La Presse lives!

Well, another win for the good guys. After threatening to close its doors Dec. 1 without significant concessions from its eight unions, a deal was hammered out with the last one yesterday. It was ugly for the staff, starting with a four per cent raise over five years, return to a five day workweek instead of four days, and rollbacks in benefits, but a major Canadian newspaper will continue to exist. First CHEK Victoria, now La Presse; good things are happening in Canadian media.

The newspaper wins frequent praise from within its industry and from media observers for the depth of its coverage, from international issues to municipal politics where it played a key role this year in breaking details of Montreal’s construction scandal.

CP/Canoe, November 26 2009

Al Jazeera coming to Canada

The CRTC has approved a license of Al Jazeera English (AJE), not to be confused with the more controversial Al Jazeera Arabic (AJA) which has raised international concerns about it being anti-Semitics. As with all things MSM, AJE has been available on the net for some time. Anyway, glad to get another international view. We have CNN and BBC World; I’ll be subscribing to AJE for another perspective on world issues.

Globe and Mail, November 27 2009



Torstar cuts 75 jobs, CP gets customer

Normally when a newspaper lays off, people just lose their jobs. In this case, Toronto Star is cutting 75 desk (editorial/layout) jobs, and contracting the service to Pagemasters North America, a unit of the Canadian Press news service. CP, which lost its biggest member, Canwest, a few years ago, has been branching out to other businesses to stay alive, including computerized layout services. At the end of the day, Torstar saves money and CP makes money. CP is an example of an “old” media adapting to current circumstances, as a lot of “old” media like radio do.

Bloomberg, Nov. 24 2009

Court upholds partial publication bans

Publication bans tend to be total (as in the Picton hog farm case) or not granted. Here is a case in which a judge upheld a partial publication ban, balancing the media’s right to know with the defendant’s right to a fair trial. Dense legalese to read through (and I’m not a lawyer, so if there is one out there, please feel free to comment.)

This was a case in which a temporary and limited restriction of the public’s right to know was necessary to prevent a real and substantial risk to the fairness of JR’s trial.

Law Times, November 23 2009

Wikipedia losing editors

Wall Street Journal reports that, the fifth most popular web site in the world, is losing millions of the volunteer editors who actually write, edit and police the entries. They’ve suffered a net loss of 49,000 editors in the first three months of 2009, compared to a loss of 4,900 a year earlier. That’s always been one of the more troubling aspects of the new media, it’s short attention span until the next hot program/site comes out.

From BNA Legal & Business Publishing, Nov. 24 2009

Harper praises press freedom, then ducks press

Some days Stgephen Harper is beyond irony. yesterday he was speaking at a banquet of the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada, singing the praises of Canadian media freedom while decrying the restrictions placed on media by places like China. Bravo Prime Minister! Then what does he do? He runs out behind the black curtain behind him to avoid actually talking to the press. Boo Prime Minister! Actually, there’s nothing wrong or unusual about Prime Ministers being wary to the point of hateful to media; better Prime Ministers than Harper (Pearson, Trudeau, Mulroney) were openlyl disdainful to media, but at least they were honest about it (Trudeau was so frustrated at his government’s inability to communicate through the media that he set up an agency called Information Canada that could provide direct information from government to the people, without the intermediation of media. The media immediately dubbed it PropCan.)

CTV, Nov. 22 2009

CBC tracking federal Ministers’ refusal to be on The Current

CBC is making a big deal about the number of times Harper’s Ministers decline to go on The Current. As usual, the CBC seem to feel it has a God-given right to call in a Cabinet minister or other guest whenever it wants to (I once had a reporter ask me, seriously, to call a physician out of heart transplant surgery because he, the reporter, was on a deadline. I declined.) Anyhoo, it’s a good long read, but the best part is the comment at the end: the CBC brass themselves rarely venture out to speak to the media, and only do so under tight conditions.

J-Source, Nov. 17

CJR opens debatge on gov’t support for newspapers in US

The Columbia Journalism Review in an editorial is calling for creative thinking to find a way for gov’t to support newspapers (if  roads and sewers are critical social infrastructure, why aren’t newspapers.) The Kent Commission in 1980 in Canada put out a report advising the same. The Edmonton Sun’s response was typical of media hysteria over government involvement in media: they ran a blank editorial page with only the words “If government gets involved with newspapers,  this is all they’ll let you read.”

If we don’t get beyond the rational but outdated fear of government help for accountability journalism—if we just let the market sort it out—this vital public good will continue to decline.

Columbia Journalism Review, Nov/Dec 2009

Canwest delisted from TSX

Well, it finally had to happen. Canwest, down slightly from $25 a share to 25 cents, has been delisted from the TSX. It’s now on the Venture Exchange, but it still is a risky investment. It probably will just vanish after the vultures have cleaned the bones.

CBC, Nov. 13 2009

CHEK Lives!

Yes, CHEK TV of Victoria, a former CanWest casualty, has been purchased by a consortium of local investors, former employees and CEP (Communications, Energy and Paperworkers), for the princely sum of $2. Though the odds against it are long (it’s been losing $12 million a year), perhaps a nonCanwest management can make a go of it. These kinds of labor/employee buys have sometimes been successful. Here’s hoping another lost media voice comes to life again.