Friday, August 30, 2013

TheScore launches newsroom, upgrades popular mobile sports app

The Globe's Steve Ladurantaye writes:

In an old Toronto office building with crooked floors and plenty of exposed brick, dozens of journalists are clumped together cranking out news updates for millions of sports fans around the world.
The 35-journalist newsroom at theScore Inc. is unique in the country – it exists solely to provide content to cellphones and tablets. Deadline is marked in 30 second increments – there is no traditional daily product to produce. It has been built to complement the company’s wildly popular app, which has been a leading source of game-related data for millions but struggles to keep users around once the final whistle blows.
The newsroom goes live Thursday after a months-long hiring spree in an industry that has been shedding jobs rapidly, as the free app’s 4.5 million users are offered an upgrade that will integrate news to the relentless stream of facts and numbers they’ve grown accustomed to receiving. A year after splitting the company’s digital operations into a new company after selling its television station to Rogers Communications Inc., theScore CEO John Levy is back in the news game.
“We’re developing something that is like nothing else around at any other media organization,” he says. “We’re giving people news the way they want to consume news – nobody seems to be beating us to that golden space.”
The company is operating in an odd niche. It doesn’t own any broadcast rights, but is dependent on live events to drive traffic to its app. It’s a media company, but doesn’t have any legacy business to protect as it targets the mobile market.

More (subscription may be needed)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

CRTC raises flag over ties between Corus, Shaw

Canada’s broadcast regulator is raising some tough questions about the relationship between Shaw Communications Inc. and Corus Entertainment Inc. as it prepares to review Corus’s $494-million acquisition of several television channels from BCE Inc., the Globe and Mail reports.
Corus is attempting to buy a group of cable networks, including Teletoon and Cartoon Network (Canada), that would build on its position as Canada’s largest provider of children’s programming.
The CRTC will hold a hearing into the deal in November. But before it can decide whether to approve it, the regulator is looking for proof that Corus is indeed independent from Shaw Communications. Both companies are controlled by the Shaw family of Alberta through special voting shares. Shaw Communications spun off Corus in 1999, and both have maintained separate listings on the Toronto Stock Exchange since then.

Bell Media president directed CTV, radio stations to provide favourable wireless coverage -- Carleton prof

Carleton professor Dwayne Winseck has posted a bombshell report that uncovers editorial interference at Bell with Bell Media President Kevin Crull issuing directives to CTV and company-owned local television and radio channels to provide favourable coverage of the wireless issue just as the incumbent campaign against Verizon was ramping up in early July.
Winseck posts details on internal company emails that indicate Crull sent the message to provide coverage on the CRTC-sponsored Wall Report:

Kevin Crull our President wants us to give this report some coverage….” and “Kevin is asking if this report can get some coverage today on Talk Radio. National news is covering for TV”.

Excerpt from Winseck's blog:

By the time the chain of emails is done, a veritable whose who of BCE’s executive suite have been brought into the loop:  Wendy Freeman, President CTV NEWS; Richard Gray (Head of News, CTV2); Ian Lurie (COO Astral Radio); Kevin Bell (General Manager/Sales Manager CTV Vancouver Island/C-Fax and KOOL FM); Eric Proksch, (VP and GM for Bell Media Radio); Charles Benoit (Astral); Chris Gordon, (President of Radio and Local TV news); Mirko Bibic (Executive VP and Chief  Legal and Regulatory Officer).
Perhaps this is not all that surprising. The stakes are high, given estimated wireless revenues of over $20 billion in 2012. Moreover, with the combined market capitalization of Bell, Rogers and Telus tumbling by roughly $8.4 billion (from $85 billion to $76.6 billion) between June 17 when Steven Chase and Rita Trichur at the Globe and Mail first broached the possibility of Verizon entering the Canadian wireless industry and yesterday, August 26th, the companies are doing whatever it takes to preserve their entrenched dominance of the Canadian wireless market and the bloated market capitalization levels that go along with a cozy oligopoly.
While it is understandable, perhaps, that BCE would deploy its journalistic resources to protect its place within the wireless oligopoly, this is not good for journalism or Canadians. It casts a cloud over the independence of CTV national news as well as news programs across the CTV2 network and Bell Media’s local tv and radio stations across the country. While we know of this particular instance, how many other directives from on high have been sent over not just this issue, but other ones in which Bell sees its interests at stake?

Monday, August 26, 2013

How it works between the press and the PMO

David Aikin writes about the Byzantine world of PMO news conferences in the wake of the shoving match between a PMO staffer and Chinese reporter.
Here is a link

On the Hill, the publication for which Aikin writes, features on its web Pierre Trudeau's 1970 news conference on the steps of the Centre Block during the FLQ crisis. That is where he said "Just watch me!" -- the much quoted response when asked how far he would go.

The free-wheeling exchange with reporters -- mainly Tim Ralfe, then with CBC -- is unimaginable today.

Video of the exchange
Direct link if it doesn't play from the window

Friday, August 23, 2013

Scuffle results when PMO refuses to let Chinese journalist ask a question of Harper

The Toronto Star's Tonda McCharles reports from Raglan Mine, Que.:

"A skirmish broke out at the end of Stephen Harper’s Arctic tour when a Chinese journalist tried to ask the prime minister a question.
"Li Xue Jiang, bureau chief for China’s People’s Daily, was told by a PMO media relations adviser he wasn’t allowed to ask a question because they’re limited to just five and are allotted to only Canadian journalists.
"Li lined up behind one reporter and exchanged words with another Harper staffer, a woman. He brushed her off once, and then pushed the shaken staffer hard off to the side, saying, “Not fair, not fair.” When Li grabbed the microphone, the prime minister’s personal security detail stepped in.
"RCMP officers hustled Li to the back of a massive building. “'I’m sorry . . . (that) this thing happened,' Li later said to Canadian reporters. But he insisted Julie Vaux, spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office, had pushed him first. Li was allowed to remain, but continued to argue that he had a right to ask a question.
"Li, an accredited member of the parliamentary press gallery, said he wanted to ask what was Canada’s stand on Chinese investment and foreign takeovers — an issue that has been up in the air since the Conservative government approved the purchase by the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation of Nexen.
"The Canadian media beforehand had agreed to give Li one of the five questions that the PMO had said Harper would take on Friday. Just before the announcement, Li and the Canadian media were told by a PMO staffer it wasn’t an option as the list had already been approved by the PMO.
" Li said the RCMP officers “said I couldn’t ask a question. I said why?” Li said he told the Mounties that Canadian journalists had agreed he could ask a question. “It’s not democratic.”

The Star has a photo sequence of the incident. Subscription needed.

(Harper and the whole PMO staff and the RCMP handlers should hang their head in shame. Anyone who has covered international events will know that this is unacceptable behavior by the PMO staff. -- Mostly Media)

Harrowing tale of a U.S. photographer who escaped Syrian captivity

C.J Chivers of The New Yorki Times writes:
"Matthew Schrier was helpless. An American photographer held in a rebel-controlled prison in the Syrian city of Aleppo, he and a fellow prisoner had been caught trying to gouge a hole in their cell’s wooden door. The captors took his cellmate, he said, beat him, and brought him back with blood-streaked ankles and feet.
"Now was Mr. Schrier’s turn.
"Wearing masks, his jailers led him out, sat him down and forced a car tire over his knees. They slid a wooden rod behind his legs, locking the tire in place. Then they rolled him over. Mr. Schrier was face down on a basement floor, he said, legs immobilized, bare feet facing up.
“'Give him 115,'one of his captors said in English, as they began whipping his feet with a metal cable.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ontario Press Council to hold public hearings on Rob Ford coverage

A complaint against a Toronto Star story that alleged Mayor Rob Ford was videotaped smoking crack cocaine will be the subject of a public hearing next month, the Ontario Press Council announced Monday.
In addition, the council will also look at a separate complaint against the Globe and Mail related to an article it wrote about the alleged drug dealings of Ford's brother, Coun. Doug Ford.
The decision to hold the public hearings follows a deluge of complaints against the newspapers over their coverage of the Fords.
The two complaints will serve as representative of the 41 received by the independent press council — six of which were in writing, the rest by phone.
"The council has determined that the issue to be addressed in each of the two hearings is whether the newspaper has engaged in irresponsible, unethical investigative reporting," council executive director Don McCurdy said in a statement.
According to Wikipedia, the Ontario Press Council is a voluntary media adjudication body which investigates complaints about newspapers in Ontario. The council was founded in 1972. In July 2011, Sun media withdrew 27 of its titles from the Ontario Press Council citing concerns over 'political correctness', leaving the council with  10 daily newspapers and 191 community newspapers.
The Council does not appear to have a web page.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Amanda Lindhout book reveals Somalia captivity despair

Lindhout's books will be released next month. From the CP story:

"Lindhout admits she was naive, travelling to a dangerous country for the thrill of adventure. The former cocktail waitress had saved her tips to backpack around the world before turning to freelance journalism to further fund her travels."
"She had earlier travelled on her own to Afghanistan and sold a story to her hometown newspaper, the Red Deer Advocate, and some photos to an Afghanistan magazine. She thought her career was advancing when she landed a job in Baghdad for Press TV, the English division of Iran's state broadcaster, but she says she quickly felt she was "part of a propaganda machine."
"She decided to take a chance on heading to Somalia. "The reasons to do it seemed straightforward. Somalia was a mess. There were stories there — a raging war, an impending famine, religious extremists and a culture that had been largely shut out of sight."
She knew it was dangerous but hoped to find a story that would launch her career."

The story

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Ottawa launches website to counter telecoms' claims

The Globe reports that the Federal Government has launched a website as a counterattack against the country's three major wireless carriers that asks Canadians “are you with us?” in its public spat with BCE Inc., Rogers Communications Inc. and Telus Corp.
Industry Minister James Moore used Twitter to announce the launch of the site –, which is the property of the Conservative Party of Canada – to his 15,000-plus followers on Friday, after calling a rival public campaign website launched by the big three,, part of a “dishonest” and “misleading” campaign to skew public debate.
The Globe's story

(Curiously, as noted above, the website is owned by the Conservative Party of Canada. Once upon a time, this would have been fought in newspaper ads.)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Roy Bonisteel, long time host of CBC's "Man Alive" dies at 83

Roy Bonisteel, long-time host of CBC's Man Alive program, has died at the age of 83, the Canadian Press reports.. Bonisteel hosted Man Alive from 1967 to 1989 and became a public speaker, writer and citizenship judge. His daughter Lesley told CP that her father had been battling cancer and passed away early Friday morning at his home north of Trenton, Ontario. Bonisteel, who was born in Ameliasburgh in Prince Edward County, Ont., started his career as a journalist at newspapers in Belleville and Trenton. He went on to become a radio announcer, in Belleville, St. Catharines and Vancouver. Bonisteel would turn his experiences as the host of Man Alive into writing material: he wrote two books that focused on interviews with figures such as Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama. He also wrote a memoir about his childhood on a farm in Ontario’s Bay of Quinte area, and a collection of magazine columns. In 1994, Bonisteel was named to the Order of Canada.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

San Francisco Chronicle pulls down its paywall

The San Francisco Chronicle has effectively pulled down the paywall that it erected in May. It has given no reason for the move. The news leaked out early this week when several past or present Chronicle staffers tweeted about the new strategy on Twitter. Chronicle officials confirmed that all Chronicle content will appear on SFGate at no charge, in addition to the web site, which has been charging subscribers to see some content for about four months. This year has seen fairly aggressive paywall projects at Postmedia, the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star. The debate goes on as to the value of such walls, which in a metropolitan area may ask anywhere from $9.99 a month (Toronto Star) to $19.99 a month (Globe). The most closely reasoned criticism of the paywall is that newspapers face equally unacceptable choices. It's possible to persuade a small percentage of their readers to pay for news but this will not recover the lost classified and display advertising that has been dispersed through other media. More than, online advertising may be impaired by a sharp reduction of eyeballs with the placement of the paywall. Another analyst says there is no way the papers can retrieve lost classified advertising. That business is now dominated by free sites such as Craigslist. Classified advertising is a subtle force in newspaper circulation. Through many decades metropolitan publishers understood that classified advertising was perhaps the most compelling inducement for a reader to buy the paper.   

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Baltimore Sun's Jack Germond dead at 85

Jack W. Germond, the irascible, portly columnist and commentator who was a fixture on the American political scene for nearly 50 years, including nearly 20 of them in The Baltimore Sun's Washington bureau, died Wednesday morning of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at his home in Charles Town, W.Va. He was 85. "Jack was a truly dedicated reporter and had an old-fashioned relationship with politicians. He liked them, but that did not prevent him from being critical when they did bad things and behaved badly. That was a trademark of Jack's," said Jules Witcover, his longtime writing partner. Baltimore Sun 

Sky News cameraman, Dubai newspaper reporter killed in Egypt violence

A cameraman for British broadcaster Sky News and a Dubai-based newspaper reporter were killed during violence in Egypt on Wednesday, the AP quotes their employers as saying. Sky said Mick Deane, 61, was shot and wounded while covering the violent breakup of protest camps in the capital, Cairo. It said he was treated for his injuries but died soon after. The rest of the Sky crew was unhurt. The Gulf News, a state-backed newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, reported on its website that journalist Habiba Ahmed Abd Elaziz, 26, was shot dead near the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo as security forces moved in on a sit-in by supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi. The newspaper said she had been on annual leave and was not on assignment at the protest for the XPRESS, a sister publication that she worked for. Sky said Deane had worked for the broadcaster for 15 years in the United States and the Middle East. He was married with two sons.

Monday, August 12, 2013

No more free news at as paywall goes up

The Toronto Star has announced it will  begin asking its web readers to pay for content starting on Tuesday.morning  The Star is Canada's largest paper by circulation.Word went out to staff that details of the program, including how much it costs, will appear in both the newspaper and online. The model will ask readers to pay for full access to online content with a digital subscription to the Star. Other Canadian media outlets have launched "metered" paywalls that allow readers to access a specific number of free articles each month before they're asked to pay for further content. The Globe and Mail and National Post have also set up paywalls. 

Star closes two online biz sites, 15 jobs lost

The Toronto Star has closed two online subscriber business sites in Hamilton and Mississauga after just a few months of operation. The Spec.

Hill Times on journalists vying for seat in Commons

Chrystia Freeland, Linda McQuaig and Jennifer Hollett are fighting to be the Liberal Party and NDP’s respective candidates in Toronto Centre. Green Party deputy leader Georges Laraque, a former NHL hockey player, is also a candidate in an upcoming Bourassa, Que., byelection
There are a number of star candidates vying for party nominations to contest byelections in three federal ridings, but the number of journalists battling for Toronto Centre shows how politics is changing, says Norman Spector. “Here you have high-profile, media-friendly, and serious people in the sense that they know how to communicate serious ideas. It’s so counter-intuitive to everything we’ve been experiencing in Canadian politics,” Mr. Spector, former diplomat and former chief of staff to former PM Brian Mulroney, told The Hill Times. Communications have always been of paramount importance in politics, he said, and elections have always featured star candidates, although he admitted “we are no longer talking about the great oratory of Lincoln—we are now talking about a good turn of phrase or an eight-second clip” because of television. The story

Thursday, August 8, 2013

One-stop spot for TV news channels proposal

In turning down the Sun News bid for a spot on basic cable (see below) the CRTC has called for opinions from both industry and the public on the suitability of what might be called an Info Alley somewhere on the cable TV spectrum. It would lump together Canadian all news channels and other news channels like al Jazeera and CNN in one place on the cable menu giving viewers a coherent one-stop shop for news. Right now, Sun News is lost in a blizzard of channels, each service putting it in a different place.  Paul Wells in Maclean's

CRTC denies Sun News a spot on basic cable

Sun News Network has been denied a guaranteed spot on basic TV packages in a CRTC ruling released today. The Quebecor-owned network did not successfully demonstrate to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that it met the criteria for a mandatory distribution order, the CRTC said. The CRTC also denied the application of 11 other networks but approved mandatory carriage for three new television services.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

‘A complete and total myth’: Discovery channel under fire for airing Megalodon ‘mockumentary’ during annual Shark Week

A Discovery network special that speculated about whether a giant prehistoric shark could still exist has drawn a passionate response from viewers and starkly raised the question about the worth of big ratings.The program, Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, opened Discovery’s annual “Shark Week” during the weekend. With an estimated 4.8 million viewers, it had the largest audience of any show in the 26 years that Discovery has made Shark Week a part of its summer programming, the Nielsen company said.Yet it drew a heated response online from viewers who said airing a “mockumentary” compromises the network’s reputation.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Linda McQuaig becomes third journalist to contest Toronto Centre byelection

Linda McQuaig, author and Toronto Star columnist, is announcing today that she is vying to be the New Democratic Party candidate in the Toronto Centre byelection, The Star's Susan Delacourt reports. It’s a decision prompted by what McQuaig said is a “particularly interesting moment” in Canadian politics right now and what she sees as the right time to “not just be on the sidelines commenting, but to jump in and try to actually bring about change.” McQuaig becomes the third journalist to take the leap into what’s shaping up to be a hotly contested race — within political parties and between them. She is running for the NDP nomination against Jennifer Hollett, who worked for Much Music, CBC and CTV. And about a week ago, international author and journalist Chrystia Freeland announced she would be seeking the Liberal nomination in the race to fill Bob Rae’s old seat in Parliament. More

Monday, August 5, 2013

Amazon founder Bezos buys Washington Post

Part of the aristocracy of U.S. newspapering is to be sold to a kid from New Mexico who made it big on the web. Jeff Bezos, controlling owner of Amazon will purchase the Washington Post. The paper's controlling owners, the Graham family, has agreed to sell its flagship newspaper for $250 million in cash. Bezos gets the The Post and affiliated publications to the Washington Post Co., which owns the newspaper and other businesses. Publisher Katharine Weymouth and chief executive Donald Graham released letters to staff late today. Seattle-based Amazon will have no role in the purchase; Bezos himself will buy the news organization and become its sole owner when the sale is completed, probably within 60 days. The Post Co. will change to a new, still-undecided name and continue as a publicly traded company without The Post thereafter. Jeffrey Preston "Jeff" Bezos (pronounced beɪzəs was born on January 12, 1964.  Mailonline 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

NYT takes historic hosing on sale of Boston Globe

The media seems to agree that the New York Times has taken an historic hosing on its investment in the Boston Globe. Sources as disparate as the conservative Breitbart online news to the lefty Guardian are amazed that the paper which the Times bought in 1993 for $1.1 billion has been unloaded for a mere $70 million. The new owner of the 141-year-old paper is Boston Red Sox owner John Henry. The price represents a  93% loss in 20 years. Of course, in 1993, the Internet was still not a household word. Those who knew about it understood very little of what it might mean. In October 2011 the NYT turned down an offer of $300 million for the Globe from the owner of the Orange County Register. One inducement to the Times to sell is said to be the all cash nature of Mr. Henry's offer. 

Great piece by The Star's Susan Delacourt comparing then and now in investigative journalism

"Watergate," the movie version
"When journalism helped set in motion the downfall of U.S. president Richard Nixon about 40 years ago, there was no such thing as email, YouTube or social media. Now it’s nearly impossible to imagine a scandal without them.
Nixon’s Watergate may have inspired a couple of generations of investigative journalism in the decades hence, but the tools and standards for truth in reporting have moved several dimensions beyond the 1970s.
When you think about it, in fact, a digital or electronic thread has been running through all the big scandals in the news the past few weeks and months — a type of evidence largely unavailable to the crusading reporters of decades past."
The whole story

Friday, August 2, 2013

The financial romance has gone out of Harlequin as Torstar Corp profit drops 44%

Torstar Corp. reported a sharp decline in profit in the second quarter as its media division continued to struggle with plunging print advertising revenues and even its book publishing business hit an unexpected lull.
Torstar, which publishes the Toronto Star and the Metro chain of free daily newspapers, said Wednesday that net income for the quarter was $18-million or $0.23 per share, down 44% from $0.41 per share in the same period last year.
Its romance novel publishing division Harlequin posted a surprising drop, said David Holland, president and chief executive of the Toronto-based company.
“We had anticipated lower earnings at Harlequin but not to this extent,” Mr. Holland said during a conference call with analysts. “Lower volumes, including a deterioration in overseas volumes, which we were concerned about in the last quarter, were responsible for the shortfall to expectations.”

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