Tag Archives: Patrick Lagacé

Pourquoi est-il fasciné?

In 1995, a young francophone studying communications at the University of Ottawa set his sights pretty high: like just about every other francophone journalist wannabe in Canada, he applied for an internship at La Presse.

They turned him down.

In 1996, he tried again. Again, they said no.

He was pissed. How dare these bastards say no? Once he could understand, but twice? Either that newspaper is run by clueless managers, unable to see greatness before their very eyes, or this kid wasn’t nearly as good as he thought he was. Clearly, to him, the former had to be true.

So instead, he began small. A researcher for Radio-Canada in Ottawa. A journalist for a community weekly in Hawkesbury, Ont. The next year, he began working at Le Droit, the francophone paper in Ottawa.

In 1999, a recommendation from a journalist friend got him an interview at the Journal de Montréal. It’s not La Presse, but the largest francophone newspaper in North America is certainly a step up.

The interview was very serious. He had to bring in clippings of his work and show them to the group of managers who were judging him for employment. And he had a few good, serious articles with him. But knowing the Journal’s reputation for, as the French call it, “faits divers”, he tailored his application to that target audience, and rearranged his clippings to put a less serious story first. It was a story he did for Le Droit about a child getting bitten by a dog. The headline: “Circoncis par un chien” (I imagine the details are self-evident).

When his interviewers turned their pages past his CV to see that headline, they started laughing. He was hired as a reporter.

His name: Patrick Lagacé.

Patrick Lagacé takes his job very seriously.

Patrick Lagacé takes his job very seriously.

Yeah, that guy.

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The Rest of Quebec

Patrick Lagacé has a column this week about how people in the Rest of Quebec hate Montreal. How they judge everything based on a comparison with Montreal. How they judge themselves by whether they’re better than Montreal.

Even though I’m a life-long Montrealer, I see where they’re coming from.

And I point at least one finger at the media.

When Global Television’s CKMI-TV regional station in Quebec City officially became a Montreal station on Sept. 1, I understood the reasoning (mainly to gain access to local advertising, but also to acknowledge the de facto change to a Montreal station), but I was also a bit disappointed.

At its peak, Global Quebec had an active Quebec City station and a bureau in the Eastern Townships. The only other anglophone television stations in Quebec were both local stations based in Montreal (with at most a reporter at the National Assembly). I had wondered if, instead of focusing on its largest cities, Global could set itself apart from the other two by being a truly regional network, by covering the far-away communities ignored buy CTV and CBC. It would, effectively, be the local station for anglos in Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières, Gaspé, and even some places in the Montreal metropolitan area that the city’s reporters hesitate to venture to.

But the economics of that proposition apparently don’t hold. It’s expensive to cover such a large area, and the anglophone population outside Montreal is simply too small and too widespread to be able to create that critical mass of loyal viewership.

Instead, Global concluded that it would be better as the #3 station in Montreal than the #1 station elsewhere in Quebec.

(Of course, this logic applies only to local programming, of which CKMI and CBC’s CBMT produce a pathetic 7.5 hours a week. The rest would have no difference in content or reach if the station were based in Montreal or St-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!)

And today in Montreal…

It’s easy to get local news as a Montrealer. Three nightly TV newscasts in English, two in French (not counting what’s on TQS V). An all-news French radio station, and news/talk radio stations in both languages. Six daily newspapers, of which two are free. And, of course, blogs and online sources such as this one.

But it goes farther than that. Two all-news TV channels, Radio-Canada’s RDI and Quebecor’s LCN, are headquartered here. LCN is often on the TV in the newsroom because it’s essentially become a Montreal local all-news channel.

If I wanted to, say, get a story about a local event in Quebec City told by local English media, I’d have to scratch my head a bit figuring out where to go. CBC has an English radio station there, but it doesn’t even have a website (it piggybacks off CBC Montreal, and calls itself the Quebec Community Network). My other option is the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, a weekly community newspaper.

In other cities in Quebec, the options for local news – in either language – become even bleaker than that. The Sherbrooke Record is the only English daily outside of Montreal. Outside of some low-budget community initiatives, there are no English news media and few French media. And much of that media contains news from the big-budget corporate headquarters of Montreal in between the bits of local flavour. Like Toronto is the media capital of Canada, Montreal is the media capital of Quebec.

What this all means is that when people outside Montreal turn on their TVs, turn on their radios, open their newspapers or go on the Internet, they’re bombarded with news from Montreal, while in many cases their local news consists of gallery openings, petty crimes in police blotters, and grandmas turning 100.

One city down, 1109 to go

The big news in Montreal this week is the release of an auditor’s report into a water meter contract, which led to its cancellation. That whole ordeal might not have come to light had it not been for local media and reporters like La Presse’s André Noël and (I’d say especially, but perhaps that would be biased) The Gazette’s Linda Gyulai (I give her the plug here because I gave her a length for her story last night and she astonishingly filed to exactly that length). Gyulai is a dedicated city hall reporter who doesn’t have to spend (much) time chasing ambulances and rewriting press releases. She can focus strictly on her beat and spend days reading massive reports and digging for information.

With the exceptions of Le Soleil and the Journal de Québec in Quebec City (both of which still contain quite a bit of Montreal-produced news), few other newspapers in Quebec have such resources (and TV and radio certainly don’t).

I wonder about those cities that don’t have such a strong watchdog press. As I told CJAD’s Ric Peterson the other day: who’s watching Beaconsfield City Hall? Or Repentigny City Hall? Or St. Jerome City Hall? How many skeletons do they have in their closets because the media there consist of no-budget community papers that get all their news from press releases, or big Montreal media that swoop into town for a day or two when something big catches their attention?

Lagacé thinks the Rest of Quebec should get over its inferiority complex in constantly comparing itself to Montreal. I agree. But he should also acknowledge that he and the rest of the Montreal media are part of the problem.

UPDATE: Similar thoughts from Matthieu Dugal: “nos médias sont tiers-mondistes”

Journal Daily Digest: Cauchon sticks his nose in it

Journal de Montréal picket

The link of the day comes from this morning’s Le Devoir, in which media reporter Paul Cauchon does an analysis of the Journal situation, the freelance columnist problem and the role of unions in media. It’s a bit opinionative (and, since it’s in Le Devoir, that opinion is left-of-centre), but worth a look.

Tout le monde won’t shut up

Patrick Lagacé and Bernard Landry were on Tout le monde en parle last night, and both answered questions about the Journal. Landry recently quit his column (with a lame excuse) and Lagacé had to answer for his boyfriend Richard Martineau, who just won’t quit. Rue Frontenac was watching and has the play-by-play. As does Richard Therrien.

On the other channel (with twice the audience), TVA had the premiere of Star Académie, and Journal workers were picketing outside giving out flyers to audience members. (The Clique du Plateau wonders if Rue Frontenac’s critique of the show would have been as critical if it had appeared in the Journal)

In other news

Meanwhile, a journalist at Transcontinental in Quebec City has gotten her job back after she was fired last year, coincidentally (or not) as she was organizing a union for their community weeklies in the area.

Bid for more La Presse dates

La Presse is once again auctioning off a date with its vedettes for charity. For a couple grand, you can have an evening with one of its hottest columnists (sorry ladies, no Foglia this time).

Patrick Lagacé, the teen heartthrob who came in dead last in 2007, is hoping his blogfame can catapult him back into contention.

I’m putting my money (well, not literally, I must remain loyal to the Christmas Fund and I don’t have thousands of dollars to throw away) on Marie-Claude Lortie, the foodie who is also the only woman available for bids, and perhaps not coincidentally is leading the bids at $2,000.

UPDATE: Lagacé came in 7th out of 10, Lortie 2nd, just behind Alexandre Vigneault. $16,706 total. Though, as dead-last loser Yves Boisvert points out, he doesn’t have a blog he can use to drum up votes.

Cyberpresse redesigned

Cyberpresse today went live with a redesign of its entire site, ditching the old coloured box motif in favour of a grey, white and red OMGWEB2.0 deal that seems to be in vogue with media sites recently.

The first thing you notice, as you do with all these new news websites, is that it goes on forever. You see, some web marketing genius decreed that users no longer care about vertical scrolling (which is true) and some web designer at an important media outlet decided this meant the homepage should be infinitely long vertically. And now everyone is mindlessly copying each other with these layouts that have no structure and look absolutely haphazard as far as placement of stories on the homepage:

Cyberpresse homepage goes on and on and on and on and on...

Cyberpresse homepage goes on and on and on and on and on...

Still with me? Good. Since the page is so freaking long, I had to shrink it down considerably, so let’s take a zoomed-in look here:

Top of the Cyberpresse homepage

Top of the Cyberpresse homepage

It’s a very boring, unoriginal layout. Some account-specific links at the top, then a horizontal bar for links to individual sections. Oh wait, it’s actually two horizontal bars. One is for sections, the other is for “websites” that Cyberpresse owns for sections special enough to get their own domain. If you’re not familiar with that system, you’ll probably get confused here and have to read the entire thing a couple of times to figure out which link is the best one to click on. Below that are main stories on the left, a search box on the right and some editor’s picks. Looks OK so far.

Middle part of Cyberpresse homepage

Middle part of Cyberpresse homepage

Here’s the meat below. It goes on like this for about four or five screens worth, and they’re all basically the same. Can you tell the logic behind what goes in which columns?

If you answered anything coherent to that question, then you’re wrong. The first column has sections like news and business, except for fluff sections like home, auto, environment, movies that are in the second column, except for arts, technology and lifestyles which are back in the first column.

Oh, and they have names like “Automobile” and “Maison” even though their names are “Mon Volant” and “Mon Toit” elsewhere. Whatever, consistency is for losers.

The third column at least has some consistency. It’s where all the interactive stuff goes. The polls, the “most emailed stories,” the user-generated content, etc. In fact, you’re encouraged to submit your own content (click on “Soumettre une nouvelle,” a page I can’t link to directly), which requires you fill out a form and agree to an 800-word terms of service (which I also can’t link to directly) with gems like these:

  • Lorsque vous soumettez Votre contenu à Cyberpresse, vous concédez à Cyberpresse une licence mondiale illimitée, irrévocable, non exclusive, perpétuelle et à titre gratuit : i) d’utilisation, de reproduction, de stockage, d’adaptation, de traduction, de modification, de création d’œuvres dérivés, de transmission, de distribution, d’exécution publique ou de mise à la disposition du public de Votre contenu à quelque fin; et ii) de concession en sous licence à des tiers du droit illimité d’exercer l’un ou l’autre des droits précités. Outre la concession de la licence susmentionnée, par les présentes, vous i) convenez de renoncer à l’ensemble des droits moraux dans Votre contenu en faveur de Cyberpresse; ii) reconnaissez et convenez que Cyberpresse ne saurait être tenue responsable de quelque perte, endommagement ou corruption de Votre Contenu; et iii) reconnaissez et convenez que Votre Contenu sera considéré comme non confidentiel.
  • Vous devez être âgés de 14 ans ou plus afin de pouvoir soumettre Votre Contenu à Cyberpresse.
  • Les Règles de Contributions des Utilisateurs peuvent être modifiées en tout temps par Cyberpresse à son entière discrétion.
  • Vous vous engagez à coopérer avec nous dans la contestation de toute réclamation.

Well, when you put it that way…

One thing the website emphasizes is its Dossiers, in which stories on a single topic are packaged together, like the U.S. presidential election. Organizing stories by topic instead of more broadly by section is something you’d think media web types would have concluded long ago was boneheadedly obvious, but the news sites are only now really picking up on that. And there are plenty of important, recent topics that don’t have their own pages yet and really should.

Cyberpresse’s launch article also mentions a more powerful (i.e. less crappy) search engine that better finds what you’re looking for. I typed in “Patrick Lagacé” and was pleasantly surprised to see a photo, biography and even email link. Except nowhere do I find a link to his blog. I tried again with “Patrick Lagacé blogue” and the response was “Aucun résultat.” Bravo.

Putting in other search terms for important stories of the past few weeks, I become even less impressed with the search engine.

The blogs also got a redesign. The authors’ pictures are moved to the side, leaving a big space for “le blogue de X”in stylized letters. (Though it seems poor Sophie Cousineau and Nelson Dumais got left behind.) These designs range from the obvious clichés to the we-don’t-know-who-this-is-or-what-she-writes-about generic.

Finally, there’s the RSS page, which has lots more feeds for specific topics. This is good, though the wording on many of these feeds is strange and confusing (what does “ctrl::dossiers cbp” mean?). I managed to decode a few of them which have been added to my Google Reader.

And now, the really bad intro videos

Patrick Lagacé gives us a tour of Cyberpresse

Patrick Lagacé gives us a tour of Cyberpresse

Oh, and I just noticed there’s a video tour of the new website (honestly folks, if you have to give a video demonstration of how your website works so people understand it, then you didn’t design it properly in the first place). I say “just noticed” because the article announcing the new website has no link to the videos nor does it even mention them.

The videos star some tech dude or blogger I’ve never heard of. His intro video is unintentionally hilarious, as he invites people to see another video “en cliquant ici” (clicking on the video per his instruction does nothing), and then sits there and does nothing but stare at the computer screen for a minute and a half while we make up our minds.

Lagacé does his best blogger imitation on camera

Lagacé does his best blogger imitation on camera

In fact, it goes on for so long that he twice looks off camera wondering if he can stop yet:

Lagacé telepathically pleads with the director for permission to leave

Lagacé telepathically pleads with the director for permission to leave

The content of the video is basically him repeating the same thing that was in the introductory article, although he strokes his ego by using himself as a search example. Even though he got the same result I did (i.e. a picture of himself but no link to his blog), he pretends that it works.

Other than all that the site is great. I mean, it’s got gradients and JavaScript-controlled content tabs, so how could it not be?


UPDATE: Michel Dumais has a positive review of the new Cyberpresse. Steph looks at it from a Web 2.0 perspective.

Montreal North riot OMG BBQ

Apparently jealous of Toronto’s nighttime propane-based fires, some intrepid young Montrealers heroically rescued some propane canisters from a local hardware shop and set them ablaze last night.

On a slightly more serious note, an analysis of Toronto media coverage of its susprise breaking news. Toronto media were caught especially off-guard because the incident happened in the middle of the night on a weekend, when few (if any) people are on the job.

Montreal’s media got lucky, in that the riots started before midnight, before newspapers were put to bed and everyone went home for the night. In addition, the top story was about the police shooting that prompted the riot, so newspapers (like mine) could combine the two together and not have to rip apart their front pages.

La Presse has the best roundup of the action (including a column by Patrick Lagacé, who was on the scene and has some stories to tell about it), as well as the best photos from photographer David Boily. LCN was on the scene live with its helicopter coverage, and though suffering from the usual breaking-news confusion saying-stuff-off-the-top-of-your-ass time-filler, was enough to keep us journalists glued to the set. (LCN/TVA reporters, meanwhile, repeatedly ignored police demands to retreat to a safe area once shots had been fired, making the anchor’s half-transparent “are you ok?” clichés seem almost silly.)

The best anglo coverage came, of course, from Canadian Press, whose reporter Andy Blatchford (a former classmate of mine) had a story filled with quotes.

Unfortunately, most of the other media are playing catch-up today, and you’ll see more photos of day-after busted up businesses than the riots themselves.

As for blog and “new media” coverage, it was pretty well nonexistent. Some posts with “this is badcomments, but no citizen journalists stepping up and doing a proper reporting job.

Nobody wants to read 1,000 comments

Patrick Lagacé brought up a point about comments on blogs, and how he’s not entirely sure what good they do him. Being a popular blog, it gets a lot of trolls and other pointless and unhelpful commentary. Comments easily reach into the dozens, sometimes hundreds.

That was also the subject of an interview Pat did on CIBL with Michel Dumais (Mario Asselin has the details) in which Pat totally name-drops me (near the end of the audio clip):

Dumais: … Vous êtes très fréquenté, vous générez beaucoup de commentaires. Mais ça serait pas intéressant pour vous peut-être de commencer à fréquenter aussi des autres blogues et à laisser des commentaires? …

Lagacé: Oui, j’essai de faire un peu. En fait le seul blogue ou je le fait, j’estime que c’est le meilleur blogue de couverture médiatique à Montréal, c’est le blogue de Steve Faguaiylle … Faguy… son blogue c’est Fagstein — qui couvre les médias montréalais, surtout anglo, mais un peu québecois… francophone aussi. C’est le seul ou je vais. Les autres, je sais pas. Un peu de manque de temps, un peu de manque d’intérêt.

(If my blog were a movie, that quote would go at the top of the poster.)

Although the number of comments on Pat’s blog causes a bit of professional jealousy on my part (second only to hair jealousy), it’s very rare that I’ll read the comments attached to one of his posts. Not so much because of the trolling (though it is apparent), but because there’s just so darn many of them. I don’t have time to read all the posts on blogs I’m subscribed to as it is. I certainly don’t have time to read 50 comments attached to each post, especially when they don’t have anything interesting to add.

And then there’s situations when the number of comments simply gets out of hand. The decapitation-on-a-bus story I talked about earlier now has 1,700 comments, most of which are repetitive. Has anyone read them all?

One easy solution is to stop approving troll comments. We set minimum limits (usually legal ones) for the types of comments we approve in moderation, but why set the barrier so low? Why not set them to the same level as we do letters to the editor? Just because there is space for more doesn’t mean we should bury any truly interesting comments in a pile of useless junk.

But even then, the number of comments can still be unbearable in very popular blogs or news stories or anywhere else one might have an attached discussion forum. When that happens, it’s time to start removing comments that aren’t really interesting (comments that simply agree, disagree, approve, disapprove, or otherwise give a comment without explaining it or adding anything new, as well as those that repeat things already said by others).

The standard response to that is: That’s censorship. It’s not though, it’s moderation. Nobody’s stopping you from posting your useless comments about my blog post on your blog or on some other forum somewhere. When I disapprove a comment it’s because I find it of no use to my readership.

But some still think that’s too far. So is there another method to get these runaway comments under control?

Well, Slashdot answered that question years ago with its comment system. The website, whose format looks very similar to blogs even though it predates them, has a threaded comment system, so comments can be traced back to their parents and sorted according to thread. This level of organization (and the ability to turn it on or off as needed) helps a big deal when dealing with a large number of comments.

More importantly, though, Slashdot has a peer moderation system that allows users to rate each others’ comments. Positive reviews increase a comment’s rating, and negative reviews decrease it. The result is that each comment is assigned a numerical rating (from -1 to +5), and readers can filter comments based on that rating. Set it to zero to get rid of just the trolls. Set it to +5 to get only the dozen or so truly exceptional or interesting or useful comments you need.

I’m surprised that every large-scale blogging system ever made hasn’t copied this system in some way. Instead, you see unthreaded comments with no rating system. The only judgment made is whether they meet the minimum requirements for posting, and that’s not good enough when our attention is so limited.

My blog, though it gets quite a few comments, doesn’t get near enough to start implementing stricter screening or peer moderation, but if I had 500 comments a day, I would certainly seriously consider it.

Why I love Quebec

As St. Jean Baptiste approaches, Patrick Lagacé asks us to say why we love Quebec.

Here’s a few of my reasons:

  1. Julie Couillard.
  2. Because politics here is never boring.
  3. Because we have a government that’s progressive yet democratic.
  4. Because we have a population that is actually bilingual, and doesn’t just pretend to be for show.
  5. Because we had a massively controversial independence vote that was decided almost within the margin of error, but it wasn’t followed by a civil war.
  6. Because the single biggest and most violent political crisis in our history produced a single fatality.
  7. Because of Les Francs-Tireurs and Patrick Lagacé’s hair.
  8. Because Québécois French is so funny-sounding.
  9. Because the Canadiens are not so much a hockey team as a shared religion.
  10. Because of all the pretty girls I’m going to see today on the way to work.

UPDATE: I see this has officially reached meme status. Which would make it my first meme. And hopefully my last.

UPDATE (June 24): Lagacé’s column compiles his readers’ responses.

TVA hates Lagacé

I’ve always admired Patrick Lagacé. The way he works hard, the way he does his homework before putting together insightful commentary (instead of knee-jerk reactions), his hair, and the fact he puts me on his blogroll.

But more importantly, I admire the impact he has. Like being able to piss off the entire management team at TVA.

Yesterday, La Presse published a really long letter signed by four executives at TVA which accuses Lagacé of not checking his facts in a recent column about the network burying embarrassing news about itself and friends of owner Quebecor.

As Lagacé mentions at the end of the column, TVA is suing Gesca and Lagacé personally for his previous remarks on this issue.

For the benefit of those who don’t want to read the long letter, or whose French is rusty, here’s TVA’s main points:

  1. TVA’s news coverage is dictated by TVA, not Quebecor. Quebecor has no control. No control my ass. You don’t get to own the media unless you can tell it what to do occasionally. Obviously TVA decides what the day-to-day news is going to be, but don’t tell me there isn’t some middle manager who knows he’s more likely to get a promotion and less likely to be fired if he suppresses bad news and promotes good news. Just look at its collusion cooperation with Quebecor-owned Journal de Montréal or Quebecor-owned Videotron.
  2. TVA did, in fact, allow clips critical of TVA to be aired, contrary to Lagacé’s insinuations. OK, sure. I’ll concede that point, though Lagacé got his information from Le Soleil, which got a quote from TVA saying they can decide what to air and what not to air. But stories can be buried without being totally eliminated. Newspapers do it all the time: putting good news on A1 or A2, while leaving bad news to a brief at the back of the business section.
  3. TVA didn’t talk about 15 job cuts at TVA Québec because it was a non-story, and it was really four job cuts, and only one in news. As Lagacé mentions, it was still 15 job cuts at a regional station, whether or not some people stayed on part-time in another role.
  4. Lagacé made no attempt to contact TVA before his article was published to check these facts. Lagacé says he tried to contact Quebecor but got no response.

Left unmentioned by both parties is that Lagacé used to be part of the Quebecor family when he worked for the Journal and blogged for Canoe. To say there’s bad blood between the two might be considered an understatement.

But, of course, Quebecor doesn’t control TVA. So this silly conspiracy theory has no basis, right?