Tag Archives: press releases as news

NDG Monitor news article actually a press release

NDG Monitor

The NDG Monitor, which shut down in February and became online-only, and recently criticized a borough-produced newspaper for being nothing but press releases, is now itself cutting and pasting press releases to create news stories, as evidenced by this story which is identical to this release from Concordia University (and doesn’t mark it as such).

I’d say I was shocked, but I wasn’t. I’d say I was disappointed, but my expectations for this Transcontinental project were low to begin with.

The Monitor’s deterioration as a legitimate news outlet began long before its last issue came off the presses. It started in 1996 when it was sold to Transcontinental, which gutted everything to save money.

Now all it does is list community events and republish open letters, while contributing whatever news articles can be churned out with as little effort as possible. The rest of the website is filler from Transcontinental and its other community weeklies.

The Monitor is going to die eventually as a forgotten relic of a time when small communities could sustain local newspapers. Though I mourn the loss of any voice and the job of any journalist, part of me thinks they should just put it out of its misery.

Who cares about senior vice-presidents?

As a person interested in media-related news, I subscribe to a lot of feeds that give information on launches, scandals, flubs, and about 10,000 peoples’ ideas on the future of the newspaper industry.

But I also get a lot of news about executives changing jobs. Like Jon Dube, who left as CBC’s director of digital media to join ABCNews.com. I understand the CBC writing a little article about it, and Inside the CBC repeating it, but does every news media blog in the universe also have to repeat the story?

First of all, anyone interested in media is going to be subscribed to a bunch of these blogs and is just going to read the same thing over and over again.

Secondly, this news might be more interesting if I knew who Jon Dube was, or what if anything he did at CBC to make him worth my interest.

I have nothing against Dube, and he seems like a great guy, but it’s a bit annoying to see all these rewritten corporate press releases regurgitated as news without any background or analysis, by people who have no idea of the news value of what they’re reporting.

CRTC roundup: Cancon porn, TSN2 and the Rural Channel

Lots more fun out of the CRTC this week:

Insert “beaver” joke here

The biggest news (or at least the most titillating) is the approval of a new Canadian-based pornography channel. Called Northern Peaks (cute), it would feature 50% Canadian content (i.e. Canadian-produced porn) from various categories, including pornographic sitcoms and game shows (that actually sounds like fun, but it’s really just the company covering all bases, so to speak).

The 50% mark is actually quite unusual, and is well above what would normally be required for such a network. But apparently it was the applicant’s request, according to the National Post:

Mr. Donnelly said he was required to offer as little as 15% Canadian content to appease regulators.

But because he wants “to legitimately be Canada’s adult channel,” he started at half Canadian. He said there is a huge unfulfilled market in Canada for local porn. Beginning last year, he began getting calls from cable companies looking to license his Canadian productions.

“I’ve always found there’s a real turn-on to watching and knowing it’s people you could run into in the grocery store,” he said.

But with more than 200 titles (and presumably they can be replayed over and over again, since most viewers wouldn’t mind repeats of classic programming), he thinks he can do it.

Quoth the CRTC: “The Commission did not receive any interventions in connection with this application.” Really? Not even from the pizza guy? Or that nosy peeping-tom neighbour you’re just waiting to have sex in front of so they can masturbate to it?

Needless to say the media had a field day with this one, the National Post turning it into a front-page story (complete with photo) and an opinion piece that’s pretty tongue-in-cheeks (sorry) asking readers to comment and either denounce the channel or come up with some programming ideas for it. (A funny side-effect of the latter is offhand mentions of Sheila Copps and Avi Lewis, which means searches for these two under “related stories” brings up a comment about a porn channel they have nothing to do with.)

One comment posted to the Post:

When do the adults at the Post return from summer holiday?

Of course, it wasn’t just the Post. The Globe and Mail also had a lengthy article on it (about 12 inches), and the news was picked up by Canadian Press and Reuters and Agence France-Presse and reached news outlets all around the world (well, those two anyway). It also got a mention on an anti-abortion (but still pro-women) conservative website.

The channel is being run by Real Productions (apparently not this Real Productions nor that Real Productions, which appear lower in the Google raking and I’m guessing confused or offended at least a few potential customers), which is run by a man named Shaun Donnelly (but not this Shaun Donnelly, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Europe and the Middle East).

Due to the nature of the channel, it can’t be included in any channel packages and must be specifically requested by the subscriber. The network also promises to spend at least 25% of revenues on developing new programming.

Also of note is the 100% closed-captioning requirement, which may foreshadow a fight with Videotron concerning their demand that they not have to closed-caption on-demand video porn.

UPDATE (Aug. 18): The Globe has more on the channel, including an idea of what a broadcast day would look like. And then even more on the channel here. (They won’t let this story go, will they?)

UPDATE (Aug. 24): Farked. With suggestions on Canadian porn titles. Some of these people should write headlines for a living.

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Industry is at fault for HDTV confusion

CBC.ca has a story* about an industry-commissioned survey that shows Canadians don’t quite understand everything about HDTV. Sharp, which commissioned the survey, pulls right out of its ass the theory that “jargon-laden tech reports” are to blame for the problem, especially among women. It’s the media which is not doing a good job explaining HDTV’s technical intricacies to consumers.

While technology articles in newspapers and tech segments on TV news are, indeed, either confusingly jargon-laden or condescendingly over-simplifying, I don’t think they’re the reason for all the misinformation about HDTV.

Instead, I blame the industry itself:

  • An industry that defines “HDTV” as anything above NTSC standard, which could mean a bunch of different formats because the industry couldn’t set a proper standard.
  • An industry that compresses video signals over digital distribution systems to cram more channels in, making some digital signals better than others.
  • An industry that combined HDTV with a change in aspect ratio that served to confuse people into thinking the two were the same.
  • An industry that can’t agree on an optical media format for HDTV.
  • An industry that uses terms like “1080p” which means nothing to people like me, and then tries to develop brand names like “Full HD” which makes even less sense. (Is there a “Partial HD?”)
  • An industry that has developed five different types of cable connectors for video
  • An industry that uses closed, proprietary protocols so that consumers are forcibly tied to cable boxes forced on them by their cable or satellite companies instead of being able to buy televisions with digital tuners built-in.
  • An industry that converts HD to SD to HD, or SD to HD to SD, resulting in black bars all around images once they’re actually shown on TV screens.

But I don’t expect Sharp to bring that up when they’re busy masturbating over how great they are.

Another example of investigative journalism

*Dear CBC: If you’re going to rewrite a press release, maybe you should make it slightly less obvious that you’re doing so. For example, you could change the headline. Or you could find another source to quote. Or you could not copy and paste half the press release into your article.

For example:

The knowledge gap persists despite a truly healthy market for flat panel TVs. Overall, the market grew by 72 percent last year, with sales of LCD TVs growing by 84.4 percent. For 2008, projected sales figures from the Consumer Electronics Marketers of Canada (CEMC) indicate a market demand of 2.75 million units.
The poll reports Canadians have a basic understanding of the differences between flat screen technologies – 53 percent prefer LCD to plasma screens – yet few Canadians feel themselves to be truly knowledgeable about the technology.
Women are especially unaware of HDTV features; almost 60 percent said they were not at all knowledgeable about the latest advancements, compared to less than 40 percent of men polled across the country. The jargon-laden language of tech reports may be an issue, with 29 percent of Canadians getting their information about new models from TV ads and programs, compared to only 20 percent from print media and 16 percent from weblogs and product websites.

That was from the press release.

This is from the CBC story:

The knowledge gap persists despite a truly robust market for flatpanel TVs, according to the findings from Nanos Research, commissioned to do the survey by Sharp Electronics of Canada.

Overall, the market grew by 72 per cent last year, with sales of LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) TVs growing by 84.4 per cent, Sharp said. For 2008, projected sales figures from the Consumer Electronics Marketers of Canada (CEMC) indicate a market demand of 2.75 million units.

The poll reports Canadians have a basic understanding of the differences between flat-screen technologies — 53 per cent prefer LCD to plasma screens — yet few Canadians feel themselves to be truly knowledgeable about the technology.

Women are especially unaware of HDTV features, the survey suggested. Almost 60 per cent said they were not at all knowledgeable about the latest advancements, compared to less than 40 per cent of men polled across the country.

The jargon-laden language of tech reports may be an issue, with 29 per cent of Canadians getting their information about new models from TV ads and programs, compared to only 20 per cent from print media and 16 per cent from weblogs and product websites.

Notice some similarity? (I’ve bolded all the changes the CBC made.) I’m just going to go ahead and assume the CBC did not, in fact, check to make sure these statements were true.

(And another thing: “weblogs”? If people don’t understand what a blog is, what makes you think they’ll understand “weblogs”?)

Symantec survey thinks highly of Symantec

In today’s press-release-masquerading-as-news, comes “Calgary is Canada’s safest cyber-city,” an edited version of this press release by anti-virus software maker Symantec.

Reading that, you might ask yourself how geography is relevant to online security or other stupid questions. But rather than take a comprehensive look at online fraud, bank/mail fraud, or information security practices of businesses and government, it commissions a poll that rates cities based on how many people say they’ve installed up-to-date anti-virus software on their computers.

Talk about thinking highly of yourself. Naturally, the solution to all this is to get more people to install anti-virus and other security software on their computers. And it just so happens…

The press release cherry-picks selections of some other data, without giving any idea how to get full breakdowns from them. Either way, all the data is based on what people say, not on what kinds of online crime actually happen in those cities.

Any bets on how many other news outlets will overlook these facts and run this as if it was a StatsCan report?

YouTube Canada is pointless and insulting

YouTube exploited the media’s cluelessness about the Internet to get some free advertising launched its Canadian site today, with a big press release and everything.

YouTube, an American video-sharing website, was not available to Canadian Internet users prior to today. Internet traffic would be stopped at the border, searched, and then forced to pay taxes and duties before being allowed to continue. As a result, no Canadian-made videos had ever appeared on the No. 1 video-sharing site.

Oh wait, none of that is true? Then what’s the purpose again?

“YouTube Canada”, which looks exactly like regular YouTube except that its featured content is from obviously-Canadian sources, is basically nothing more than a bunch of content licensing agreements with media outlets like Dose.ca (funny they don’t use CanWest’s crappy internal video portal), the Canadian Football League, CBC and others. You’ll note that these groups already have YouTube channels, which just makes the pointlessness of this launch even more apparent.

The Globe and Mail’s Mathew Ingram was one of the few not to be taken in by the smoke and mirrors. He asks, very reasonably, what the point of a “localized” Canadian site is in the first place. (His remarks remind me a bit of Casey McKinnon’s views on CanCon.)

One thing that Ingram didn’t mention though, is a mistake a lot of these companies make when they create Canadian versions of themselves: The “Canadian” YouTube is English-only.

It’s not that YouTube lacks translation abilities. YouTube France is in French. So what’s the story?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no Guy Bertrand or anything. But to launch a website branded as “Canadian” in only one of its languages is a pretty big “Fuck You” to francophone Canadians.

So colour me underwhelmed about all this.

So you think you can produce original programming?

News outlets all over the country are rewriting a CTV press release into news. It’s announcing that the network has secured Canadian rights to the show So You Think You Can Dance, and like Canadian Idol, our version of the show will be in the same format but with different hosts.

Am I the only one getting tired of Canadian networks creating Canadian versions of shows developed in other countries and selling it to the CRTC as original Canadian content? Think of what we’ve done so far:

  1. Are You Smarter Than a Canadian 5th Grader? (Global), adapted from Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? (FOX)
  2. Canada’s Next Top Model (Citytv), adapted from America’s Next Top Model (CW)
  3. Canada’s Worst Driver (Discovery), adapted from Britain’s Worst Driver
  4. Canada’s Worst Handyman (Discovery), adapted from Britain’s Worst DIYer
  5. Canadian Idol (CTV), adapted from American Idol (FOX), which was in turn adapted from Britain’s Pop Idol, all part of Simon Cowell’s empire
  6. Deal or No Deal Canada (Global), adapted from Deal or No Deal (NBC)
  7. Entertainment Tonight Canada (Global), adapted from Entertainment Tonight (Syndicated)
  8. No Opportunity Wasted (CBC), adapted from No Opportunity Wasted (New Zealand)
  9. Project Runway Canada (Slice), adapted from Project Runway (Bravo)
  10. Who Do You Think You Are? (CBC), adapted from Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC)

And that’s the only ones I can find on a quick search.

I’m not the only one who thinks this is a problem. Canadian actors, writers, and other artists are objecting to the trend, demanding the networks invest in Canadian ideas instead of American ones, and stop sending hundreds of millions of dollars down south to license their shows.

What’s wrong? Is it because we don’t have as much money as they do? Is it because our ideas suck? Is it because Canadian viewers are so allergic to home-grown content that we have to be weaned onto it using comfortable American shows?

Or is there nothing wrong? I enjoy Canada’s Worst Driver/Handyman, and I watch American TV a lot during prime time. Is the problem me?