Tag Archives: year-in-review

Unanswered questions going into 2016

At the beginning of 2015, I did a wrapup of issues that remained unresolved from 2014 in the form of a list of unanswered questions. Looking back at them now, I find that many of them remain unanswered as we enter 2016. Since some issues continue at a glacial pace, I figure it’s useful to once again present to you a list of things someone, somewhere, will need to figure out.

We’ll start this year’s unanswered questions by revisiting those from last year. Here they are:

Television (national)

What decisions will come out of the CRTC’s Let’s Talk TV process?

The commission’s long review of television policy resulted in rules that we expected. The big headline was about specialty channels, that will have to be available for individual purchase and in small packages by the end of 2016.

Less headline-grabbing but much more important was the complete removal of not only genre protection for specialty channels but the elimination of natures of service. This means that these channels will be able to broadcast whatever they want (with a limit only on live sports), regardless of what they were originally designed for. The History channel will no longer be limited to shows that have something to do with history. Book Television won’t have to talk about books. Travel + escape can be a channel about people staying in their beds.

On one hand, this means a lot more freedom for channels that have lost their way. On the other, it means a rush to the lowest common denominator, and fewer niche channels in favour of general entertainment stuff that captures a larger audience.

There’s also a lot of stuff that didn’t happen in the Let’s Talk TV decisions. Simultaneous substitution hasn’t changed, except for during the Super Bowl (starting in 2017) and the imposing of still-undetermined penalties if it’s done incorrectly. Decisions on local TV were kicked down the road and will be reviewed later this month along with community TV. And the commission hasn’t made any move to try to impose anything on Netflix.

Will Global’s all-news channel plan work?

We don’t know yet.

We learned about this plan for a hybrid national/local all-news network in the summer of 2014, but the CRTC still hasn’t posted the application. It could be waiting to handle local TV regulations first, or … who knows. The commission doesn’t talk about unpublished applications.

It’s an unusual application, and in the end the CRTC might decide that Global’s request for local advertising in exchange for a bit of local news isn’t worth it, but right now we’re just waiting.

Will OTA TV stations have to undergo another transition?

At this point, it doesn’t look like it yet. You might recall Industry Canada’s proposal to match a U.S. move to reallocate TV frequencies to wireless services. This issue is progressing in the United States, but Canada is mostly just waiting and seeing. It makes little sense for Canada to do anything other than follow the Americans’ lead on this.

What happens to Sun News Network?

Sun News Network shut down on Feb. 13 after attempts to sell it failed. Its talent has scattered, some heading to more traditional broadcast media, others to their other jobs at the Toronto Sun. Ezra Levant started his own website with the help of some of his Sun friends.

Will V send MusiquePlus and Musimax into the gutter?

A lot of people were upset at the cancelling of long-running shows like M. Net in 2014 after V bought the two music channels out of the Bell-Astral merger. In 2015, the transformation continued with the launch of programs like Lip Sync Battle, Pop de jam and Fabriqué au Québec. But the year ended with Claude Rajotte being let go. And they often feel like V2 and V3 with reruns of Éric Salvail’s shows and other programming from V.

What happens to Bio, G4, Book Television and other neglected specialty channels?

So far, nothing. But most of them have been freed from their nature-of-service obligations, which means they’re free to rebrand into almost anything. Rogers is expected to turn one of its channels into a Vice channel. Other rebrands should probably follow later this year. There’s no rush until the new CRTC packaging rules take effect and people start dropping the less popular channels, because right now they have no original programming, no employees and profit margins well above 50%.

Will Avis de recherche survive the year?

Despite a 2013 CRTC decision that the public safety information channel wasn’t worthy of mandatory funding after Sept. 1, 2015, the channel has stayed running through regulatory and legal manoeuvring. Bell and Videotron have both said they want to pull the channel, but ADR complained to the CRTC. The commission expedited the application so it can be dealt with quickly. We could see a decision soon, though ADR could continue fighting this through other legal avenues (that it will also eventually lose).

Will the English version of 19-2 break away from the French?

The second season of the Montreal-set cop show followed the original French version pretty well in the major plot line, though many of the specifics were changed. The third season, which airs this year on Bravo, is likely to diverge even further, to the point where it might continue for a fourth, even though the French version ended for good after three.

How long does analog cable have left?

Not long, but it’s still been a slow decline, at least around here. Videotron is down to about 10% of its subscribers who don’t have digital TV service yet.

Is radio-on-the-TV a fad, or a concept that’s here to stay?

CBC started airing its morning shows on local television in September. City is still doing the same in Winnipeg. Tim and Sid is still going strong on Sportsnet. And ARTV put a Radio-Canada radio show on TV.

Whether or not it’s great TV seems to have become largely irrelevant because it’s still cheap.

Television (local)

Will ICI’s business model work?

The little ethnic TV station that could is still going, with lots of original local programming. I don’t know how successful they are financially, but it’s still on the air.

Will MYtv see the light of day?

Yes, kinda. Videotron started airing English community programming in the fall, though the original plan to have a separate English-language channel was dropped. MAtv faces another complaint from an independent group alleging that it is failing to meet its regulatory obligations.

Who will win the battle of the morning shows?

Global’s Morning News and City’s Breakfast Television are still going. Both had host changes — Global dropped Richard Dagenais and City parted ways with Alex Despatie, replacing him with Derick Fage. But both are still going, in large part because of CRTC obligations. Ratings have suggested they’re doing about as well as each other, and far behind CTV’s Canada AM.

Will CBC Montreal’s newscast cut be another Canada Now-style disaster?

The drop from 90 to 30 minutes hasn’t made too many waves that I can see. And the hourly local news updates were a good move. We’ll see what the CBC does about improving local news and local programming with the extra millions it’ll get from the Liberal government.

Will the 12 job cuts at CTV Montreal affect the quality of its product?

This question is pretty funny considering how many Bell Media cuts were to come in the following year. The station ended up losing its general manager (though he was re-hired as a sales manager). Sean Coleman was hired to anchor weekends, replacing Andre Corbeil. The station is making due with fewer staff, though it escaped more serious cuts that affected other stations this year.

The cuts haven’t been that noticeable, except for sports coverage. With only Brian Wilde reporting (and that’s only when Randy Tieman isn’t on vacation), there’s no time for amateur sports, and when there’s news from more than one of the Canadiens, Alouettes and Impact, decisions have to be made.

Radio (national)

Will HD Radio take off in Canada?

Corus implemented HD Radio on a Hamilton FM station, and used its second channel to simulcast its Toronto AM talk station. Otherwise, there hasn’t been much open interest in the technology.

Will Jian Ghomeshi be convicted of assault? Will executives be forced to walk the plank? And will anything change?

Ghomeshi’s criminal charges are still pending, and it could be a while before they’re resolved. Executives did walk the plank in the wake of the scandal, and the corporation is undoubtedly more sensitive to workplace behaviour. But whether anything will change in the long term is still unclear.

Will NRJ go all-talk?

The network rebranded as Énergie, severing its ties with the radio brand from France. And it’s new programming in the mornings is more talk, less music. But it stopped short of a wholesale change to a talk format.

Radio (local)

Will TTP Media’s radio stations ever see the light of day?

Sigh. We’re still waiting. This group has a knack for making it seem to regulators that they’re doing something while not apparently doing anything. The next deadline is in May, when their first extension for 850AM ends. They’ll probably get another one, which means the next real deadline is November 2016. I’d like to say that if they’re not on the air by then it’s over, but that’s what I thought a year ago.

Will Evanov Radio become a major player in the Montreal market?

It’s a player, but still not a major one. CHSV-FM 106.7 The Jewel in Hudson/St-Lazare is running with familar on-air personalities Ted Bird and Tasso. Radio Fierté (CHRF 980 AM) had less success. The format has apparently been abandoned and after a couple of months of non-stop Christmas music it’s now airing something similar to The Jewel but in French, with no on-air staff. The sale of CFMB 1280 to Evanov went through, but Evanov hasn’t made any major changes to the station.

Will CJLO get permission to interfere with Vermont Public Radio?

No. It’s not that the CRTC wanted to protect VPR, but it felt CJLO could find better solutions than taking the last available FM frequency here. CJLO’s engineer disagrees, so we’re left at an impasse.

Will The Beat and Virgin remain in a deadlock?

Yes. The Beat has a larger anglo audience overall, but Virgin is better in the demographics.

Will new ethnic stations be a success?

Neither Radio Humsafar 1610 AM nor ITR 102.9 FM, approved in May 2014, are on the air yet. Radio Humsafar has requested a technical change, moving its transmitter site, and says it would be ready to broadcast soon after that’s approved.

Will AM music stations survive?

CJMS 1040 AM, which got a new owner, and CJLV 1570 AM, which is owned by Humsafar, are still on the air.

What will Gregory Charles do to Radio Classique?

He made the stations share just about all their programming with each other, gave himself a show, and hired Bernard Derome as his morning man.

Will Radio 9 succeed where Radio X didn’t?

Nope. The Radio 9 talk format was dumped in favour of an all-sports format that hasn’t made the ratings dial move much yet. Rumours persist of RNC Media being for sale.


Will the Competition Bureau approve the sale of Sun Media to Postmedia?


Whose tablet strategy will come out on top?

La Presse+ is still going strong, to the point where La Presse decided to drop the weekday print edition. Postmedia (my employer), which had an evening tablet edition strategy, dropped it this fall after a year.

Will TVA Publications rationalize its magazine portfolio?

The acquisition of magazines from Transcontinental did indeed lead to dropping some titles, including Le Lundi.

Is the Hudson Gazette gone for good?

No one’s heard from it since. It’s dead.


Will Ricochet become a major media outlet or just another outlet for left-wing opinion?

Look at the website of the bilingual crowdfunded media outlet, and you see lots of opinions and columnists, but very little original news.


Where will orphaned media personalities end up?

I listed four people a year ago: Mary-Jo Barr, Alyson Lozoff, Catherine Sherriffs and Andre Corbeil. Barr took a job at Pfizer, Corbeil is working for a livestock feed company, and Lozoff and Sherriffs have been off the radar the past year.

You can add to that list other names that got cut from or voluntarily left their jobs this year: Alex Despatie, Elliott Price, Suzanne Desautels, Rob Kemp, Ronny Mack, Angelica Montgomery, Peggy Curran, Sue Montgomery, and former employees of the West Island Chronicle and Westmount Examiner.

Others have been luckier. Abe Hefter is teaching at Concordia, and Richard Dagenais is hosting a show on MAtv and reading the news on weekends on CJAD.

New questions


What’s the future of local and community television?

The CRTC has handled specialty channels, but other than deciding that transmitters must stay on the air, there’s been little decided for conventional TV. This month, the commission holds hearings on local and community television policy, and we’ll see things like how much local programming stations should be obliged to broadcast, how much of that should be local news, whether community stations should be run by TV providers or local organizations, and how to regulate how money is spent on community TV.

Will there be a rush to the middle among specialty channels?

The deregulation of most specialty channels means more freedom to stray from niches. But in a pick-and-pay universe, and with the availability of Netflix and other streaming services with large libraries, a channel devoted to Seinfeld reruns might not be successful either. So what will work? Channels like AMC and FX that have one or two must-have series but fill the rest of the schedule with reruns and crap? Channels like Family, Crime+Investigation and Food Network that still target a niche or demographic? Or will everything just become general entertainment programming, a mix of scripted dramas and comedies, reality TV shows and lifestyle shows?

Will we see more channels adopt American branding?

A lot of Canadian specialty channels share names and logos with American counterparts. The reasons are mainly economic. You don’t need to design your own logo, or create your own marketing campaign, or worry about confusion when people in the U.S. talk about a show being on some network when it has a different name north of the border. Canadian channels that keep a distinct brand tend to do so either because of their age (YTV, Much) or because they were stuck in their niche (G4, Bio, Book, Fashion). The latter issue becomes irrelevant now.

Does Vice succeed as a TV channel?

Rogers is bringing the brand to Canadian televisions, probably by rebranding a poorly performing channel like G4 or Bio. Vice gets attention online, but whether that translates to a 24/7 cable channel is still to be determined.

What will CBC do with its extra millions?

I put the question to you recently.


What happens to Radio Shalom?

The Jewish AM station’s owner says he’s no longer willing to financially support the station and is asking others to step up. If no one does, we could end up with dead air at 1650 AM.

Do community stations get enough money to survive?

Radio Centre-Ville came far short of its goal crowdfunding a new cultural space, but launched it anyway. CIBL is about a third of the way toward its crowdfunding goal to save the station. CKUT looks like it will be short of its annual funding drive goal. Radio Ville-Marie is always seeking donations, and I just told you about Radio Shalom. Will this reliance on direct donations to pay the bills result in a station going under?

How does the new ethnic radio station environment look?

Montreal has a lot of ethnic/third-language radio stations, and most are required to have programming in several languages, though they tend to focus on one or two. CFMB 1280 is mainly Italian, CKDG 105.1 is mainly Greek, CHOU 1450 covers the Middle East, the new Radio Humsafar 1610 will serve mainly South Asia, CJWI 1410 serves the Haitian community.

CKIN-FM, which was sold by Canadian Hellenic Cable Radio (owner of CKDG) to businessman Neeti P. Ray, has a new schedule that’s Arabic during the day and Spanish in the evenings.

Is that the way it will stay? Or will CKIN’s change and the emergence of Humsafar prompt other adjustments at other stations?


Does La Presse succeed as tablet-only during the week?

It was a bold move to kill the weekday edition of La Presse. It cuts down a lot on cost, but is there something more intangible about being a daily newspaper that La Presse loses now, even if it’s publishing daily tablet editions? We’ll see. But there were already more people reading it on tablet than print before the change.

Does Postmedia shut down more papers?

Rumours persist about Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton, where Postmedia owns the two subscription dailies. Postmedia denies any plans to shut down the Suns in those markets. And while it shut down publications in Muskoka, that’s an “isolated” situation. My employer isn’t in the best financial situation, but it’s still expected to survive in the short term overall.


Do new online news outlets grow or contract in 2016?

Vice. Buzzfeed. Canadaland. iPolitics. The Tyee. Huffington Post. Online-only media in Canada have grown more serious in recent years, hiring professional journalists and tackling serious issues, while funding themselves using different models (crowdfunding, native advertising, paywalls, partnerships with big-money media). Will these new outlets with diverse funding sources and more targeted audiences fill the hole made by traditional media’s cuts, or will they find that their recent spending on professionals isn’t sustainable without a lot more revenue?

Will CraveTV and Shomi emerge as real competitors to Netflix?

Shomi, owned by Rogers and Shaw, just recently opened itself up to subscriptions from all Canadians. CraveTV, owned by Bell, has promised to do the same this year, but hasn’t set a date yet. That’s significant because providing all this content without requiring cable subscriptions could entice more people to cut the cord, and these companies make a lot of money from people who pay for TV.

We might also hit a wall with streaming services. Netflix is less than $10 a month, but if you add Crave, and Shomi, and other services like sports streaming and iTunes, or if Amazon or Hulu or others come to Canada, consumers might find their over-the-top bills about as high as what they were paying for the cord they cut in the first place — and a lot less live TV to show for it.

What questions will Fagstein forget to add to this list?

Next question.

The top 10 Quebec media stories of 2013 (and more year-in-review)

(Published now because I have this thing about only reviewing things after they’re finished.)

Around this time, when the media use year-in-review stories to fill space during the most boring news time of the year (mafia funerals notwithstanding), there are always generalizations about the ways the 12 months that have just passed differ from the previous 12 months, or the 12 before that. People look at Lac-Mégantic and Rob Ford and Nelson Mandela and say this was a sad year. Or they look at other stories and say it was a hopeful year, or a silly year, or a serious year, or any other type of year. In reality, it was just a year.

On the media front, it was a very active year. While some things I expected would happen didn’t, other things that I didn’t expect made huge changes to our media landscape. I don’t know if this was the biggest year in media news, but it was certainly a big one.

With that in mind, here are my picks for the top 10 media stories of 2013, from a Montreal perspective:

Continue reading

Year-in-review scoreboard

Ah, year-in-review time. It’s when media – particularly newspapers, but others as well – forgo reporting the day-to-day news and take to recapping events that happened within the past 12 months. Some get introspective and discuss how the stories they covered affected them. Others compile the events of the year and try to find some deeper meaning or pattern, something to describe it that is somehow different than the calendar year that preceded it.

And then there are the rankings. Top 10 X of the year, where X can stand for just about anything. Like TIME’s person of the year, they sound like they have a lot more significance than they really do.

More than half a century ago, Canadian Press, the formerly co-operative news service used by the majority of newspapers, started awarding accolades for its Newsmaker of the Year, based on a poll of its members.

These year-ending stories solve three problems that present themselves at this time of year – particularly the week between Christmas and New Year’s:

  1. In newspapers particularly, this is a peak time for advertising. The increased advertising means papers get larger to accommodate them, and that also increases the amount of editorial copy needed.
  2. Like any other worker in a regular job, journalists like to take time off during the holidays. Writing these lookback features is an easy way to bank stories for use when the newsroom is practically deserted and only a skeleton staff of reporters is on duty.
  3. Just about every industry stops doing anything newsworthy during this week. There are few major political announcements, few major reports being released, few major events on television, and little in the way of business stories. In short, there’s very little actual news that happens at this time of year.

So, for these reasons, we live with this phenomenon, though recently it’s come with a bit of a change: Two major competitors have emerged for Canadian Press: Postmedia News (the former Canwest newspapers, including my employer The Gazette) and QMI Agency (Quebecor/Sun Media, including the Journal de Montréal, 24 Heures and the Toronto Sun). As those newspaper chains pulled out of CP, they setup domestic and international bureaus where needed, and shared stories between their papers and clients.

And, of course, they have to choose their own annual newsmakers. After all, what’s the point of setting up your own wire service if you don’t get to have a bit of judgmental fun? (Though it should be pointed out that some of these are based on the votes of the general public, not just journalists and editors in newsrooms.)

With most of the announcements already made, here’s what the scoreboard looks like (winners in bold, with runners-up where given):

Category Canadian Press Postmedia News QMI Agency Others
News story Vancouver Olympics BP oil spill (poll)

Haitian earthquake (editors)

Vancouver Olympics
News maker Russell Williams

Sidney Crosby

Stephen Harper

Justin Bieber

Russell Williams (poll)

Julian Assange (editors)

Russell Williams Maclean’s: Sidney Crosby
Athlete Cyberpresse: Joannie Rochette (online vote)

Lou Marsh Award: Joey Votto

Sportsnet.ca: Georges St-Pierre (online vote)

Male athlete Sidney Crosby

Joey Votto

Alex Bilodeau

Jonathan Toews

Joey Votto

Sidney Crosby

Jonathan Toews

Alex Bilodeau

Erik Guay

Joey Votto CBC: Joey Votto
Female athlete Joannie Rochette

Clara Hughes

Christine Nesbitt

Maëlle Ricker

Jennifer Heil

Christine Nesbitt

Joannie Rochette

Heather Moyse

Joannie Rochette CBC: Joannie Rochette
Sports team Olympic men’s hockey team

Montreal Alouettes (CFL)

Olympic women’s hockey team

Olympic men’s hockey team

Kevin Martin curling team

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (ice dancing)

Olympic men’s hockey team

Kevin Martin curling team

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (ice dancing)

Université Laval football team

CBC: Olympic men’s hockey team
Business event Shale gas exploration

Canadian debt

Earl Jones sentence

“Eric and Lola”

Quebec 2010-11 budget


Business personality Jim Flaherty Pierre-Karl Péladeau


BNN: Brad Wall

It doesn’t stop there, though. Many news outlets come up with other “of the year”s:

And, of course, there are local newsmakers of the year, and plenty of lists of top picks for just about everything a beat reporter can think of.

Hang in there, folks. Real news should return within a week or so.

*QMI Agency prompted a lot of guffawing on Twitter when it broadcasted that Pierre-Karl Péladeau was its business personality of the year. The news was based on a poll (apparently only done in Quebec, though that’s not made clear in the story), and Report on Business Magazine also named him one of three CEOs of the year. But still, having your own news agency pay so much attention to you is a bit … weird, at least.

Remix in review

The end of the year – and particularly the week between Christmas and New Year’s – is a time for lazy journalism, usually in the form of lists of “the best of” the year that’s passed. The lists are almost always subjective, incomplete, and – when it comes down to it – pointless. They don’t add anything new to the conversation. Maybe such a list might expose you to something you haven’t seen before, but usually “top” means “most popular”, so the likelihood of you not having seen it is low.

This video comes from DJ Earworm, a remix artist (via Dominic Arpin). I’ll link to the YouTube page since the website seems to be suffering under some unexpected viral load. The MP3 is free to download. It’s a remix of the top 25 songs of 2009, as judged by Billboard. That means you’re stuck with two Lady Gaga songs, two Black Eyed Peas songs, two Beyoncé songs and two Taylor Swift songs, along with Katy Perry, The Fray, Kelly Clarkson and Miley Cyrus.

But it’s impressive, while giving a bit of exposure to each song in a way that doesn’t make me cringe. Kind of like I’ll eat mushrooms on a pizza but not by themselves, I’ll take Swift or Cyrus when remixed well with non-crap.

This isn’t a first, either. DJ Earworm did the same for 2008 and 2007.

Just imagine if all the other years in review were this … creative.

Media predictions: how did we do?

Looking back a year for my media year in review, I stumbled on some forward-looking posts about 2008. Let’s see how things turned out.

My 2008 online media wishlist

What I wanted: Clean up your online layouts

What happened: Layouts got more complex.

Even though mobile use is growing, media outlets respond not by simplifying their websites but by creating separate iPhone sites. Pages are optimized for 1024×768, and each redesign copies the previous one, so they all look the same. All are cluttered with far too many links on the homepage and far too little structure to their layouts.

What I wanted: Use video right

What happened: More junk videos

Experimentation is painful, I know. A lot of talking-head videos were tried and failed, but far too many are still doing this and assuming someone wants to watch it.

Forcing your reporters to shoot video isn’t going to help you unless that reporter knows how to do a good job. But reporters aren’t given the time, training or equipment to do so. Their videos are about the quality of cellphone videos, and are about as useful.

What I wanted: Stop trying to get random people to replace journalists

What happened: User-generated content doesn’t go far beyond comments and pictures of cats

Fortunately, nobody has seriously tried to replace journalists with free Internet labour, though I’m sure they’d jump at the chance if they could. News outlets have learned that you can get the public involved in sharing information and news tips, offering comments on news stories and providing pictures of snow, pets or other uninteresting things. But journalists are the ones you actually assign to produce news.

What I wanted: Setup RSS feeds by category and tag

What happened: Some movement, but not enough

Le Devoir introduced more specific RSS feeds this year, but there wasn’t much other movement in this regard. People who want feeds on specific topics from various media outlets are more likely to decide to rely on Google Alerts instead.

What I wanted: Add more tags to stories

What happened: Tagging introduced, but not exploited

Website redesigns, including the one at The Gazette, allow some form of keyword tagging. But we haven’t seen this truly exploited yet. Most systems are still automated, so getting related stories to link to each other is still hit-and-miss in a lot of plaes.

What I wanted: Larger photos

What happened: Slightly larger photos

Website redesigns understood that with faster Internet connections and larger screens, people can accept photos that are larger than 200 pixels wide. But we’re still far from where we could be. Many still max out around 500 pixels, even though their websites are designed for screens 1024-pixels wide.

What I wanted: Fixed search engines

What happened: Better search engines, but still frustratingly inadequate

The Gazette’s redesign brought in a search engine that works properly, though it’s still pretty basic. Cyberpresse brought in what it thought was a more full-featured search software. If you search for Patrick Lagacé, for example, you get his picture, his bio and a link to email him. Unfortunately, you don’t get a link to his blog, which is what people searching for him might be looking for.

What I wanted: Deportalization

What happened: Uberportalization

You’d think media ubercompanies would learn from successful websites like Google, whose homepage is very simple. Instead, their redesigns shove even more content on their homepages, making them almost infinitely long (five, six, seven screens’ worth). I have no idea who’s going to scan all the way down there for what they want.

Individual section pages help a bit, but they’re still part of a massive system that’s difficult to navigate due to its sheer size.

What I wanted: Give local outlets more control

What happened: Some get more, some get less

Canwest finally gave its daily newspapers their own websites with proper URLs. The Gazette’s website became montrealgazette.com instead of canada.com/montrealgazette. La Presse and the Journal de Montréal still don’t have their own websites, instead being hidden inside the Cyberpresse and Canoe portals.

What I wanted: Less reliance on wire services

What happened: More focus on locally-produced content

Fortunately, local media is more likely to promote its own productions over stuff it syndicates from other sources. Sections like health and technology, however, and especially sports tend to be filled with automatically-generated wire content.

What I wanted: Setup internal blogs to communicate with readers

What happened: Blogs started, forgotten

La Presse and The Gazette started blogs about themselves, but neither is updated very often now. No major news organizations communicate with readers on a regular basis about themselves through blogs, which is a shame because they need all the help they can get in these times.

What I wanted: Niche blogs

What happened: Columnist blogs

Lots of columnists started blogs about their beats, though many holes are still evident and not enough effort is being made keeping those blogs updated and publicizing them.

Worse, when the columnist goes on vacation (or just doesn’t feel like updating), the blog goes dead. No effort is made to bring in guest bloggers for those times. These niche blogs are about the people, not the subject, and most people don’t care where they get their soccer/TV/food/environment news from.

What I wanted: Static content

What happened: Disappearing content

I pointed to CBC’s “In Depth” section as an example of stuff that news agencies should look at doing. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen much of it. Feature stories go up and disappear within days as new content is uploaded. Archives have to be searched for instead of being browsed.

We still have an article-based mentality, where journalists summarize past events of a story instead of linking to a static article with all the information so far.

So when bloggers, for example, want to point to a page that explains a person, place or issue, they point to Wikipedia, even if the Wikipedia page is about three sentences long.

What I wanted: Solving article duplication

What happened: More article duplication

This is a problem a lot of newspapers experience: A story is written for the paper, uploaded to the web the night before, and then uploaded again automatically with all of the newspaper’s content. The result is two copies of the same article, though often with different headlines, photos or formatting.

No significant moves have been made to solve this problem that I can see.

What I wanted: Stop splitting stories across multiple pages

What happened: Users given “all on one page” option

With the speeds our computers operate at and all the Flash ads, videos and other junk that need to be downloaded on every page, it seems ridiculous that newspaper websites split text articles up on different pages. It’s obviously not to reduce page load times, it’s to increase ad impressions by forcing people to load multiple pages.

Increasingly, “all on one page” is being offered as an option, but this isn’t the default. I have no idea why anyone would want only part of a story to load when they click on it.

Le Devoir’s big media issues for 2008

In January, Le Devoir pondered what the media’s going to have to deal with this year.

  1. What do we do with TQS? Well, we gave it to Remstar and they promptly fired everyone. Their ratings are crap, but they don’t have many expenses.
  2. How do we finance television? The CRTC said no to cable providers handing money to conventional TV broadcasters, so it looks like advertising is still the way to go.
  3. How long will the Journal de Québec situation go on? Just when some people thought it would last forever, a deal was reached in June and the employees were back to work in August. Now we wonder if the same will happen at the Journal de Montréal.
  4. How do we handle journalist multitasking? La Presse dealt with job classification in a way that its union was happy with. The Journal de Québec did it in a way the union could live with. Others are still trying to figure it out. But besides dealing with union roadblocks, the media needs to figure out whether it’s worth it for reporters to take crappy videos and photos instead of relying on professional photographers.
  5. How will online distribution royalties be handled? The U.S. writers strike ended in a way that still hasn’t resolved that issue. Royalties won’t really be resolved until someone starts making money online.
  6. Will we have Internet CanCon? The CRTC decided it would not regulate the Internet, and media companies were happy with that. Net neutrality is still a problem we have to deal with though.

Quebec/Canadian media 2008 in review

(Because, unlike some media outlets, I like to wait until the year is actually finished before I summarize what happened)

A year ago, I called 2007 “a bad year for Quebec journalism”. Had I known what was in store for 2008, I would have called it an omen for worse things to come. What were dozens of job losses then became hundreds of layoffs a year later.

And above all, that’s what 2008 is going to be known for: layoff figures in the triple digits from Torstar, Canwest, CTV, Sun Media and Rogers.

TQS, the Halifax Daily News, the Journal de Trois-Rivières, Global’s This Morning Live, 940 News, the Carleton Free Press, MediaScout, all shut down because they couldn’t justify themselves financially.

The stock market crash correction, housing crisis and credit crunch didn’t make it easier, but they didn’t cause these problems. The media revolution affecting newspapers and other traditional media is only getting more violent, and hundreds of people are losing their jobs while the industry figures out how to make money again. Quality journalism, which was never much of a money-maker in the first place, becomes among the first things to suffer.

Grab a bottle of your favourite booze, ’cause this one’s long.

Continue reading

Gazette reporters look back

As part of its year-end filler special series, The Gazette is having its reporters look back on the 10 biggest stories of 2008, with an emphasis on behind-the-scenes reporter-as-the-story making-of stuff. Self-important, sure, but it’s the kind of stuff journalists themselves crave.

Among the stories is municipal affairs reporter Linda Gyulai’s reports on the Société d’habitation de Montréal and the Société d’habitation et de développement de Montréal, which merged and went private and had all sorts of shaky land deals and stuff. Dry as all hell, but important backbreaking work. As with many such stories, this one started with prompting from an anonymous source.

Regret the Error year in review

Regret the Error's typo of the year

Regret the Error's typo of the year

Montreal writer Craig Silverman, editor of news corrections website Regret the Error (and author of the book by the same name) has released his review of the best media errors and corrections from 2008.

Among the highlights:

  • David Gest did not get herpes from Liza Minnelli
  • Dance poles at the Condom Shack may, in fact, support the weight of a human
  • The Los Angeles Times getting conned into writing a feature story filled with false information about Tupac Shakur (which was later debunked by The Smoking Gun)
  • Headline turns Bon Jovi into “Bob Jovi” (though, frankly, I’ve made worse errors that have made it into much larger type)
  • “Democratic vice-presidential prick in 2000” Joe Lieberman
  • Bob Novak announcing “he has a brain”
  • At least one that-wasn’t-his-mistress-that-was-his-daughter story
  • The Calgary Sun correcting the record: GM does not support neo-Nazis
  • Bill O’Reilly is not a “right-wing pundit”
  • Recipe accidentally calls for poisonous ingredient
  • A copy editor’s joke about strangling a kitten accidentally makes it to print (and the editor gets fired)
  • Israel will hit, not eat, Iran
  • From the Ottawa Sun: David Hoe was never a sex worker
  • Amercan Family Association website automatic filter for AP stories turns “Tyson Gay” into “Tyson Homosexual”
  • Wall Street Journal gets Canada’s name wrong. Twice.

It also mentions the Paris Match province-vs-city mistake on Quebec’s 400th anniversary.

Quebecor the big loser in journalistic ethics rulings

Raymond Viger, in his 2007 look back, decides to evaluate local media based on decisions rendered against them by the Quebec Press Council. An interesting quantitative measure if there ever was one. Quebecor’s various properties, led by the Journal de Montréal (unsurprisingly), get top “honours.”

I think it’s also worth looking at who’s not on that list:

2007: A bad year for Quebec journalism

This blog is less than a year old, so I don’t have much raw data to evaluate long-term trends. But the past few months seem to have hit all of Quebec’s mainstream media simultaneously, with most of them announcing cuts in the number of journalists they have on staff.

Individually, none (except maybe troubles at TQS) is a major turning point for an organization, but taken together a trend appears to be emerging.


  • CBC brings back a one-hour evening TV newscast to Montreal after budget cuts forced it to hand victory to CFCF. Though it’s good news, the new one-hour newscast doesn’t come close to regaining the ground the station lost when it cut the 6pm newscast down to 30 minutes.


  • Editorial employees at the Journal de Québec are locked out by management who want to impose a new contract. Press workers immediately strike in solidarity, and both work together to produce an alternative free daily newspaper that is still publishing. The Journal is still going, put together by management, but the content is coming from the Journal de Montréal (reluctantly) and wire services (including one apparently setup solely to exploit this situation).





Gazette reporters look back

Nudged deep within hundreds of other 2007 look-backs that are starting to make us go crazy wondering if this forgettable year will ever end are a series of short stories by Gazette reporters about some of the stories they’ve covered this year. Most of them are of the “it’s such an emotional issue it’s hard to stay objective” style, but there are some interesting ones too that I’ll outline in bold below.

They’re posted online in three parts.

Part 1

  • Peggy Curran aboard the CCGS Amundsen: Being objective is hard when you’re living with the people you’re writing about for 10 days in the arctic.
  • Jeff Heinrich at the reasonable accommodation hearings: An anti-semite refuses to give his name to the Jewish anglo reporter. Except Heinrich isn’t Jewish.

Part 2

  • Sue Montgomery on the trial and sentencing of the murderer of gas station attendant Brigitte Serre: How on Earth do you stab someone 72 times and not feel remorse?
  • Michelle Lalonde on asbestos in Thetford Mines: Residents and workers accept health risks inherent in asbestos mining as an occupational hazard.
  • William Marsden on the de la Concorde overpass collapse: I was right, the transport department was wrong about a telltale visible crack which should have warned engineers about an imminent collapse.
  • René Bruemmer on the life of fire victim Joe B.G.: Not every fatality is an anonymous nobody. Asking a simple question can sometimes prompt a long and interesting story.
  • Linda Gyulai on the City of Montreal’s cellphone recycling program: Not every story comes with a press release. Even the ones that make people look good.
  • David Johnston on a story about drug addicts: Sometimes the more interesting story isn’t the one that fits the article.

Part 3

Regret the Error roundup

Regret the Error presents a roundup of this year’s funny corrections and cases of plagiarism and fabrication.

No Montreal media appear on either list, though the Toronto Star gets two dishonorable mentions, for prematurely killing off Morley Safer and for bringing the Detroit murder rate up by a factor of 50. The Ottawa Citizen, meanwhile, put a photo of an innocent man on a section front, identifying him as a pedophile.