Questioning the obsession with economic growth

Growing up immersed in the environmental movement of the 1970s, my thinking on economics was definitely shaped by concepts such as resource sustainability and limits to growth.

Then came the 1980s and 1990s, when western societies seemed to reject such ideas as hopelessly naive, assuming instead that limitless growth was not only possible but essential to preserve our standard of living.

But the idea of living within the resources provided by Earth hasn’t disappeared altogether, as environmental writer Peter Gorrie explains at thestar.com.

Gorrie interviewed Peter Victor, a senior economist at York University and author of Managing Without Growth.

…Victor and others say the focus on growth diminishes us, largely because two-thirds of our economy is based on consumer spending: If we don’t work and earn so we can keep stuff flying off store shelves and into ever-larger homes, our industrial machine sputters and wheezes. Other important aspects of life – family, friends, relaxation, contemplation, health, hobbies and interests – are trampled in the mad frenzy to ensure the wheel stays spinning.

It’s a good read, and a timely alternative view when we are being urged to consume more to restore our ailing economic system.

Happy New Year!

Toronto Star blue ribbon nameplate

Happy New Year everyone and, if you’re a reader of the Toronto Star’s print edition, yes it is 2009 even though this morning’s newspaper might have had you checking the calendar for a moment.

The front page of today’s Star features the iconic blue ribbon nameplate which had been removed in a 2007 redesign.

John Cruickshank, the former head of CBC English language news who starts his job as Star publisher today, tells readers in a front-page column that the return of the blue ribbon is “a sign of the renewal of our historic editorial mission and as a symbol of our continuing commitment to our print and online readers in Greater Toronto, across Canada and around the world.”

My new job

thestar.com

I’m delighted to report that I have a new job, starting next Monday, at the Toronto Star.

As Assistant Managing Editor – Multimedia, my responsibilties will include editorial content on thestar.com, one of Canada’s most popular news sites.

The Star has an impressive commitment to digital publishing, and it’s an honour to join an organization with such high standards and values.

The next few weeks are going to be very hectic indeed as I get to know my new team — some of whom I was fortunate to meet, albeit briefly, this afternoon — and learn my way around a very large, dynamic operation.

I’m looking forward to working with my new boss, editor-in-chief Fred Kuntz, and everyone else at the Star.

LiveDeal sold to online yellow pages operator

Online classified advertising network LiveDeal, Inc has been purchased by YP Corp, operator of “America’s local online yellow pages”.

LiveDeal will become a subsidiary of YP Corp, and current LiveDeal shareholders will receive shares in YP.

YP Corp says it plans “to use LiveDeals innovative technology platform to converge its four principal marketing channels directories, mobile services, classifieds and advertising/distribution networks into a first-of-itskind, hyper-local marketing solution for businesses and consumers”.

In the United States, where the term “yellow pages” is not trademarked, the livedeal.com site already carries such business directory listings.

Toronto Star publisher Torstar has held a minority stake in LiveDeal since October 2005, and the two companies operate the Canadian site livedeal.ca — without Yellow Pages listings — under a joint venture agreement. [In Canada, “Yellow Pages” is a trademarked brand name belonging to the Yellow Pages Group.]

>> More from Mark Evans and the official announcement

Canwest pulls out of Vancouver and Ottawa free papers

CanWest MediaWorks is pulling out of a partnership that publishes the free Metro newspapers in Vancouver and Ottawa.

The two other partners in the papers — Torstar and Metro International SA — will now each own approximately half of the businesses.

The two companies already jointly own the Metro editions in Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton.

From a news release:

“This new ownership structure extends the solid foundation that already exists in the Metro operations in Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton,” says Jagoda Pike, President Star Media Group and Chair of the Board of Directors of the English Canada Metro newspapers.

“With a consistent ownership structure now in place in all five English Metro markets, the Metro newspapers will be managed with a single-minded focus on the development and growth of the Metro brand across English Canada.”

CanWest owns the paid dailies in Vancouver and Ottawa, so its withdrawal from Metro will likely deny the free papers any support on content and advertising. This could be good news for readers, though, with Metro becoming a genuine competitor to the paid titles.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Toronto Star elevates local coverage, gets easier to read

New Toronto Star masthead

I’ve never understood why a newspaper called the Toronto Star would relegate Toronto news to the B section of its print edition. The Star is without peer when it comes to covering this city, and yet it wasn’t always obvious when you picked up the paper.

Well, with changes introduced today, the local news is where it ought to be — in the A section.

Another obvious change is right on the front page. The famous blue banner has been removed from the paper’s name, and applied instead to the words “Voice of the GTA” [Greater Toronto Area] which appear above an unadorned “Toronto Star” [pictured above]. It’s a lighter look, just as we’re seeing on many news websites.

The Star’s body type has been enlarged from 9.9 point to 10.25 point, with greater leading, to improve readability. Handy for those of us whose arms just aren’t long enough to read as well as we used to.

The paper is also incorporating the results of its website polls and online comments in a daily feature called Traffic Report. Great.

Late this summer, the Star will shave an inch off its page width, and a lot of dollars off its newsprint expenses. The new width will be 11.5 inches, a half inch narrower than the recently slimmed Globe & Mail.

Full credit to the Star for explaining the changes to readers — even getting publisher Jagoda Pike and Editor-in-Chief Fred Kuntz in front of the camera for an online video. It’s all nicely done, except for the fact that some material published on the thestar.com hasn’t been adapted for online reading; it’s just copied from the print edition complete with references to page numbers rather than hyperlinks.

Star mashes map for Doors Open event

Doors Open Toronto map at thestar.com

Congratulations to thestar.com for publishing a Google map [rendered at reduced size above] showing the 150 sites for this weekend’s Doors Open Toronto.

It’s a perfect complement to the official Doors Open site, which has lots of data about the buildings that will be open to the public on Saturday and Sunday, but really lousy maps [each map shows only one venue, and the quality is poor – why they didn’t use Google, I can’t imagine].

The Star is one of the media sponsors of Doors Open.

– via blogTO