIntosh, which appeared to be a loan application from the hotel. McIntosh gave his source a guarantee of anonymity in exchange for the document. But when he attempted to verify it with the bank, the bank declared it to be a forgery and began an investigation.

That investigation led to a court order for the Post to produce the document and the envelope it came in. The Crown wanted to determine the identity of the alleged forger and potentially file charges.

But (according to McIntosh) the source of the document claims he received it anonymously through the mail (hence McIntosh’s need to authenticate it), so if this is true the source would not have been the forger.

The ruling by the Ontario court of appeal argues that the interest of law enforcement to investigate a forgery intended to bring down a sitting prime minister outweighs the Post’s need to protect its sources.

In it, the court agrees with the Crown that the documents themselves are important evidence, and that the leak itself is the crime they’re investigating. Insert reference to the Valerie Plame scandal here, which also wasn’t very friendly to the media’s anonymous sources.

A key phrase comes in para. 75:

(Section 2(b) of the Charter, which guarantees freedom of the press) does not guarantee that journalists have an automatic right to protect the confidentiality of their sources.

Similarly, in para. 79:

The journalist-confidential source relationship is not protected by a class privilege. However […] the confidentiality of the relationship between a journalist and the journalist’s source may be protected on a case-by-case basis.

In para. 94:

Journalists can never guarantee confidentiality. There will be some cases – and this is one of them – where the privilege cannot be recognized. Refusing to recognize the privilege in appropriate cases will not, in our view, cause media sources to “dry-up”.

Nice to see the court is so confident. But to me, this ruling seems to say that a journalist can be forced to give me up if there’s a reasonable belief (whether it’s true or not) that knowing my identity may be important to the police investigating a crime.

Considering how many confidential leaks involve some issues of legality, I could certainly see more people clamming up about important issues of public interest in the belief that they could be prosecuted, fired or otherwise be punished for bringing it to light.

Confidential sources are confidential, except when the government decides it wants to know.

The judgment also includes a dig at new media* includes an argument from the Crown which suggests that new media journalists aren’t journalists, in para. 98:

[The Crown submits that …] Today, many persons, especially by using the internet, may be called “journalists” or “the press” because they disseminate information to the public, yet may not merit the journalist-confidential source privilege.

We reject the Crown’s first contention.  The case-by-case approach to privilege does not require us to establish the boundaries of legitimate journalism.

So feel free to ignore what I’m saying here. Because according to the Ontario court of appeal, I’m probably not a journalist.*

*I totally misread the judgment originally and read a summary of the Crown’s argument as the judgment of the court. My apologies.


National Post reruns sports scores

Via Regret the Error, the National Post has one of the most unhelpful corrections in the history of newspapers:

Due to a production error, incorrect information appeared on the sports results page in some editions of yesterday’s paper.

The Post regrets the error.

So what was the “incorrect information”? The page, which appeared on Nov. 8, was in fact the scores page from Oct. 23, a full two weeks earlier. It had all the scores from Oct. 22 games, as well as things like the over/under for the Red Sox/Rockies matchup in Game 1 of the World Series.

It wasn’t all bad. It was nice seeing “Canadiens 6 Bruins 1” again.

But you’d think the Post could just admit someone screwed up and put an old page in, instead of obfuscating the mistake with correctionese.

National Post redesign: That’s it?

Well, today is the big day. The New Toronto National Post hit doorsteps across the GTA nation today, with an Amazing New Redesign That Changes Everything. They’ve been advertising it in their paper and others for days now, so I was really excited to see what Canada’s Most Pretentious Newspaper did with itself:

The New National Post

It put its flag down the side. That’s about it.

Calling it a “bold, new design“, the new Post keeps the same headline fonts, same body text font, same flag design (though rotated 90 degrees) and the same elements.

Of course, why should they fix something that isn’t broken? The National Post “earned 38 international design awards from the Society of Newspaper Design (sic), approximately twice the number of any other English-language Canadian newspaper.” — Translation: We beat the Globe and Star, but lost to La Presse.

The only other noticeable design changes are a slight increase in font size, a very noticeable (I might even say excessive) increase in leading (Torontoist has comparison pictures), and a few other so-hard-to-see-that-I-can’t-see-them changes.

The “redesign” also comes with editorial changes, most of which are vaguely described:

  • A new section on Mondays dealing with small businesses. (Kind of shocking that they don’t have this already.)
  • More “Investing” and “Marketing” coverage in the Financial Post.
  • Three new columnists: American atheist and Wall Street Journal columnist Christopher Hitchens, Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, and This American Life’s ex-Montrealer Jonathan Goldstein. (It’s unclear which of these will write original columns and which are syndicated, but you can take an educated guess.)
  • Page Two of each section will be devoted to printing stuff they blogged about the day before. You can see an example in the Arts & Life section with posts from Ampersand.

As part of its Big Launch, the Post even managed to get one of Canada’s TV news networks to do a two-minute package glorifying it. Go ahead, guess which one. If you answered “the one they own”, you’re right.

The Post is seeking comments on its blog. Perhaps I can use the comment feature to get them to stop making crappy videos of talking reporter heads awkwardly reading the articles they just wrote that morning.