Posts Tagged ‘News Media’

In defence of print media.

Thursday, September 12th, 2019

Starting the day with coffee and the newspaper is a formula that works for me. The coffee wakes me and the newspaper introduces the day, informs, incites and inspires me. The ageless love for print news is my only bow to conservatism. It is a model that has its origin hundreds of years ago in civilized history. It is a model that has constantly been challenged by technology.

The challenges started more than 100 years ago. Initially, communications professionals had watched radio position itself as a news medium to the consternation of print media. It was a live and let live process as it sorted out the winners and losers. And it happened again when television challenged both radio and print. They had to change and accommodate each other.

But where we are failing today is in recognizing that the Internet needs to be accommodated in the same way. Nobody realized that our politicians would fail so badly in recognizing what that accommodation meant. When the new kid on the block lacks the disciplines and controls that impact all the other kids, you have allowed trouble on the street. The failure to tax and set realistic standards for the Internet has allowed this medium to have an unfair advantage over the older, established media.

There would be nothing stupider than for government to give money to preserve print media when it fails to tax or control the Internet that is causing the losses to print media. Government is there to level the playing field—not to decide who is to survive.

The people who make the ultimate decisions are the users. The only thing that users have to realize is that we all benefit if the rules are the same for all media. If an editor goes to jail for publishing false information, then Facebook and blogs must try for similar standards. And if a billboard company pays sales taxes on renting a billboard, then Google should pay taxes on its advertising transactions.

You will never convince this reader that print media is for dinosaurs. Print is a self edited version of news that is efficient and satisfying. Radio and television news are linear and you have to go through the boring to get to the stuff of interest. And on the Internet, you are never sure if you are being told the truth unless you can trust the source.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

‘Yesteryear Politicos’ and ‘Tired Advice.’

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

(This posting has been modified to include some corrections. I apologize for the earlier errors.)

Most people are probably unaware that they can get a good laugh about Canadian politics from the Ottawa digital newsletters, Hill Times or iPolitics, almost every day.

Back when you could get complete samples of the newsletters, I determined that the average ages of their opinion writers might be about those of my grandsons. While I am very proud of them (my grandsons), they do not have the experience needed to contribute much in the way of opinions on Canadian politics. Nor do I find the opinions I have read from both publications show much experience.

Since iPolitics is owned by the Toronto Star, you would think that Susan Delacourt or some of the Star’s old timers would pitch in occasionally to give the kids a hand.

What prompted this comment was the hilarious plaint from Hill Times writers yesterday that the green party had reached into the past. They were engaging “in politics of (a) bygone era” and had hired “a politico from yesteryear” to be in their “war room.”

I can remember in the early 2000s when liberals asked me who was this upstart Kinsella running some ‘war room’ for the liberals? It makes sense to me that green leader Elizabeth May needs even more help to keep her green troops in line.

Before I knew that the Toronto Star had bought iPolitics, I had even offered the newsletter some of my expertise. They did not seem interested and that is their loss.

In any event, the better story than the green party’s desperation is the war room being created out in Calgary. This is Alberta premier Jason Kenney’s answer to people who do not agree with him. That should be a very busy war room.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

No facts please, a Toronto Star editorial.

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

It is always assumed that editorials in newspapers are more about opinions than facts. And that makes the Toronto Star just as biased as the National Post. The other day the Star’s editorial was a full-bore, full column support for our prime minister’s pipeline. Like the PM, it was small on facts but big on hyperbole.

It promised you that it would take the average reader six minutes to read the editorial. It would take a generation to forgive. Mind you, like a stopped clock, the editorial was occasionally right. Yes, the original pipeline is more than 60 years old. Yet, they are going to heat the contents of the line, increase the pressure and add a second pipe along side the first, to effectively triple the throughput.

And then they start to lie to the reader. They say “Sending the oil through a pipeline, rather than by more dangerous rail, to Vancouver won’t increase the province’s carbon footprint.”

Other than implying that railways are an unsafe way to transport goods, this is a doubly ridiculous statement. The pipeline is not just being twinned. It is being repurposed to carry diluted bitumen from the Alberta tar sands. That is not ‘oil.’

Converting bitumen to ersatz crude oil is the most polluting process carried out by refineries. The refining process for bitumen creates tonnes of carbon slag. And if your refinery is in Alberta or is one of the ‘tea cup’ refineries in Northern China, you are still producing this carbon to pollute our earth. We only have one earth at present and we need to think of that occasionally.

If the editorial writer assumes that the excessive pollution of Canadian bitumen does not weigh on Canadians and come back to us, the writer has no understanding of the earth’s atmosphere.

But the writer tells us: This is the opinion of the Star’s editorial board. Do not bother us with facts.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Circle your wagons; they’re on the warpath.

Saturday, June 15th, 2019

And here we thought war rooms in politics were a thing of the past? Now we see that the Toronto Sun has resurrected the idea with a one-time liberal in command. This must be the companion war room that PostMedia, owners of the Sun, promised Alberta premier Jason Kenney to complement his war room against the ‘lying’ eastern media. This includes those particular media that do not approve of Kenney’s province shipping highly polluting tar sands bitumen in pipelines or any other way.

I checked out what must have been a podcast coming from PostMedia’s Sun war room. I was not impressed. It was a seemingly tired diatribe against prime minister Justin Trudeau. It was, what it was.

But it seems Paul Godfrey and friends are taking an ‘anything goes’ approach to this election campaign. While PostMedia publications are well known for their conservative bias, bias might be too mild a word for their current stance.

Despite Trudeau’s insistence (to this time) that he is intent on finishing twinning the Trans Mountain pipeline, it is not fast enough for Kenney and PostMedia. It is not really ideal for democracy when you consider that PostMedia with both the Herald and Sun newspapers in Calgary and both the Journal and Sun newspapers in Edmonton dominate Alberta media with a combined daily circulation of well over two million copies.

PostMedia is majority owned by American Media Inc. (AMI) which has a stayed indictment by the southern district of New York federal prosecutor office on condition of good behaviour for three years, until September 2021. This possible prosecution was over some improprieties believed to be in support of Donald Trump’s presidency. It was because of this that AMI was forced to sell the National Enquirer and other similar publications.

Canadians have never been too impressed with the National Post or any other PostMedia publications. I tend to think of them as Paul Godfrey and Conrad Black’s legacy.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

War Rooms from the political past.

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

It started back in the late 1970s and 80s when Senator Keith Davey, some of us liberal apparatchiks and the marketing communications experts, who volunteered their time, started to look on other parties as enemy combatants. I was even quoting Carl von Clausewitz’ On War when talking about campaigning to groups of party faithful. It was a stretch, but also fun, talking about beating your opponents with a war-like strategy.

The idea became somewhat passé later in the 80s when we were contending with the Mulroney government in Ottawa. It was also when a couple of New York advertising guys, Al Ries and Jack Trout, came out with a book on Marketing Warfare. It was practically Campaigning 101. We had to concede that the opposition could also read.

But the best war rooms in politics or in war are the ones nobody knows about. You can brag afterwards if you really want but in any election campaign I ever ran, the only person allowed in the committee rooms with an ego was the candidate.

This concept of a war room has become so common that PostMedia in Toronto wants to buy in on the action of Alberta premier Jason Kenney’s Energy War Room he is setting up to fight what he considers to be disinformation and lies by special interest groups in the coming election. Just why a newspaper would want to so blatantly support a province and a party in interfering with the federal election, leaves me cold. Mind you, PostMedia gave up all pretentions of neutrality in elections a long time ago.

The only problem is that Jason Kenney is not the type of person with whom you want to share any kind of room, let alone be on the same side in an election. Kenney is misogynistic, a mean-spirited schemer and a generally nasty politician.

He explains his rationale for an Energy War Room is to police the eastern media. He wants to make sure that they never use the word ‘bitumen’ when talking about what Albertans call the highly polluting, high-carbon, ‘heavy oil’ from the tar sands.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Saluting Salutin.

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

Maybe you have never wasted much time on reading Toronto Star writer Rick Salutin. I have never considered his opinions of importance or particularly well founded. I have had the impression, that the Star editors just keep him on standby to fill empty spaces in the next edition. His recent effort discussing the B.C. referendum on proportional voting is probably a good example.

Here is Salutin, a week after the results were announced, panning the referendum and claiming that B.C. voters rejected a more democratic voting option and stayed instead with what he refers to as the odious first-past-the-post. You have to admit, this guy knows where he stands.

In a country where even six-year olds are encouraged to send a letter to Santa Claus, Salutin thinks using the services of the post office are too much for our young voters. This is why he objects to the mail-in voting used for the referendum. He thinks it was mainly those risk-adverse seniors who turned thumbs down on change.

He uses the example of the Swiss, who hold more referenda than Canadians and use the mails as well. He notes that most Swiss referenda lose, though it is not clear what point he is making. When visiting Switzerland, I have found progressive to be a somewhat rare human condition.

I lost track of where Salutin was going when he started talking Chartism (a mid 19th century human rights movement) and he then got into railing against neoliberalism. He also seemed to be concerned that the referendum was brought on by the sense of entitlement among the Green and NDP parties to gain them a larger representation in a proportionate legislature.

But he does not seem to want them to have expanded representation because they are not left-wing enough for him. Too bad.

And then he goes on to discuss non-parties such as the Yellow Vests in France. I like to think of them as more like the Occupy Movement in North America—but with flame throwers.

Luckily, I read the entire piece by Salutin. He had thrown in an ‘OTOH’ that I did not understand and something similar. At the end, he had an “IMHO’ which I believe means ‘in my humble opinion.’ I can really appreciate that he is humble about it.

But it would help if the Toronto Star gave Mr. Salutin some copy editing assistance.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Holding Honderich’s Hypocrisy.

Saturday, October 13th, 2018

It is this writer’s observation that John Honderich of the Toronto Star can be among the most puffed up of self-important Canadians. In an opinion piece on page two of his own publication the other day, Honderich bemoaned the lack of financial support for journalism by the federal government. He appears to resent that federal government advertising goes to the media that provides the lowest cost per thousand impressions.

What really galled in this self-serving whining was the list following the story of the 137 newspapers in Canada that have been closed over the past decade. It was interesting going through the list and marking the newspapers where Honderich and TorStar sent out the pink slips. Hypocrisy makes it hard to tell what Honderich is really complaining about!

There is no doubt that the world of journalism is continuing to change. We can be impressed with some of the digital conversions of great papers such as the New York Times and the Guardian in England but Canadian journals trying to convert to digital existence have not been particularly successful to-date. In fact, TorStar did a better job on its first digital iteration than it has done on the latest confusion.

But my problem is that the wife has taken to adding up what we are spending on news media. Reading the Toronto Star in print form over breakfast every day costs a heck of a lot more than I spend on this web site each year. Babel-on-the-Bay.com is a fun hobby. Reading the Toronto Star has always been a habit.

What worries me is that the Trudeau government and his cabinet ministers in training might start to throw money at traditional media. All they would accomplish would be to create more delays in bringing Canadian journalism into the 21st century. Newspapers, radio and television have to find their own path to the future.

We could get better results for Canadians though by putting the money into teaching our kids how to spell and use reasonably understandable grammar. No doubt language can change and improve over time. We should never have to grow old and have to listen to and read absolutely appalling English and French. Better language skills enable all of us to be more easily understood in an increasingly complex world.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

In defence of local media.

Friday, May 18th, 2018

It came as a surprise the other evening to learn that for the past two years, NDP activist Gerry Caplan has also been a resident of Barrie, Ontario. He had been invited to participate on a panel of mourners for the late, and frankly unlamented, Barrie Examiner newspaper. By the time Torstar wrote fini on the Examiner saga, it had been through more hands than a Dunlop Street hooker on a busy night.

I congratulated Dr. Caplan later for bringing a bit of humour to the discussion. I was less than pleased with the performance of the moderator Robyn Doolittle, a working journalist from the Toronto Globe and Mail. She offered clear evidence that she had no idea of what a community might be or how you hold it together.

The other two panelists were walking wounded from the demise of the late community newspapers in Barrie and Orillia. One was the former editor from the venerable Orillia Packet and Times and is obviously struggling with his new career as a reporter for an Internet-only newspaper.

As a one-time managing editor, I could have easily told them the realities of Torstar killing the Examiner and keeping its weekly grocery flyer wrap called the Barrie Advance. The editorial content of the Advance is only there as a form of bilge balancing but it is the only print media in a city of over 140,000.

Regrettably Barrie is not a community in itself. As a Barrie matron explained to us when we came here, you have to have three generations in a local cemetery before you can say you are from Barrie. It is a city of 30,000 with 110,000 interlopers who just live here. It is the fastest growing city in Canada. City council tries to please the 30,000 real Barriites and ignores the rest of us.

I tend to look at Barrie as a challenge in communication. As a former political activist, I look at the problem of reaching people in two electoral districts that split the city in half and add rigidly conservative rural areas to each half. The federal conservatives gerrymandered it that way to keep the area voting conservative. The local liberals had no clue they were being shafted.

While I found the panel discussion interesting, the lack of understanding of how to pull the community together was the panel’s problem. Nothing accomplished; we went home.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Donald Trump Lite and the Ontario PCs.

Sunday, March 11th, 2018

After spending Saturday afternoon watching Rosemary Barton and CBC News struggling with the Ontario Conservative fiasco, I was not sure whether the party or the news media did the worst job. It was embarrassing. I actually paid the CBC $6.85 plus GST for the right to watch that screw-up on streaming video. And I want my money back.

I spent a career working on news conferences, conventions, political rallies, candidate selections and leadership contests across Canada. I always worked to the rule that whatever happens is supposed to happen and you live with it.

But I never considered that you could have a disaster such as the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leadership announcement.

The worst of it was that nobody seemed to be in charge. There seemed to be nobody willing to deal with the news media. There was no information shared with the attendees. They waited for hours without anyone coming to the microphone to apologize for the delays and then they were sent home without answers. Like wayward children, they were sent to bed without their supper.

What really amazes me is that when you are using computer collection of data (such as voting) that you would not write the simple program needed to count those votes. The only time I complained about the weighting of the ridings is when I tried to simulate a program to do that in preparing Babel-on-the-Bay’s Morning Line.

I estimated that there would be less than 70,000 votes cast. It was also clear that Tanya Granic Allen was the fringe candidate. She did better than expected but still came fourth.

It was the collapse of the Caroline Mulroney campaign that surprised us. Like her father, her campaign was just hot air. She blew it.

But it was the attempt to make all electoral districts equal that left the Tories in a mess. Like the electoral college in the U.S., the Tories had an undemocratic system. In the end, Christine Elliott won the most votes and Doug Ford won the election.

All I could think of last night was that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne had a chance to resign last year. We can only hope that she takes a look at what Hillary Clinton did wrong in the last U.S. election. She has to remember that there are lots of angry conservatives in Ontario. Her and her party have to win the rest.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

What ‘New’ Democratic Party?

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

We are hearing that ‘Love is in the air’ and the New Democratic Party of Canada is facing the future to the beat of new drums. Everyone anticipates that this new day will start with the election of the new leader of the party. And if you believe all this guff, I have a fine piece of swampland in the Ontario north in which you might want to invest.

The first part of all this B.S. is the news media believing the NDP is a social democratic party. That is further from the facts that any human can throw. When the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) was founded by Tommy Douglas and J.S. Woodsworth in 1932, it was a socialist party with agrarian roots.

In 1961, the CCF became the base of the New Democratic Party (NDP). It was a deal made with the Canadian Labour Congress and the party structure was committed to organized labour. It was and still is a party of labour. That is not the basis for social democracy. Labour can best be described as organized collectivism. It is a mutual protective society. It is rarely interested in the overall concerns of its society—other than when it affects them.

Social democrats are people who can work within a democratic structure to effect reforms. They are progressives who want to build a better future for their society. They recognize the rights of the individual ahead of the collective. They build on human excellence.

But who among the four candidates really understands this need for a social democratic party? Who is the progressive? And who can lead?

Listening to the four candidates on Sunday in Hamilton it was obvious that Guy Caron was the thinker. The Quebec MP had the positions that he felt the party should take. What he could not demonstrate was the leadership the party needs.

Charlie Angus was up to the challenge. The Northern Ontario MP showed his empathy for the long-time party members who want to help define where the party is going. He was the only one to note the need to keep the faith with seniors and promised to advocate for them.

Niki Ashton was also in good form. The Manitoba MP showed that she was the last true prairie socialist and she stuck to her guns.

The newcomer Jagmeet Singh showed up with his drummers. The Ontario MPP brought some showmanship to the event.

What nobody brought was a future for Canada’s New Democrats.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me