Tom Long and the CBC’s news future

The NDP is charging political interference by the federal government, in the search for a president and a news chief for the CBC. Tom Long, the man apparently in charge of the CBC head-hunting task for the firm Egon Zehnder International, is a former Canadian Alliance leadership candidate and is well-connected to the top tiers of the Conservative minority government.

On one hand it’s tempting to dismiss such criticism, on the other, there is evidence that the American conservatives meddled with public broadcasting in the U.S. Add that to the well-documented attempts at media management by Stephen Harper’s PMO, and the charges are worth journalists taking a hard look. Question is, given Canadian media’s reluctance to report on ourselves, who will dig deeper?

A CP story is here.

Here is the NDP press release.
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California journalist gunned down

The editor of the Oakland Post in California was gunned down on Aug. 2. Was his murder linked to his work?

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Who are you calling sleazy?

A cover story in Maclean’s entitled, “Lawyers are Rats,” is generating much controversy and attention from Canadian lawyers — which of course is the point of the provocative heading. The story is a full-on attack on the sleazy aspects of the legal profession. The Canadian Bar Association instantly demanded an apology then called the story a distorted, one-sided and sensationalized picture of the legal profession that tarnished every lawyer’s reputation.

The material in the kerfuffle is easily accessible (linked below) and makes for an interesting case study of journalism ethics.
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Media and Chinese Olympics

Reporters Without Borders is stepping up its campaign to use China’s 2008 Olympics to draw attention to China’s repression of press rights, with a press conference in Montreal on Monday.
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Harper and media control

Canadian Press reports that the RCMP is evicting journalists from a Charlottetown hotel lobby at the request of the Prime Minister’s Office.

The federal Conservative party is holding its annual summer caucus at the hotel. Police in plainclothes and the hotel manager “told reporters that the Prime Minister’s Office had requested all media be barred from the premises,” reported CP.

The story also noted, “The Conservatives have set up a media room in a Government of Canada office across the street from the hotel, and have promised to bring MPs to the building for interviews “where appropriate.”

“Appropriate,” eh.

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Annual report on Canadian broadcasting

The broadcasting industry is continuing to expand and new media are increasingly important to Canadians’ lives, said the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission in its annual broadcasting report. Here are the report’s findings:
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Blogosphere at 10

In an essay in the Toronto Star, David Eaves and Taylor Owen explore the impact of blogging, which they contend reaches its 10th anniversary this month.

“Blogging continues to be misunderstood by both technophiles and technophobes,” they argue, and say blogs will neither replace traditional journalism nor threaten the quality and integrity of journalism – or democracy.

Eaves and Owen say that instead of being a substitute blogs, like books, are symbiotic with journalism, “to the benefit of everyone.”

“Ultimately blogs, like books, don’t replace journalism; they simply provide another medium for its dissemination and consumption,” the pair argue. “If anything, it has made journalism more accurate, democratic and widely read.”

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Helicopter deaths: shame

The news that four people died when two U.S. news helicopters collided last week was stultifying; the deaths seemed too pointless to even mention here.  Then I read Mark Hamilton’s blog post, and find myself in agreement with his opinion that the helicopter crash is a sign that “somehow journalism has lost its way and has copped out of making tough decisions about what deserves to be covered and about what’s important.”

Read it yourself.

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“Citizen Journalist” site lands big financing deal

NowPublic Technologies Inc. calls itself the world’s largest participatory news network, with 100,000 non-professional contributing reporters from more than 140 countries and 3,600 cities,  and a partnership with Associated Press. Today, the company that began in a Vancouver garage received $10.6-million US in venture-capital financing. It says it aims to become the world’s biggest news agency.

Contributors can be paid, according to NowPublic’s web site, but serious questions for journalism remain outstanding: What will be the long-term effect of “citizen journalism” on “professional” journalism that serves the public interest?  Who ultimately will benefit?

An excerpt of the NowPublic statement:

In a short period of time, has become one of the fastest growing news organizations in the world with contributors in over 140 countries and 3,600 cities.  By harnessing the wisdom of crowds and tapping into the news reporting potential of the hundreds of millions of Internet users, eye witnesses, bloggers and photography enthusiasts, NowPublic is changing the way news is produced and distributed.

NowPublic also reported today that it has surpassed 100,000 contributing reporters, making it by far the largest “citizen journalism” service in the world.  In addition, NowPublic announced that it’s expanding its landmark partnership with the Associated Press (AP) to include AP’s bureaus across the United States.  The AP is the world’s largest newsgathering organization with a staff of more than 4,000 employees located in more than 240 bureaus in 97 countries. and AP agreed in March to an innovative initiative designed to expand the world’s access to news as it happens.

These achievements serve to affirm NowPublic’s leadership position in the booming landscape of “crowd-sourced” participatory news, a category that NowPublic pioneered.  In fact, NowPublic is cited in Time Magazine’s recently released 50 Best Websites 2007 (“…nowhere are the merits of citizen journalism more apparent than at NowPublic.”).

An excerpt from a Globe and Mail story:

Co-founder and CEO Leonard Brody said in an interview that two major media entities expressed interest in buying the Vancouver company over the past couple of months, but he and his partners felt that they should remain independent.

“We got quite a bit of acquisition interest over the past month or two,” Mr. Brody said, from what the NowPublic CEO referred to only as “large media companies.” Both are based in countries outside of North America, he said.

“But we made a decision that we felt we could grow this thing, and that it was just too early [to be acquired],” Mr. Brody said. “We are big believers in what we are doing… and that is building the largest news agency in the world. We are laser-focused on that goal.”

A CBC story on the financing is here.
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Black was overdone by media, suggests poll

As a reader, my eyes started glazing over every time there was another headline about Conrad Black, and I turned off the radio or TV when the news turned to him. I’d had about enough, oh, six years ago.

Seems that my interest level about the former media tycoon and former Canadian is shared by most Canadians. Among other findings, a poll, conducted for The Canadian Press by Decima Research suggests” that the near-incessant media coverage of Mr. Black’s trial was not nearly proportional to the public’s interest.”

“Although the story consumed newscasts, and publications such as Maclean’s magazine devoted entire issues to the trial, only 39 per cent of respondents said they followed the trial very or fairly closely,” said a story in the Globe and Mail. The Globe quoted Decima CEO Bruce Anderson: “It did not really capture the attention of ordinary Canadians.”

The CP story headline on the Canoe site said, “Hang-’em-high … Canadians have little sympathy for Conrad Black: Decima poll.” Oddly, that story makes no mention of the poll results about overblown media coverage. Is this another case of the media being reluctant to report on itself?

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