News cafe connects journalists and readers

Tim Currie’s article at the Nieman Journalism Lab about the Winnipeg Free Press News Cafe almost makes me wish I were back in the ‘peg. (I moved there 3 times in the 1970s and 1980s. Love the place but, sorry, the winters are too much to bear.)

One of the many great things about Winnipeg is the Free Press, an independently owned newspaper that isn’t afraid to try new ideas.

As Currie describes, the paper’s News Cafe offers a place for the online news team to work, a downtown location for reporters to meet with sources, and a place where Winnipeggers can drop in and discuss issues.

It’s a return to the city core for the Free Press, which moved to the suburbs 20 years ago to gain space and reduce costs. Now, it has re-established a foothold in the heart of the city.

The News Cafe is much less imposing than the old building on Carlton Street (which also housed a radio station where I used to work). But I like the way it opens the Free Press to the public and enables a conversation about what’s important in the city.

I’ll bet it brings journalists and the general public closer together than the grand and imposing old newspaper building ever did.




International news organizations ignore Canadian tragedy

NDP leader Jack Layton

Jack Layton. Picture: NDP

I’m surprised and disappointed that at least two major international news organisations still have not reported the death yesterday of Jack Layton, leader of Canada’s official opposition.

More than 36 hours after Mr Layton’s untimely death at the age of 61, searching the websites of CNN and Al Jazeera English turns up nothing. (Screenshots here and here.)

And if the websites don’t have it, then I’d be surprised if the TV channels mentioned it at all.

Mr Layton died just three months after leading the New Democratic Party to a record-breaking result, including a virtual sweep of seats in Quebec. During the cross-country campaign, he looked to have made a remarkable recovery from prostate cancer. Then last month, looking gaunt, he announced that he had another form of cancer and would be stepping aside while undergoing treatment.

His family announced his death Monday morning, Toronto time, shocking the nation and triggering a public outpouring of grief.

Regardless of one’s political views, I think it is fair to call this a Canadian tragedy. Mr Layton was widely respected as a man of integrity, optimism and goodwill. His party has been responsible for some of the most cherished Canadian institutions, including pensions and universal health care. The NDP was to be a vital counterweight to the majority Conservative government in the new Parliament.

I’m not surprised that Fox News ignored his death. But the indifference of bona fide news services CNN and Al Jazeera only compounds this tragedy.

Yes, the events in Tripoli deserved top billing. But CNN had plenty of room for Ms Kardashian and endless football reports.

Here in New Zealand both TV newscasts led with bloated coverage of rugby, before moving on to the war in Libya. But that was no surprise, I’m sad to say. Some things never change.

Read Jack Layton’s remarkable letter to Canadians, written just two days before he died.

Video of Rick Mercer visiting Jack Layton at his eco-home




Western Manitoba loses local TV news as CKX closes

CKX Radio and TV studios

I was sad to read of the closure of CKX TV in Brandon, Manitoba last Friday.

In the late 1970s I was the afternoon drive announcer on CKX Radio, a 50,000 watt station covering Brandon and dozens of rural communities across southwestern Manitoba. I occasionally wandered into the TV studios to appear in car dealer ads or do a bit of voice-tracking for station breaks. I was amazed that – back then at least – the competing CTV and CBC television transmissions were run side-by-side from the same control room, apparently a sensible efficiency in such a small market.

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‘Future of Media’ discussion September 24 in Toronto

From digitaljournal.com:

Citizen media news outlet DigitalJournal.com is proud to announce it will be hosting a unique panel discussion featuring some of the most influential leaders in Canadian media. Dubbed “The Future of Media,” the live panel discussion will explore how the mainstream media are implementing user-generated content and what challenges news organizations face in the changing news economy today.

The event will take place Thursday September 24 at the Drake Hotel Underground (1150 Queen Street West) at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and admission is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and will be on a first-come, first-serve basis. The event will also be filmed and streamed live online, as well as broadcast after the event.

Charging for online news? ‘That horse has left the barn,’ says Globe & Mail

Phillip Crawley - Click to play video

News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch may be keen to build paywalls around his websites, but Canada’s Globe & Mail is not looking to charge for access to online news.

“I think that horse has left the barn,” Globe publisher Phillip Crawley tells the Canadian Marketing Association.

The Globe does, however, see a good business in continuing to charge for online financial information carried by its Globe Investor Gold website.

Watch the 5-minute interview by clicking on the image above.

Globe & Mail flattens structure, adds digital staff

Globe and Mail

J-Source has posted a memo from the Globe & Mail’s recently promoted Editor-in-Chief John Stackhouse outlining a reshuffle of senior managers.

There will be no deputy editor. Three masthead editors will take expanded responsibility for News and Sports (David Walmsley), Features (Jill Borra) and Business (Elena Cherney). Commentary and Custom Content remain under their current editors.

Executive Editor Neil Campbell remains in charge of Resources. Adrian Norris is Managing Editor – Presentation with responsibility for photos, graphics and design across all platforms.

As previously announced, Anjali Kapoor joins the Globe next week from Yahoo as Managing Editor – Digital, with Kenny Yum (from nationalpost.com) as editor of globeandmail.com.

In keeping with the digital expansion, Stackhouse announced that:

Two more positions will be added shortly to the core digital group – one to manage new projects across the site and our growing video capacity; the other to edit our content for a growing mobile platform.

This newspaper owner is doing OK

Calixe in Toronto

Times may be tough for some newspaper owners, but Santa Barbara News-Press co-publisher Wendy McCaw appears to be getting by just fine.

Her helicopter-toting 193-foot motoryacht Calixe is in Toronto, drawing plenty of admiring looks.

Ms McCaw and her fiancé, Arthur von Wiesenberger, are co-publishers of the News-Press, a newspaper she purchased in 2000 from the New York Times company.

She is divorced from cellular telephone tycoon Craig McCaw and has been a controversial newspaper owner.

In 2007, a National Labor Relations Board judge ordered the News-Press to reinstate eight employees it had fired for union organizing.

In 2006, six editors quit the paper over editorial ethics, an issue highlighted in the film Citizen McCaw.

Calixe’s helicopter

AOL Canada relaunches front page

New AOL Canada front page

AOL Canada has launched its new portal front page, which I previewed a couple of weeks ago.

Pepsi is running full takeover ads on the new page, including the left and right gutters.

Media in Canada has a good rundown of the new design which, unfortunately, is not reflected in the rest of the site – at least not yet.

Another problem with the design: clicking away to a story, then back to “Home” often takes the reader to aol.com rather than aol.ca.

AOL’s new Canadian portal puts it all together

Click here to watch a promo for the new aol.ca design - will open in a new window

AOL Canada is redesigning its portal, aol.ca, to offer Canadian visitors the same improvements introduced to aol.com last September.

The changes, which AOL says are “coming soon”, look good. They extend the portal concept beyond content and services provided by AOL, enabling you to manage a wide range of online activity from what the company obviously hopes will be your homepage.

At aol.ca, you’ll be able to:

  • preview e-mail from other providers such as Yahoo and Gmail without having to leave your AOL homepage
  • preview updates from social networks including AIM, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter
  • customize the left-hand navigation column by adding links to any sites
  • read content from other sites and services, via a built-in RSS reader
  • customize themes, to change the page’s appearance

AOL, which is being split off from Time Warner Inc., is working hard to be the ultimate online destination. That’s a huge change from the company’s origins as a dial-up internet service provider which sought to keep its customers inside the proverbial “walled garden” of its own content.

Improved comScore still missing part of the picture

Web metrics provider comScore has announced an extension to its methodology that it says willl “account for 100 per cent of a website’s audience.”

The new Media Metrix 360 may well do that, and should mollify some comScore clients who feel they’ve been under-rated by the current system.

But there’s still a significant problem: the enhancement will only apply to sites that are comScore clients, meaning the rest of the web will be under-counted by comparison, and the results will continue to be confusing or misleading.

Starting with July 2009 data in Canada and the United States, comScore will augment its current panel-based surveys with server metrics provided by participating websites. This “panel-centric hybrid” system will be extended to the United Kingdom in August. Other countries will follow, although the timeline hasn’t been announced.

The panel-based system, although good for correlating demographic and geographic factors with web traffic, has been limited by the fact that panel members must install tracking software on their computers. As a result, home computers are over-represented, compared to work and public computers. For sites such as news providers, which typically draw most of their traffic during the workday, the gap between comScore numbers and those generated internally, by server logs or software such as Omniture, can be huge.

comScore says websites participating in the new system will need to embed beacon calls on their content. This certainly has the advantage (compared with a purely panel-based system) of enabling comScore to track usage not just in the home, but anywhere that content is delivered, including internet cafes, HTML emails and even mobile devices. And comScore says its clients will get a more granular view of their traffic. That’s a real step forward for sites that don’t already have good analytics tools.

But to present a more accurate picture of market share, a third type of metric needs to be integrated into the mix: ISP-based tracking of all sites accessed (the approach used by Hitwise). This would enable website operators to better understand the entire online market, including the impact of sites that are not comScore clients.

Given that comScore reports are the de facto method for judging Canadian websites’ market share, a comprehensive solution would bring much-needed clarity and no doubt increase advertiser confidence.