Posts Tagged ‘News Media’

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. 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.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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When a friend gives a friend a lift.

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

This is not the prime minister’s problem. It must be the ethics and conflict of interest commissioner’s problem. This commissioner acts independently and reports to parliament on those issues that might involve the ethics or any conflict of interest on the part of federally elected persons. We hear that she is currently looking into a helicopter ride for Prime Minister Trudeau and his family to reach the private island of the Aga Khan in the Bahamas.

Forget the fact that the Aga Khan is the world-wide spiritual leader of about 25 million Ismaili Shia Muslims and he is one of the most progressive (and richest) leaders in the Muslim world. The Trudeau’s spent their Christmas break visiting the Aga Khan—who is a family friend.

And what do you do when a family friend sends a car to the airport to pick up you and the family. You accept graciously. You do not worry about checking first with the ethics and conflict of interest commissioner. It would be rude to the family friend. Do you offer to pay a friend whatever the cost for driver and fuel might be? Really?

The fact that the car in this case is a helicopter is irrelevant. If you can own an island in the Bahamas, having a private helicopter is just a convenience. There is only one major commercial airport for all those islands and having a helicopter is a smart move. And since it is the Aga Khan’s helicopter you would expect it to have both first-class maintenance and maybe even some divine intervention when flying in rough weather.

The ethics and conflict of interest commissioner has a tough job. We often wondered during the Harper years where the line was drawn for the PM’s personal hairdresser. It is certainly obvious that Justin Trudeau does not have a hairdresser, no matter how badly he needs one.

And we also think that the PM and his family have a complaint for the ethics commissioner. It is about the news media. Parliament goes to a good deal of expense and inconvenience to accommodate Canada’s fourth estate. They block corridors, ignore fire regulations, set up microphones where they want and generally create a nuisance. And to make matters worse, when the PM and his family want some private time on a family break, the media are complaining that he must be doing something sneaky and secret.

Christmas might be a Christian holiday but the entire country understands that Christmas and New Year’s are important times to be with family and friends. The ethics commissioner needs to remind the press gallery about their lack of manners.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Is Mulcair peaking too soon?

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

Gosh, reading and listening to some political pundits, you would think that the coming federal election is already decided. It is all over but the shouting. It is one of those times when you wish you could take all those bets from the suckers. Frankly, this political apparatchik would not bet on New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair for prime minister.

It is certainly interesting to try to imagine Thomas Mulcair as prime minister but reality keeps getting in the way. Recently we wrote about the New Democrat leader that Canada needs a prime minister, not a prosecutor. And it is easy to imagine him as a crown attorney. His style and focus in the House of Commons since becoming Leader of the Opposition has been precisely that. He goes after the Conservative government with a prosecutorial style that many crowns must envy. He is relentless, pains-taking, eloquent and thrusts deeply in revealing the error of the Tory ways.

But a prime minister has to be a leader. A person who wants to be prime minister can ill afford to get into a mud-wrestling contest with Conservative Party hatchet men. To allow himself to be accused of mismanaging funds provided by the taxpayers for the operation of MP’s constituency offices had to be handled firmly and immediately. It is an accusation that cannot be allowed to fester over an election.

He put his party policies out for all to see early. He was trying for political advantage but it was hardly an advantage when he stumbled in explaining his own plans. You have to do the simple arithmetic. You have to have the impact of new taxation at the tip of the tongue. You have to know where you are taking your party. It is hardly the role of the news media to try to explain your program.

And what is all this talk about being middle-class? The escape clause must be when he calls it his “middle class values.” That must be a person who is above being middle class but wants to be just plain “Tom.”

There must be a middle-class ghost somewhere in this on-going campaign. Everyone talks about the middle class but none of them are sure they have ever met anyone from Canada’s middle class.

Thomas Mulcair might think he has won. He might as well stay home.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Why is the Hair laughing at the TV Networks?

Monday, May 18th, 2015

Do you really think the Hair is going to debate any of his opponents in this fall’s election? Not if he can help it! It just is not in the Hair’s DNA. After three national elections with debates staged on the major television networks, you have got to understand how the Hair feels. He now knows that he does not have to do it.

Instead of negotiating, the Hair is letting the kids in short pants in his office screw the networks around. He knows that he can let his people dick the television people around until September and he can make the decision then. If he and his brain-trust think a couple debates are necessary, he will agree then—on his terms.

It is plain and simple arrogance. Why should he help create an audience for his opponents? He does not like them. He does not respect them. He barely tolerates them. He thinks it is funny to suggest that the Toronto Globe and Mail conduct a debate. He thinks this would be a more cerebral event. It could be a fiasco as it is hardly likely that the Globe has any people really experienced in that type of theatre.

And why should he tolerate television reporters? He is travelling with his own videographers these days who do what he tells them. He can put their clips out on the Internet for his like-minded sycophants. And they do not have to obey any rules but his.

Why should he cooperate with television people who just want to do gotchas?

And the joke is that the CBC is the only network that is actually fair to him. (Radio-Canada is equally fair as it treats all politicians badly.) CTV is not really fair but it is just equally incompetent in dealing with political material. And nobody seems to be running things at Global.

Just think back to the last television debates in 2011. The Hair stood there and ignored his opponents. Michael Ignitieff waited for some reasoned debate to start. Jack Layton seemed to be looking admiringly at the Hair. Gilles Duceppe attacked everyone. Elizabeth May was not allowed to attend because she asked the Hair the only intelligent questions in the 2008 debate. And the only question that stuck from the 2011 events was the rude question by Jack Layton on attendance in the House by the Liberal Party leader for which Ignatieff’s handlers had not prepared him.

And now the Hair’s people are telling us he wants more sympathetic debates than that. The only way they could be more in his favour would be if he was the only one allowed to ask questions. Though he would probably still bar Elizabeth May.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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It’s just not that funny.

Friday, May 15th, 2015

The Ottawa Press Gallery felt that Elizabeth May let them down at their annual dinner. They usually just throw stale dinner rolls at the poor performers. They tend to get too many who try but do not measure up. They think the politicians are going to entertain them by being funny.

Elizabeth was sick with a flu. She was exhausted and so would you be if you tried to match her schedule. She is trying so hard to hold things together as the only sitting member for her party in Ottawa. And she could not think of a Goddamn thing funny about her situation or the dreadful Harper government.

Many of us have stood at a microphone before in the wrong place at the wrong time and wished the floor would open up and help us to disappear. It took a compassionate cabinet minister to drag Elizabeth from the podium. All Elizabeth could do was to apologize.

But the time for apologies is now over. Stephen Harper never even goes to that sophomoric media event. He despises the news media anyway. He never has had a sense of humour. Go throw buns at him, you bums. Leave Elizabeth alone.

The other day at the end of another subject, we suggested that Elizabeth May bring her environmental program to the Liberal Party. There is little doubt that the Liberals should unanimously adopt the Green Party’s environmental agenda. It could not be done overnight but Elizabeth would not expect that even if she was Prime Minister.

But she should be the Minister of the Crown who sees to that environmental plan for a Liberal government. She and her party are not going to get proportional representation in Canada to get her party into any position of influence. Yet all she has to do is bring herself and her party into the Liberal fold and the Greens can have plenty of influence.

What the Green Party has to realize is that there are more Liberals ready and willing to support their environmental objectives than there are Green Party members. There is no competition there. There is no objection to many Green Party objectives because they are already Liberal Party objectives.

We all know that Justin Trudeau is conflicted on the Alberta tar sands exploitation. We need Elizabeth May to join the Liberals and explain things to young Trudeau. He has to understand that if Alberta cannot convert that bitumen to synthetic oil without destroying the environment of Alberta and neighbouring provinces, it should not be shipped anywhere. With a Liberal government in Ottawa and an NDP government in Alberta, we can take some major steps to saving this poor old planet.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Is it plagiarism or research?

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

The wife wants to stop delivery of the Toronto Star. The truth is that The Star costs us almost four times as much each year as it costs us to maintain this web site. And then we see an opinion piece this morning by our old friend Bob Hepburn that follows our Morning Line stories of early this month. Bob knows the difference between plagiarism and research but he should have also researched what a morning line is with his sports page buddies.

A morning line is prepared by a knowledgeable track person who can establish a reasonable basis for opening the betting for the race. Obviously Bob Hepburn is no handicapper.  And, obviously, if you are going to propose odds on a race, you hardly wait until the horses are at post and, in this case, you need to know a lot more about the politics and people involved.

But even Babel-on-the-Bay is not perfect. We wrote our morning line in the hiatus between Christmas and New Years. And we lost our only bet. We bet ten bucks with a computer-savvy person that MPP Eric Hoskins would beat MPP Harinder Takhar. You would have thought that was a safe bet. We lost.

We overestimated the influence of social media with the younger Liberals. We really hate Facebook and Twitter and all the rest of them. They are shallow, intrusive and people who follow them usually need to get a life. We should have guessed that smart young Liberals might feel the same.

It was only just before the electoral district voting last week that Eric Hoskins came to Babel and we had a chance to see how young people reacted to him. We asked Eric a loaded question and then watched the young people especially as he answered. He was boring them. He never answered the question. He deserved to come last. From a positive and interesting start to his campaign, he became dull and desperate.

But we were right about the rest. Sandra Pupatello came first, as expected. And she has the potential to grow. MPP Kathleen Wynne might be a close second but she has little growth potential. And posing Wynne as progressive is a joke. All that people are doing with that line is trying to keep Gerard Kennedy from moving up to be a real contender. Gerard is the only political progressive in the race and that was where Babel’s young people went.

MPP Charles Sousa can relax, as his position in the party is secured. You might think the same for MPP Harinder Takhar but being a go-between with a specific ethnic group is not always the key to a political future.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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The perfect hair of Stephen Harper.

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

It is amazing what can get readers interested. A story the other day mentioned the Prime Minister’s exquisite hairpiece. Lo and behold, we get e-mails pro and con the idea that the guy wears some hair that might not have his follicles. So what? Only his hairdresser knows what is real and what is not.

Okay, hands up everybody who thinks that is all Stephen’s real hair. Quiet. We are counting here.

Next, can we have hands up by everyone who is sure that Stephen wears a rug.

That settles it. Readers of Babel-on-the-bay are a pretty knowledgeable bunch. They ‘ayes’ have it. Stephen’s rug appears to be general knowledge.

Having viewed the various iterations of Stephen Harper over the years, it is obvious that the first hairpiece was in place in the 90s. It was lank and lacked the iron-grey strength of today’s more professional pieces. After all, he could only get the cost of his full-time hairdresser covered after becoming Prime Minister back in 2006. With all Stephen Harper’s travels around the world, his hairdresser probably has more air travel time in an Airbus A310 than most of the Canadian Forces Air Transport Command pilots.

This is probably the same hair and make-up specialist that Harper hired away from CTV back when he defeated Paul Martin and moved into his first minority government.  Stephen seems to keep her busy. We hear that she not only does his hair, fixes his make up—you can see the eye-liner when he does a TV bit—uses a lint remover to fix his suits and, we suppose, even does the fast check of his clothes, shoes and makes sure his fly is done up. Hey, maybe that is why he is often late for media and photo sessions.

To really see the scope and placement of his hairpieces, you have to have a camera person shooting tight head and shoulders shots outside on a windy day. You will notice that the straight front of the hair across the forehead will sometimes shift slightly, as a single piece. It happens when she has not used enough glue. It would take a force eight gale to disturb a single strand of that hair with all the lacquer she sprays on it.

Maybe we can have some fun criticizing Stephen’s hairpiece in our blog but it is hardly a subject worthy of the lads and lassies of our nation’s fourth estate. They need to check for substance in the man. And if they ever find any, maybe they could let the rest of us know about it.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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