Newspapers holding their own, says report

There’s cause for optimism among print journalists in a new report from the Canadian Newspaper Association:
        TORONTO, Sept. 19 /CNW Telbec/ – Newspapers are continuing to hold their own in Canada’s increasingly fragmented media environment, Anne Kothawala, President and CEO of the Canadian Newspaper Association said today in a statement responding to the release by NADbank (Newspaper Audience Data Bank) of readership data in four Canadian markets.
        “The data confirms that newspaper readers continue to find value in the pages of Canada’s daily newspapers, whether in print or online,” Ms. Kothawala said.
        “The story the numbers don’t tell, but that needs to be underscored, is who our readers are, and how are they reading the newspaper,” she continued.
        “Newspaper readers are an important demographic group with higher levels of disposable income. They crave information, whether editorial, news, or advertising. They talk about what they read and see, and influence their friends and family. In assessing the continuing vitality of newspapers, we must also measure the quality of our readership and their level of
engagement,” she said.
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Engaging writing

One way I judge “good” print journalism is whether a story grabs me, sucks me in and holds my attention until the very last word, no matter my underlying interest in the subject. It helps if the story includes storytelling phrases that delight while delivering solid reporting. A great example of such writing is this Canadian Press story by Dean Bennett, about a public opinion survey. The poll assessed shared values among Canada’s four western provinces — potentially eye-glazing stuff. Bennett, however, wrote the piece around interviews with comedians. He included such lines as, “a frustrating exercise in Silly Putty stretchability” and “like making a fist in a bowl of oatmeal.” And he had some comedy fun himself, ending the story with: “How many Torontonians does it take to change a light bulb?” And no, I’m not going to spoil it — you have to read the piece yourself for the punch line.
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Neo-conservative Standard closing

The ideological Western Standard magazine will stop printing after three years and 82 publications, and remain an online entity only, says founder Ezra Levant according to reports.

“It’s not that we’re an important part of independent journalism, sometimes we’re the only independent journalistic voice,” Levant told CanWest. “Sometimes we were the only people who had an impact because we were the only ones who were independent enough to do it.” (I suspect those at the Tyee, Straight Goods, local weeklies and publicly-owned and mainstream outlets like the Georgia Straight would disagree.)

One thing the Standard did do independently, and nearly alone in the Canadian media landscape, was to re-print the so called “Mohammed” cartoons that originated in Europe and caused a worldwide kerfuffle.

There’s only one thing that I really want to know: will the cruises for conservatives continue? The website says only that the 2008 cruise is postponed.

October 5, 2007: More from Levant in the Western Standard blog.
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Internet: neutrality and CRTC hearings

The CRTC will begin seven days of hearings Oct. 9 on wholesale Internet access, or as the commission says, “the regulatory framework for telecommunications wholesale services.” Rogers, Shaw and Quebecor will represent the industry; the Competition Bureau and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre are also expected to appear.

Another Internet development this week is a poll released by Leger Marketing about Net Neutrality, which suggests that Canadians strongly support the Internet as a public commons. Read more for the details, via a press release.

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Anna Politkovskaya’s murder

On the anniversary of the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, Reporters Without Borders staged a ceremony at the Trocadero human rights plaza in Paris. The press rights group displayed photos of Vladimir Putin and Politkovskaya alongside 18 coffins representing the 18 journalists killed in connection with their work in Russia since Putin became president in March 2000. Putin’s photo was embellished with the insignia of his French Legion of Honour award.

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Global axes 200 jobs

Global television, part of the CanWest conglomerate, is laying off a total of 200 people, the company said Thursday. It’s part of the broadcaster’s plan to update the technology in four centres, in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto. A Canadian Press report said news-gathering staff is being cut in the Maritimes and in Quebec. A CBC report is here.
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PM meets journalists!!!!!

“Stop the presses!” leads a Canadian Press story, uncharacteristically. An excerpt:

Stephen Harper sat down for a news conference with the national media on Wednesday. The prime minister temporarily put aside his well-documented disdain for the Ottawa press corps and fielded a variety of questions in a wide-ranging news conference on Parliament Hill. That wouldn’t normally make news. He’s held several press conferences. But this one was on reporters’ turf and on their terms. 
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Mainstream journalist jumps to “blog”

Some time soon, I think, we’re all going to have to scrap the term “online” and agree on a new way to describe news presented on the Internet instead of through what we used to call print, audio and video formats.

Meanwhile, the force of the change from traditional to Internet media formats is evident in the way the Huffington Post managed to lure a new high-powered chief executive, Betsy Morgan, from her job as general manager of

An excerpt of a New York Times story:

Ms. Morgan will switch from running the Web site for a prominent traditional media organization to running a news Web site that is just over two years old.

“Getting somebody like this to come to our site says a boatload about where the industry is going,” said Kenneth Lerer, who has been acting as the chief executive of The Huffington Post and will move up to chairman. He founded the site along with Arianna Huffington, the political commentator.
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Suicide coverage: the British way

I’ve encountered no more brutal assignments than those about suicide. Nobody seems to have found a way to entirely reconcile the gap between private grief and public information, and it’s interesting — and a little disturbing — that Britain’s Press Complaints Commission is attempting to restrict coverage of suicide.

The Guardian this week has a report on the first breach of the commission’s code as it pertains to suicide, in which local papers gave a  report deemed too detailed of specifically how a teacher electrocuted himself. The code, noted the Guardian, states that “when reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used” to minimise the risk of copycat suicides.  Here is the Press Complaints Commission decision, and here is its Code of Practice.

There is sporadic debate about the copycat issue. I have scanned studies suggesting a link between media coverage and copycat suicides — and I also have a strong gut feeling that our industry’s general approach to covering suicide is as convoluted, inconsistent and indefensible as our approach to covering mental health generally. There are exceptions but I’d often describe the media approach to mental health (like the general public attitude) as sweeping it under the rug unless it involves a celebrity, in which case no holds are barred and, as in this tabloid example, World Exclusive: Owen Wilson Attempted Suicide!, the coverage becomes nauseating.

Here’s a web site that seems to have comprehensive information about suicide coverage in some parts of the world.

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Journalists on postage stamps

This week the U.S. will preview five stamps featuring 20th Century journalists.

A press notice of an Oct. 5 press conference names them:  war correspondent Martha Gellhorn (1908-1998); John Hersey (1914-1993), whose most famous work, was Hiroshima;  CBS correspondent George Polk (1913-1948), killed while reporting on corruption involving U.S. aid in Greece after WW II; Ruben Salazar (1928-1970), the first Mexican-American major mainstream media journalist, who was was shot and killed by
a deputy sheriff while reporting on a Vietnam War protest; and WW II correspondent Eric Sevareid (1912-1992).

From the press note:
The U.S. Postal Service honors five journalists who reported — often at great personal sacrifice — some of the most important events of the 20th century. Working in radio, television or print, these distinguished journalists filed stories from domestic and international hot spots. Their description of conflicts and issues helped Americans respond more intelligently to events. The stamps will be issued in 2008.

Who ought to be on Canadian stamps?
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