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Commentary

Reader’s Digest increasingly ambitious

Peter Stockland, editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest Canada, is out to rock the boat. A story by Dana Lacey in the latest Ryerson Review of Journalism says the magazine is starting “to get noticed again. Peter’s plan to develop longer, more culturally engaging features, to bring long-form journalism back to the brand made famous by shortening articles, might work.”

Continue Reading Reader’s Digest increasingly ambitious

Warren Buffet’s cure for online journalism

In a piece that’s essential reading for anyone interested in the business of journalism, CNNMoney.com has a story on the challenges facing the Washington Post

It includes this nugget from Post director and shareholder Warren Buffett, on the topic of online journalism: “The ideal combination would be if the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Post had a joint website, and you couldn’t get any one individually. That, you could sell for a fair amount of money, and it would have one hell of a readership.”

Ya, but would that be before or after Rupert Murdoch has his hands on the WSJ?

Hat tip: Romenesko

Continue Reading Warren Buffet’s cure for online journalism

Search on for CBC president

The federal government has started looking for a new president for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. to replace Robert Rabinovitch, whose second term ends in November, reported Canadian Press.
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Quebec journalists protest hospital expulsion

Quebec’s federation of journalists protests the expulsion of a journalist from a Laval hospital:

        QUEBEC, le 26 juillet /CNW Telbec/ – La Fédération professionnelle des
journalistes du Québec (FPJQ) section de Québec dénonce l’expulsion d’un
journaliste, hier matin à l’Hôpital Laval, geste qu’elle juge abusif.
        Le journaliste Jean-François Labrie, du FM 93, s’est rendu hier matin à
l’Hôpital Laval dans le but de rencontrer la famille d’une patiente. Les gens
avaient eux-mêmes contacté M. Labrie, parce qu’ils souhaitaient dénoncer le
changement de chambre de la patiente en question.
        Alors qu’il marchait et discutait avec les gens, dans les corridors de
l’hôpital, M. Labrie s’est fait interpeller par trois agents de sécurité.
Après lui avoir demandé s’il était journaliste, ceux-ci l’ont sommé de quitter
les lieux sous peine de contacter les policiers. M. Labrie n’avait pas de
calepin, de caméra, d’enregistreuse. Il souhaitait vérifier les informations
recueillies de visu.
        “Déjà, les journalistes doivent se heurter au pare-feu des
portes-paroles, dans les hôpitaux. Or tout bon journaliste se doit de vérifier
de la façon la plus rigoureuse possible une situation, dont un cas d’abus
possible à l’encontre d’un patient”, a souligné Karine Gagnon, présidente de
la FPJQ section de Québec.
        Le règlement de l’Hôpital Laval stipule notamment que “toute présence des
médias d’information doit être adressée aux communications et relations
publiques de la Direction générale et que toute présence des médias
d’information dans l’hôpital doit être signalée au Service de sécurité. Un
usager qui souhaite être photographié ou filmé doit également remplir un
formulaire écrit.”
        “Il s’agit pour nous d’une façon détournée de contrôler l’information,
une situation qui nous inquiète”, de conclure Karine Gagnon.

    
Continue Reading Quebec journalists protest hospital expulsion

Journalism at sea on a “ship of fools”

This piece is worth reading, partly for a summer laugh and partly because it’s one British writer’s wry take on a large and influential chunk of the American media audience. An excerpt from “Ship of Fools” by the Independent’s Johann Hari:

I lie on the beach with Hillary-Ann, a 35-year-old California designer. When I hear her say, “Of course, we need to execute some of these people,” I wake up. Who do we need to execute? “A few of these prominent liberals who are trying to demoralize the country,” she says. “Just take a couple of these anti-war people off to the gas chamber for treason to show, if you try to bring down America at a time of war, that’s what you’ll get.”

I am traveling on a bright white cruise ship with two restaurants, five bars, a casino – and 500 readers of the National Review. Here, the Iraq war has been “an amazing success.” Global warming is not happening. The solitary black person claims, “If the Ku Klux Klan supports equal rights, then God bless them.” And I have nowhere to run.

From time to time, National Review – the bible of American conservatism – organizes a cruise for its readers. I paid $1,200 to join them. The rules I imposed on myself were simple: If any of the conservative cruisers asked who I was, I answered honestly, telling them I was a journalist. Mostly, I just tried to blend in – and find out what American conservatives say when they think the rest of us aren’t listening.

Two questions: An editor should have asked the writer to identify just who that Canadian judge was. And, when will some wit take on a similar assignment, reporting on the Canadian version of these cruises — the ones organized by the Western Standard?

Hat tip to Janet Tate’s press notes at the (U.S.) Society of Professional Journalists
Continue Reading Journalism at sea on a “ship of fools”

CanWest executive retires

A senior CanWest executive is retiring. The Asper family will consolidate more of its control over the media monolith as Leonard Asper takes over the responsibilities of outgoing Peter Viner. Here is today’s press release:

        WINNIPEG, July 18 /CNW/ – CanWest Global Communications Corp. President and CEO, Leonard Asper, today announced the retirement of Mr. Peter D. Viner, President and CEO, Canadian Operations, of CanWest MediaWorks Inc.
        Mr. Viner joined CanWest in 1974 and has held a number of senior positions since that time, most recently as head of CanWest’s Canadian operations. Mr. Viner will continue to serve the Company in a variety of advisory capacities and will maintain his directorships with a number of CanWest subsidiaries.
        “We want to sincerely thank Pete for his passion and dedication to CanWest. We are fortunate that we will continue to benefit from his experience and intellect through his ongoing involvement with CanWest,” said Mr. Asper.
        As a result, divisional operating heads previously reporting to Mr. Viner will now report directly to Mr. Asper.
Continue Reading CanWest executive retires

Murdoch buys WSJ, says report

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has reached a tentative agreement to purchase of Dow Jones & Co.  The story on the web site was free to non-subscribers as of late Monday. A New York Times report is here.

It’s apparently true: everything really is for sale.
Continue Reading Murdoch buys WSJ, says report

Massive media coverage of Black verdict

A Canadian Press story by Merito Ilo takes a look at the international media coverage of Conrad Black’s conviction, noting that “stories published Saturday in the U.S., British and Canadian media, including some newspapers that belonged to Black’s former media empire, Hollinger International, differed only in their choice of words, but not in their “he got what he deserved” attitude.”
Continue Reading Massive media coverage of Black verdict

Conrad Black convicted; expected to appeal

Conrad Black has been convicted on four criminal charges, including obstruction and three counts of mail fraud. He was found not guilty on nine other charges. He now faces the prospect of as much as 35 years in jail.

A Globe and Mail story is here. A CP story is here.

Black’s tale strikes me as tragic. He had a rare shining brilliance that would have allowed him to achieve so much, to create a legacy — for his country, for journalism, for society, for his family name. Instead there is … well, this mess.

Like most everyone excepting a small following of ideological sycophants, I very often disagreed with Black’s actions and views. Like many others, I also greatly respected Black’s significant investment in real journalism and the fact that he actively created space for
those who disagreed with him to have their say. (Disclosure: toward the end of its ownership by Black’s Hollinger, I was on the editorial board of the Vancouver Sun.)

I heard Black speak in Vancouver at a Fraser Institute lunch after he’d sold what could have become one of the world’s great newspaper chains to CanWest, after he dumped his Canadian citizenship to accept the title of the English “Lord Black.” The self-indulgent, taunting speech he gave was loaded with long, complicated and seemingly-erudite words, but all it amounted to was “Lord Black” taking a long pungent piss on everything Canadian. Since then, colleagues tell me, Black changed; in recent years he even praised Canada. It was all too late.

Black is expected to appeal the U.S. court verdict, and maybe he can erase the legal stain. What he cannot erase is the fact he sold out his legacy and his country. 
Continue Reading Conrad Black convicted; expected to appeal

Murdoch and the WSJ

Ken Auletta takes an in-depth look at the takeover attempt of the WSJ by Rupert Murdoch — which seems to be proceeding like a juggernaut — and how Murdoch keeps his promises. Or not. An excerpt:

Those who are suspicious of Murdoch’s pledges of noninterference recall what happened when he first extended his press holdings beyond his native Australia, nearly forty years ago: he persuaded the Carr family of London to sell him the sensational tabloid News of the World, and promised to run the paper in partnership with the family that had owned the paper for nearly eighty years; he abandoned this pledge after learning, he said, that to honor it would harm shareholders because the Carrs had created “a total wreck of a company.” When he bought the New York Post from Dorothy Schiff, in 1976, he publicly pledged to leave its liberal editorial stance unchanged, saying, “The New York Post will continue to serve New York and New Yorkers and maintain its present policies and traditions”—and promptly reversed course. But Murdoch’s approach may best be seen in what happened after he bought the influential and once storied Times of London and the Sunday Times, in 1981. At the time, English journalists asked their Australian-born colleague Phillip Knightley to analyze how Murdoch might behave, and as Knightley now recalls, “The point I made was that Murdoch came from a tradition very different from European and American proprietors. In Australia, a proprietor owned the paper and considered it was his to do whatever he liked with it. Proprietors used their newspapers to support or oppose political parties, settle private feuds, and cross-promote their other interests. Any idea that they could not do this would have met with bewilderment.”
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