Media Matters 2015

Written by  //  December 31, 2015  //  Media  //  No comments

Ryerson Review of Journalism
Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications
Time for Change: The CBC/Radio-Canada in the Twenty-first Century (July 2015)

“If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed.
If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.” – Mark Twain

Michael Enright interview with Dick Cavetttwo great interviewers talk – a delight!
(CBC Radio The Sunday Edition) The legendary talk show host brought gravitas, erudition and wry, offbeat humour to prime time television, along with intellectual heavyweights and pop culture icons. In this reprise of an interview with Michael Enright last November, Dick Cavett looks back on some of the more memorable personalities he met in his colourful career in a new book, Brief Encounters: Conversations, Magic Moments, and Assorted Hijinks. He also reflects on the changing media landscape and the tumultuous summer 40 years ago when he was in the middle of the TV spectacle of Watergate

31 December
A sad way to end the year
la-presse-appLa Presse stops printing weekday editions after 131 years
French-language daily says tablet app launched 3 years ago is profitable
With the exception of its Saturday editions, the paper is going digital-only starting on Jan. 1.
The newspaper’s publisher and president, Guy Crevier, said the newspaper is at a “watershed” moment in its history: Ad sales for the app are now outperforming the ad sales of the paper version, making the transition to digital profitable.
For the paper to survive, a massive shift had to happen, according to La Presse’s vice-president of communications. Caroline Jamet said advertising revenue has dropped 60 per cent over the last decade.
29 December
A farewell to The Washington Post
I recognize journalism is changing. The evolving Washington Post is different from the June 1, 1960 edition when I shared my first Page One byline, before I even was a staff member. But The Post’s role influencing government in Washington and national politics has never been more critical. More than once I have been told The Post’s front page, along with that of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, is better than a White House memo if you want to reach the president.
Leaving The Post, I have three concerns — not about this newspaper, but related to journalism as a whole, the profession which I love.
One is how much more influential the media has grown to become, first with television news shows, then 24-hour cable and now with the Internet and Twitter.
The second is how much better so-called newsmakers have become at influencing what is written and broadcast to the public. In many ways I feel journalistic ventures have become “common carriers,” printing whatever newsmakers say — even if they know them to be untrue or inflammatory — just because the person involved was willing to be quoted and because such stories generate readers, viewers and, these days, hits on the Web.
The third is that the current competitive rush to be first in both breaking news and slick commentary is leaving behind the facts related to the complex issues of our time. Facts seem to be taking a back seat to arguments and slogans in what’s written and shown.
22 December
Russell Smith: Say bye to the online comment section as you know it
The CBC has announced it is suspending commenting on any stories relating to First Nations issues, as the outright racism they provoked was vile and uncontrollable. The Toronto Star has announced an end to all online commenting on stories (although they will accept letters sent to the editor for a special section). This trend actually began a couple of years ago, when both Popular Science and Scientific American shut off their comments sections – following studies that showed that readers were unconsciously influenced in their judgments of scientific research if they read highly negative comments about it. In other words, comments create bias.
The Star’s reasons are partly principled and partly pragmatic: Their editors said that the comments sections were often filled with useless vitriol and simply not worth reading. But maintaining them is also expensive – moderators must be constantly monitoring and censoring comments, and those moderators must be paid. Most newspapers outsource this job to specialist companies, so losing that large expense is welcome in budget-tightening times. Furthermore, journals cutting off comments in their own spaces are hoping the reactions will continue in other public spaces – in social media – where the hashtags and links back to the articles will serve as a kind of free advertising for the paper.
It’s hard not to see this as a trend and to predict that papers and broadcast media outlets around the world are going to start cutting back on their public debate spaces, and their attendant boring, stressful and costly maintenance. We have finally realized that the kind of person who devotes his day to arguing with strangers anonymously on the Internet is not necessarily representative of a large swath of public opinion or necessarily good at articulating anything. And that anonymity breeds gleefully expressed hatred.
3 December
Chris Matthews slams Donald Trump, tells supporters, ‘You should be ashamed
(Daily Kos) Chris Matthews did not mince words today. He justifiably hit Donald Trump in the jugular for his attempt to smear the president over the attack in San Bernardino, California.
For those who applauded him today, cheered at his insinuation that the President hides himself as a defender of Islamist terrorism, I can only say this,” Chris Matthews said. “You should be ashamed. None of us should applaud this 21st century McCarthyism, this cheap insinuation against a fellow American backed up by nothing but hate.” [emphasis added]
This is what journalists are supposed to do. Kudos to Chris Matthews.
24 November
The tawdry fall of the Postmedia newspaper empire
(National Observer) At Postmedia, as revenue and circulation declined, it has downsized staff, sold off assets, consolidated and outsourced operations, cut Sunday editions and shuttered bureaus. Now all of its dailies are copy-edited and laid out, and even stories selected, in offices located in a strip mall in Hamilton, Ontario.
Despite these cuts, Postmedia has never earned any net profit, suffering combined net losses of $624-million since 2010. For the hedge funds who control it, on the other hand, Postmedia is a profitable investment. Because the company’s debt is owed to them, they receive interest payments at rates ranging from 8.25 per cent to 12.5 per cent. …
So what’s the long-term prognosis for Postmedia? According to [Ken Doctor, a leading American newspaper industry analyst], the hedge funds have likely figured out how they can get their money back by “managing [Postmedia’s] decline profitably.” Which might mean returning it to receivership and selling off its assets, with the hedge funds first in line as creditors to collect.
If this is indeed the plan, the hedge funds – GoldenTree and Silver Point Capital – aren’t saying. Both declined our requests to be interviewed for this story.
12 November
Citizen Shame: Politics, Paul Godfrey and Postmedia’s humiliation
By Michael Harris
Godfrey’s forced march of Postmedia editors through the swamps of political partisanship could cost the chain dearly. He’s totally out of touch with the people who hold the chain’s fate in their hands — his dwindling band of subscribers.
(iPolitics) The biggest print players in the country simply disgraced themselves.
But nobody earned that disgrace better than the Postmedia brass. The company’s CEO, Paul Godfrey, violated the core principle on which journalism is built: free speech. His offenses were multiple. The National Post spiked a piece from columnist and then-editorial page editor Andrew Coyne, presumably for writing something that didn’t conform to the Post’s program.
While it’s customary for the owner of a newspaper to decide the issue of editorial endorsements at election time (the so-called proprietor’s prerogative), Godfrey imposed support for Stephen Harper on all of the sixteen major papers in the chain.
His idea of press freedom? He allowed each paper to express his choice for PM in their own words. In so doing, he turned them into meat puppets delivering what Toronto wanted. Torstar Chairman John Honderich was only partly right when he said that Godfrey’s editorial puppeteering let down Postmedia readers; it also let down Postmedia journalists.
23 October
If the media is the message, the Harper government wasn’t listening
It is crucial that this trend of limiting media access be reversed. Journalists at the very least act as a proxy for citizens; we have access – or should – to those in power. In order to hold governments to account, reporters require access to those governments. This is how journalists can expose bad behaviour – systemic or individual (the senate scandal, Rob Ford) – and effect change. When journalists are cut off, society suffers.
21 October
Andrew Coyne’s Troubles at the Post
As first reported by CANADALAND, the National Post‘s editorial board, which Coyne ran, endorsed Stephen Harper at management’s command. But in his other role as Postmedia columnist, Coyne wanted to go a different way with his own bylined endorsement (he since tweeted he voted NDP). Postmedia publisher Paul Godfrey balked, Coyne’s column was spiked, and he resigned as an editor, but not as a columnist.
Was Coyne’s trouble with the Post limited to this one incident? CANADALAND spoke to eight of his colleagues who provided context for his time as editor and for the consequences of his resignation. Coyne himself declined to comment for this piece.
Could we please just send this loathsome creature to Donald Trump?
‘Grave concern’ about Trudeau’s promised tax hike for the wealthy: Kevin O’Leary
(CTV) O’Leary said some are concerned about a possible “brain drain” of entrepreneurs, business owners, doctors and lawyers who make enough money to fall under Trudeau’s proposed new tax bracket.
20 October
The politics of fear failed — and the corporate media never saw it coming
(iPolitics) As usual, many of the people paid to track and interpret the currents of Canadian public life were lagging well behind the wisdom of the electorate. Harper’s collaborators included a great many corporate media types who, once again, displayed just how breathtakingly stunned they can be about their own audience.
19 October
Andrew Coyne resigns as National Post comment editor after paper rejects election column
He said his decision was made in response to a decision by the Post not to run one of Coyne’s columns leading up to the federal election.
Postmedia, which owns the National Post, has endorsed Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. The website Canadaland published a story last Friday, saying the paper had spiked a weekend column by Coyne in which he endorsed a different party.
15 October
Amanda Lang To Host Business Show On Bloomberg TV Canada
(HuffPost) Starting in the first quarter of 2016, Lang will host “Bloomberg North,” a half-hour show that “will dissect local and global business news with Canadian heavyweights,” Bloomberg said in a statement.
Lang announced earlier this week that she’s leaving the CBC, less than a year after she found herself embroiled in a number of controversies surrounding her coverage of Canadian businesses
Bloomberg is launching a 24-hour Canadian business news channel on Nov. 16, operated by broadcaster Channel Zero. The broadcaster says it has secured carriage with most cable companies.
Amanda Lang leaving CBC for another TV job — CBC Editor-in-Chief says journalist also plans to ‘devote more time to her writing’
12 October
Mohamed Fahmy, released from Egyptian prison last month, now back in Canada
He is scheduled to attend a press conference hosted by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression at Ryerson University on Tuesday.
He has said he plans to take up a position as an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia’s school of journalism in Vancouver. He is also writing a book about his experiences.
Fahmy moved to Canada with his family in 1991, living in Montreal and Vancouver for years before eventually moving abroad for work, which included covering stories for the New York Times and CNN before his job at Al Jazeera.
24 September
La Presse to eliminate 158 positions
(CTV) In the wake of announcing the newspaper would soon be ending its paper editions, La Presse is eliminating the jobs of 158 people.
Last week [Publisher Guy] Crevier said the newspaper was making its transition to the digital era complete and as of Jan. 1, 2016, it would only create a physical edition of its newspaper on Saturdays.
102 full-time jobs are being cut, including include unionized and non-unionized employees, as well as managers. 56 freelance and contract positions are also being eliminated.
Forty-three jobs being cut come from the editorial staff of the newsroom.
La Presse will have 633 full-time employees once the cuts are enacted — about the same as it had before it began working on La Presse+ in 2011.
23 September
This headline does not do justice to the wide-ranging content of the interview
Famed Journalist Robert Fisk: Canada’s Moral Power Is Lost
Middle East sage on ISIS, refugees, Harper, ‘short-termism’ and more. A Tyee interview.
13 September
Rex is Retiring
After 21 years as host of Cross Country Checkup, Rex Murphy has decided to retire from the show.
Emily Bell: Conservation will be key in the takeover of National Geographic
21st Century Fox gains an innovative publishing asset but worries about its future may be misplaced
(The Guardian) The Foxification of National Geographic startled a few lemurs in the American media jungle last week. A new joint venture, built on an axis which takes the globally known magazine and its televisual and digital assets from the not-for-profit sector and puts them under the control of the Murdoch family’s 21st Century Fox, caused initial shock and dismay. While outside the US National Geographic might be best known to consumers as the source of monkey pictures in dentists’ waiting rooms, it is a significant investor in science and research; and while the Murdoch millions boosting the endowment are welcome, the shadow of a different editorial line is not. But maybe for once those fears are misplaced. …
James Murdoch has said simply of National Geographic that there will be minimal change, and the investment in the brand is to maintain its editorial approach and voice rather than to change it. The expectation, however, that the TV, magazine and digital income will be enough to cross-subsidise the National Geographic Society, which funds education and research, is an inversion of the existing wisdom. The media market, generally speaking, thinks charitable cross-subsidy needs to go into journalism rather than flow away from it. National Geographic is the second piece of non-profit media to disappear into a commercial company in as many months. In August, Sesame Workshop, the production company that makes Sesame Street, was bought by HBO. Here the reasons were starkly financial. With an $11m loss last year the production unit needed to find a buyer or cease production.
National Geographic’s financial situation is very different, but the instinct that scale is needed in digital publishing is the same everywhere. If James Murdoch is seeking to teach the market that he gets digital, is journalistically responsible, and can be trusted to be ethical with precious assets that even America’s unsentimental media hold dear, then he has picked the right deal.
9 September
National Geographic gives Fox control of media assets in $725 million deal
(WaPost) On Wednesday, the iconic ­yellow-bordered magazine, beset by financial issues, entered its own uncharted territory. In an effort to stave off further decline, the magazine was effectively sold by its nonprofit parent organization to a for-profit venture whose principal shareholder is one of Rupert Murdoch’s global media companies.
In exchange for $725 million, the National Geographic Society passed the troubled magazine and its book, map and other media assets to a partnership headed by 21st Century Fox, the Murdoch-controlled company that owns the 20th Century Fox movie studio, the Fox television network and Fox News Channel.
Under the terms announced Wednesday, Fox will control 73 percent of the operation, called National Geographic Partners, with the balance held by the National Geographic Society. The partnership, based in Washington, will include a portfolio of National Geographic-branded cable TV channels, digital properties and publishing operations, most notably the magazine that has advanced the society’s founding mission — “the increase and diffusion of geographic knowledge.” National Geographic magazine shifts to for-profit status with Fox partnership
29 August
Al-Jazeera journalists sentenced to three years in prison in Egypt
(BBC) The men have always denied charges of broadcasting false news and colluding with the Muslim Brotherhood, who have now been outlawed.
Outside the courtroom, Mr Fahmy’s lawyer, Amal Clooney, called on Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to issue a pardon to the journalists.
“The verdict today sends a very dangerous message in Egypt,” she told reporters. “It sends a message that journalists can be locked up for simply doing their job, for telling the truth and reporting the news.”
Mohamed Fahmy, 2 other Al-Jazeera journalists sentenced to 3 years in prison
Egypt case harshly criticized by press freedom advocates, human rights activists
7 August
Jon Stewart The Atlantic

Jon Stewart’s Humble, Remarkable Farewell
A speech from Stephen Colbert highlighted the Daily Show host’s willingness to share the spotlight, as well as his immense contribution to broadcast comedy
(The Atlantic) After nearly 17 years as the star, Jon Stewart tried his best to make his final night at The Daily Show about anyone but himself—and he almost succeeded. On Thursday, Stewart wheeled out a parade of current and former correspondents, aired taped goodbyes from longtime rivals, and paid tribute to the show’s behind-the-scenes crew with a lengthy, faux-single-shot segment. When his longtime correspondent and friend Stephen Colbert appeared to give an impromptu speech about Stewart’s contribution to their lives, the host squirmed in his chair, choking up, waiting for the moment to end. It was a warm reminder that for all the lionizing of Stewart’s TV persona over the years, he’s always been happy to share the spotlight.
For 16 years, The Daily Show was a reliable source of perceptive criticism that never forgot to be funny, and that alone is an achievement the medium may find impossible to match.

Jon Stewart’s final Daily Show: Political, Hollywood heavyweights say goodbyes
Hillary Clinton, John McCain, John Kerry make video appearances to bid host farewell
Jon Stewart said goodbye to The Daily Show on Thursday, as America’s foremost satirist of politicians and the media was ushered out with a reunion of the many colleagues that he worked with during 16 years as host.
“Guess what? Stewart said at the show’s opening. “I’ve got big news. This is it.”

He began by pretending to report on Thursday’s Republican presidential debate — which actually happened after the taping — but said he didn’t have enough remaining correspondents to talk about all the candidates. There followed a long succession of personalities, like Aasif Mandvi, John Hodgman, Steve Carell and more, who had gotten their starts at Comedy Central.
One of the most legendary ‘Daily Show’ interviews of all time was this chat with Malala Yousafzai that broke the internet.
2 August
It Is Time For Sisi To Set Al Jazeera Journalist Mohamed Fahmy Free
The unfairness of the original trial is well-documented. The retrial has been no fairer
By Amal Clooney. Counsel for Mohamed Fahmy
30 July
Mark Starowicz, creator of Canada: A People’s History, steps down from CBC
Montreal-raised producer will return to ‘1st love’ as independent documentary filmmaker
Iconic CBC producer Mark Starowicz, the creative powerhouse behind epic documentaries such as Canada: A People’s History, and popular CBC programs like As It Happens, Sunday Morning and The Journal, is stepping down from the public broadcaster.
29 July
Some thought provoking and some merely provocative – still, worth reading
Camille Paglia takes on Jon Stewart, Trump, Sanders: “Liberals think of themselves as very open-minded, but that’s simply not true!”
Trump’s a carnival barker, but funnier than Stewart. Richard Dawkins is a joke. Sanders and Drudge earn approval
23 July
CBC logoTony Manera: A blueprint for marginalizing the CBC
(Ottawa Citizen) While it incorporates some constructive ideas, it is essentially a blueprint for the marginalization of the CBC. It also represents an abdication of responsibility for an institution created by Parliament with a mandate that is as relevant today as it ever was. The CBC’s role is to provide radio and television services incorporating a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens and entertains, with programming that is predominantly and distinctively Canadian.
The Senate committee recommends that the CBC mandate be modernized, but offers only two specific recommendations for what should be changed. One is an increase in the presentation of Canadian history and film (both of which would require more funding). The other is to reflect all regions of Canada, which is already included in the current legislation, hence requires no change in mandate. John Doyle: A new and better CBC must start from within
20 July
CBC urged to find new funding models
(Globe & Mail) A Senate committee that spent 18 months studying the CBC and its place in the media landscape is recommending the public broadcaster explore alternative funding models, shake up its governance structure, be more transparent in its operations and air more amateur sports and high-quality arts.
In Time for Change: The CBC/Radio-Canada in the Twenty-first Century, the Standing Committee on Transport and Communications makes 22 recommendations it says will make the CBC more relevant and responsive. It also urges the federal government to update the Broadcasting Act, which, it notes, “was last revised in the pre-smartphone, pre-multi-platform era of 1991.”
The report, from a 10-member committee that included seven Conservative senators, was immediately denounced by an advocacy group for reflecting Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s “well-known hostility towards Canada’s national public broadcaster.” And a high-profile Liberal member of the committee split with his colleagues, issuing a minority report that called their study “a lost opportunity” whose mission was derailed by petty politics.
Among the recommendations, the committee suggests the CBC focus on providing services that complement, rather than compete with, private broadcasters. It urges the CBC to increase the “presentation of Canadian history and Canadian film” and “emphasize the broadcasting of performances by Canadian artists and cultural events, such as the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo, the Edmonton Opera, and the Orchestre symphonique de Montreal.”
The official report also recommends “CBC/Radio-Canada air more amateur sporting events such as Canadian Interuniversity women’s and men’s sports, minor league sports, etc.”
The senators, who travelled to England to study the BBC’s funding models and programming strategy, suggested a so-called “external superfund” be created by setting aside a portion of the CBC’s funding to pay for Canadian content “such as Canadian history and nature documentaries and high-quality comedy and drama, which could then be broadcast on CBC/Radio-Canada.”
The Friends of Canadian Broadcasting watchdog group called that proposal part of “a thinly disguised cut to CBC’s parliamentary grant that could never be implemented without a major contraction of the services that our national public broadcaster offers to Canadians every day.”
In a pointed illustration of the divisions on the committee, Senator Art Eggleton broke from his colleagues to issue a minority report that called for the government to increase the CBC’s per capita funding “to at least $40, which is approximately half of what other industrialized nations spend.” (The CBC currently receives an estimated $29 per capita in public funding.)
18 June
Brian Williams Proves ‘Too Big to Fire’
In keeping the anchor, the network shows its true contempt for MSNBC.
The shift of Williams from NBC News to MSNBC, which everyone will regard as a demotion, presents this question: How can Williams be too damaged to work as NBC News’ anchor but not so damaged that he can’t work at MSNBC?
9-11 June
Terry Glavin: EVAN SOLOMON PAYING PRICE FOR OTHERS’ SINS
(Ottawa Citizen) if the “highest standards” of journalism are at stake in a prominent CBC personality’s short-lived extracurricular foray into art collection entrepreneurship, here’s another thing Evan Solomon did not do.
Evan Solomon did not squeal like a star-struck fanboy at the prospect of a decrepit conspiracy theorist delivering a keynote speech to a national gathering of journalists last weekend in Halifax, which is pretty close to the way the organizers of the annual convention of the 600-member Canadian Association of Journalists announced that the once-reputable American journalist Seymour Hersh had agreed to be a keynote speaker.
“As a renowned investigative journalist — who continues to produce groundbreaking work — Hersh’s address to our delegates has had our organizing committee buzzing for months,” the conference organizers gushed.
This is the real question
Why was Evan Solomon fired and not Amanda Lang?
(National Observer) The Lang scandal blew up at the CBC this past January when the website Canadalandshow.com published a story accusing her of trying to sabotage an investigative story the CBC produced about abuses committed by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) over the temporary foreign worker program (TFWP). …
Now aware of the story’s focus, Lang set out to undermine it. Immediately after it aired, Lang invited the RBC’s CEO, Gord Nixon, to do an interview with her on The National where he criticized the broadcaster over its TFWP story. Lang asked no hard questions or challenged Nixon’s accusations. Then, without informing her bosses, Lang approached the Globe and Mail on her own and penned an op-ed page piece where she championed the practice of companies outsourcing jobs to countries like India.
But until Canadaland broke the story, except for upper management, no one at CBC knew Lang had been paid up to $15,000 a pop to conduct speaking engagements at RBC-sponsored events. More importantly, she was involved romantically with a member of the RBC’s board of directors, W. Geoffrey Beattie.
… no one is more embedded in Canada’s economic elites than Lang. The daughter of former Trudeau-era cabinet minister Otto Lang, and stepdaughter to one other cabinet minister, Amanda became a journalist for the corporate media, first with the Globe and Mail, before going on to the Financial Post, CNN’s financial network and Business News Network before joining the CBC in 2009. She also married Vince Borg, who became executive vice-president of corporate communications at the world’s largest gold company, Barrick Gold. They separated in 2012.
Evan Solomon let go by CBC News in wake of alleged secret art deals
‘I did not view the art business as a conflict with my political journalism at the CBC,’ Solomon says
Evan Solomon scandal joins long list of TV news’s ethical imbroglios — CBC isn’t the only network to have come under fire for the conduct of its major on-air personalities. Here are a few of the most controversial recent examples. Worth revisiting: (Ryerson Review of Journalism, April) The Inside Man: Evan Solomon was an outsider with plans for a new kind of political television, but Ottawa’s toxic partisan culture changed his show—and him and (Globe & Mail, January) Journalist Jesse Brown is quick to expose the failures of Canadian media. But what about his own?.
8 June
A HUGE loss – cannot imagine coverage of Quebec politics without Bernie.
Bernard St-Laurent, veteran reporter, retiring from CBC
St-Laurent is host of C’est la vie and CBC’s Quebec political analyst
Raif Badawi and Saudi “Justice”, by Denis MacEoin
(Gatestone) … to renewed outrage around the world, it was reported on June 7 that the Saudi Supreme Court — originally thought to herald reform in the judicial system — has confirmed Badawi’s sentence finally in all respects. The only possible reprieve now would be a royal pardon. The judgement is, in effect, a slow, bloodthirsty, agonizing, death sentence handed to a man whose only concern was to speak gently but honestly in a country so backward that it prefers the outrages and injustices of seventh-century Arabia to anything, such as mercy, in the twenty-first century — the technology of which the Saudis are all too happy to avail themselves.
1 June
Media failing on climate-change coverage
Climate change may be the story of the century. So why aren’t more news outlets giving it the coverage it deserves?
More than two dozen news publishers from around the world launched an initiative on May 21 called the Climate Publishers Network, spearheaded by the popular U.K. newspaper The Guardian.
As members of the network, publishers agree to freely share climate change-related news content to raise public awareness of environmental issues in the lead-up to the UN climate change summit in Paris in December.
Montreal’s La Presse is a founding member, and the Toronto Star is in the process of signing up, joining a group that includes India Today, The Seattle Times, China Daily and The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia.
To be fair, the individual bits are being reported well enough — a newly extinct animal here, a collapsing Antarctic ice sheet there, a new clean technology just around the corner, another oil pipeline protest on Earth Day — but the big picture is still missing, as are sustained, deeply informed efforts to push public policy in the right direction.
24 May
Ever-changing death of Osama bin Laden a conspiracy theory for the ages
Despite the doubters of his latest opus, Seymour Hersh’s legacy will include elevating the death of bin Laden to the conspiratorial heights that have kept people guessing about JFK for decades
15 May
When It Comes To The News, Who Can You Trust?
Recent scandals in mainstream media have seemed to buttress those who say citizen journalists are the answer to the crisis in credibility. But what makes them any better?
A recent Gallup poll revealed that only 40 percent of Americans trust the mass media to report the news fully, fairly and accurately, and according to a new scholarly study, that’s an all-time low. This distrust of the media, combined with political cynicism, means that an increasing number of news consumers believe citizen journalism is more credible than the mainstream media.
4 May
Céline Cooper reminds us that Sunday [was] World Press Freedom Day. Proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993, May 3 is a day to celebrate freedom of expression and information, to evaluate the state of press freedom and media independence. It is also a day to highlight the dangers that many journalists face while doing their jobs. … According to the World Press Freedom Index produced by Reporters Without Borders, media freedom on all five continents experienced a deep and cutting decline in 2014. A few months into 2015 and 24 journalists have already been killed and 158 imprisoned, and 176 netizens (Internet users who are actively involved in online communities) imprisoned.
21 April
Global TV cuts staff in Montreal, will anchor some local newscasts from Toronto
Can a newscast that is produced and even anchored outside of the market it serves really be considered local? Does it break a promise to say you’ll produce local morning shows on TV and then have much of its content be identical across the country?
These are questions that regulators may need to answer after Shaw Media announced this month that it is making major changes to the way local news is produced at Global TV stations in eastern Canada.
In an effort to cut down on staffing costs, Global will be increasing the amount of content produced nationally.
16 April
CBC inquiry concludes management mishandled Jian Ghomeshi Seems like a foregone conclusion
CBC failed to provide its staff a workplace “free from disrespectful and abusive behaviour,” says the report of an independent investigator hired to examine the corporation’s handling of the behaviour of former radio and television host Jian Ghomeshi.
Janice Rubin, a Toronto employment lawyer with expertise in the field of workplace harassment, says in the report that Ghomeshi’s behaviour violated CBC standards, and that his behaviour was “considered to create an intimidating, humiliating, hostile or offensive work environment.”
Read the full report from the independent investigator here
12 April
Slate’s John Dickerson Named Anchor of CBS’ Face the Nation
Slate’s long-time chief political correspondent, John Dickerson, is taking over for Bob Schieffer as the next anchor of CBS’ Face the Nation.
“Now the obvious question is, who’s going to take this seat? I’m happy to say the answer is my friend CBS News political director John Dickerson, who’s been on this broadcast 83 times and he sure has the right bloodlines,” Schieffer said in the middle of the program on Sunday. “John, we’re proud to have you”
25 March
How the seating chart of the White House press room has changed, in 1 cool graphic
The influence of the big wheels in media — wire services, TV networks and the big traditional newspapers — doesn’t change much; news magazines have been the hardest hit by the media fracturing; and digital-only offerings are the growth area of journalism.
(WaPost)The first three rows remain largely unchanged. Once you get beyond those first three rows — there are seven total rows with seven seats in each — chaos reigns with tons of movement and subtractions/additions.
There are eight organizations with either a full or shared seat in 2015 that had neither in 2009. They are: A “foreign pool” seat, Yahoo News, Daily Beast, SiriusXM, BBC, BuzzFeed, Financial Times and The Guardian.
Sensational Rolling Stone campus rape story completely unravels
(CBC) In UVA case, police seem just as confused about what happened, as what rape victims should do
9 March
A bucket of whitewash for Amanda Lang
(iPolitics) The review CBC released last week exonerating Lang doesn’t address any of the conflict of interest allegations still swirling around her, or say how the network’s “senior business correspondent” was able, without her boss’s permission, to challenge her own network’s coverage of the TFWP in a competing news organization.
8 March
New York magazine’s long and sad tale of the demise of the Today Show, Meet The Press and …
(Actually) True War Stories at NBC News
The trouble didn’t start with Brian Williams.
5 March
Internal review finds Amanda Lang ‘met CBC’s journalistic standards’
(National Post) The review was led by Jack Nagler, the CBC’s director of journalistic public accountability and engagement.
He looked at journalistic content, conduct, and an employee’s obligations to disclose any potential conflict of interest.
12 February
David Carr, Influential New York Times Media Columnist, Dead At 58
In just a few years at the Times, Carr would not only be regarded as one of its best-known writers, but also one of the paper’s biggest boosters. He stole the show in “Page One” the 2011 documentary on the Times, which used its media desk as window into existential issues facing the paper and the broader newspaper industry.
(HuffPost) Carr’s sudden death came as a shock to an industry already reeling from a tumultuous week that included the suspension of “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams, the announced departure of “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, and the traffic death of legendary CBS News correspondent Bob Simon — all media stories the Times columnist wrote and commented on in the 48 hours preceding his collapse.Earlier Thursday, Carr moderated a TimesTalk on the National Security Agency leaks with Edward Snowden, and journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. Within hours, he was dead.
Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote on Facebook that Carr “collapsed in the newsroom he loved, doing what he loved, surrounded by those who loved him.”
“David was media columnist and hugely admired in the profession,” Kristof continued. “I think that’s partly because the news industry sometimes seems to be struggling for its soul, and David always exemplified both soul and integrity.”
WILL NOT BE MISSED.
Sun News Network shuts down
When Quebecor launched the station, media pundits quickly dubbed it “Fox News North.”
On the first day of broadcasting, Ezra Levant, one of the most controversial hosts of Sun News, showed the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to TV viewers.
According to a Canadian Press report, Levant said he’s grateful for the freedom he had at Sun News, and while he doesn’t know what he’ll do next, he still has “a lot of things to say.”
Broadcaster had grappled with CRTC over right to be carried on basic cable packages
Sun News Network going off the air, sources say
The future of the network was thrown into question late last year when Postmedia Network Canada Corp. announced its intention to buy the English-language Sun Media newspapers and digital news sites from Quebecor Inc. for $316-million – but not Sun News Network. That left the TV network ‎effectively orphaned, as it drew its name and some of its content from the Sun chain. … In 2013, the Sun News Network vice-president Kory Teneycke – a former director of communications for Prime Minister Stephen Harper – tried to persuade Canada’s broadcast regulator to give the channel “mandatory carriage,” which would have required that it be carried on all basic cable packages, boosting its audiences and its revenue. Mr. Teneycke argued at the time that anything less would be a “death sentence” for the network.
11 February
Bob SimonRemembering Bob Simon’s legendary career at CBS News
CBS News has lost one of its brightest lights. “60 Minutes” correspondent Bob Simon died Wednesday night in a traffic accident in New York City. The award-winning journalist spent more than 47 years at CBS News and earned the respect and admiration of colleagues and world leaders. He was 73 years old. Charlie Rose reports.
A touching tribute from a Palestinian colleague
Bob Simon, My Hero
Simon, who happens to be of Jewish background although not practicing, covered the Palestinian intifada with sincerity professionalism and understanding in a way no other television reporter has done.
Bob Simon dies in New York car crash
CBS announces death of veteran 60 Minutes correspondent whose career as a journalist spanned five decades
Simon won numerous awards, including his fourth Peabody and an Emmy for his story from central Africa on the world’s only all-black symphony in 2012. Another story about an orchestra in Paraguay, one whose poor members constructed their instruments from trash, won him his 27th Emmy, perhaps the most held by a journalist for field reporting, CBS said.
He also captured electronic journalism’s highest honor, the Alfred I duPont-Columbia University Award, for Shame of Srebrenica, a 60 Minutes II report on genocide during the Bosnian war.
Jon Stewart Will Be Leaving ‘The Daily Show’ on a Career High Note
(NYT) Jon Stewart, who turned Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” into a sharp-edged commentary on current events, delivering the news in layers of silliness and mockery, said on Tuesday that he would step down after more than 16 years as its anchor.
In becoming the nation’s satirist in chief, Mr. Stewart imbued the program with a personal sense of justice, even indignation. For a segment of the audience that had lost its faith in broadcast and print news outlets or never regarded them as sacrosanct in the first place, Mr. Stewart emerged a figure as trusted as Walter Cronkite or Edward R. Murrow.
… his satirical sensibility helped turn “The Daily Show,” where he also serves as an executive producer, into an influential platform for news and media commentary, both in the United States and around the world. The program — which averaged a respectable 2.2 million viewers a night last year — has been a humorous release valve for politically frustrated (often left-leaning) viewers and a bête-noir of (often right-leaning) critics who saw him as a member of the liberal media elite.
10 February
NBC suspends Brian Williams as its lead anchor for six months
The suspension of Williams, who is also managing editor of the evening newscast, is unprecedented in network news history. Never before has an anchor’s credibility and integrity been called into so much doubt that his employer has resorted to such public disciplinary measures. Dan Rather, the CBS News anchor, left his network under a cloud in 2006 after 44 years, but Rather was not subjected to a lengthy suspension.
9 February
NBC’s outsized Tom Brokaw factor
As Brian Williams flounders, his powerful predecessor stays neutral
(Politico) Brokaw, who turned 75 last week, has the title of “special correspondent,” but wields internal and public power far beyond his on-air role, because of his celebrity and moral authority, and his relationships with top executives of NBC and its parent, Comcast.
Brokaw is said by friends to be very upset about the controversy. “It’s a horrible mark on NBC, and reflects badly on everyone,” said one friend. The network executive described Brokaw as “the moral center and conscience of NBC News – the glue, the ballast, the backbone, the GPS.”
Brokaw helped lead NBC out of its darkest time – the scandal over a 1992 “Dateline NBC” report with a rigged truck explosion – and took over “Meet the Press” after Tim Russert’s death.
7 February
Brian WilliamsBrian Williams: NBC news anchor ‘temporarily’ steps down
US news anchor Brian Williams says he is taking himself off air “for several days”, amid questions over false claims he came under fire in Iraq.
Williams said it had become “painfully apparent” that he was too much a part of the news.
He repeatedly told a story about being shot down in a helicopter in Iraq but veterans disputed his account.
Williams, the most-watched network anchor in the US, blamed the “fog of memory” for the lapse. Brian Williams’ reports on Katrina called into question by New Orleans residents
Longtime residents of French Quarter say the NBC News anchor’s vivid claims about Katrina since the August 2005 hurricane have been overblown
Maureen Dowd: Anchors Aweigh
As the late-night comic anchors got more pointed and edgy with the news, the real anchors mimicked YouTube.
5 February
Brian Williams and the decline of the US news anchor
Brian Williams’ “mistake” has hurt the longtime presenter’s credibility, but nightly news anchors on the big three American networks no longer command the audience they used to.
For younger viewers especially, the big three anchors have been usurped by Jon Stewart of The Daily Show.
A much-quoted online poll conducted by Time magazine in 2009 revealed, astonishingly, that 44% considered the comedian to be the best source for trustworthy news. Williams scored 29%. More than five years on, that poll does not look quite so outlandish.
Raif Badawi back in court, future remains uncertain
Saudi blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, 10 years in prison
(CBC) Last Friday, however, he was again not flogged, though this time he was not evaluated by a physician, leaving both Badawi, his family living in Quebec, and international supporters wondering about the status of his case.
Who is Saudi activist Raif Badawi?
(Al-Monitor) As part of traditional Saudi politics, political prisoners are set free with the advent of a new king. Thus, today in Badawi’s case, Saudi Arabia finds itself at a crossroad. During the years before the Arab Spring, the late King Abdullah himself used to grant amnesty to prisoners of conscience, as was the case with the woman from Qatif and the flogging of journalist Rosanna al-Yami. Some believe that any amnesty granted to Badawi would open the door for the foreign media and human rights organizations to meddle in internal Saudi affairs. In other words, such amnesty would threaten the position of the judiciary.
In a bold step, Abdallah Yahya al-Mouallimi, the Saudi ambassador to the UN, published an article in Saudi newspaper Al Madina, criticizing flogging, and describing it as “a humiliating sentence that is in direct conflict with customs and international conventions.”
In the same vein, journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who’s close to the Saudi authorities, said that the issue of Badawi “has undermined the reputation of Saudi Arabia, and is not worthy of all the hype that was caused in the beginning.” He hopes that Badawi will be released, which would be one of the most challenging issues the new Saudi government would have to deal with.
22 January
Amanda Lang fallout: CBC on-air talent barred from taking paid speaking gigs

(National Post) After a series of controversies, CBC has barred its on-air talent from taking money for appearances or other “paid outside activities.”
In an email to CBC staff shared with Canada.com, top management told reporters all staff must get approval to appear at conferences or to moderate debates or events. It also notes, “CBC/Radio-Canada will no longer approve paid appearances by its on-air journalistic employees.”
The news comes after a slew of controversies over stars at CBC taking money for speaking at events. From chief business correspondent Amanda Lang to chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge, the broadcaster has previously defended the practice as separate from their journalistic activities but has also made changes to make its broadcasters’ public speeches more transparent.
16 January
Simon Houpt: Journalist Jesse Brown is quick to expose the failures of Canadian media. But what about his own?
Is the media industry in Canada too cozy for its own good?
(Globe & Mail) Over the past year, the journalist Jesse Brown has been like an action star in a Hollywood blow-’em-up: throwing fireballs and kicking asses. Since launching his podcast and website Canadaland in the fall of 2013, he has spilled secrets about newsroom misdeeds, broken stories about TV journalists taking money from groups they cover, and challenged reporting that he believes has fallen short.
Saudis ‘to review’ flogging of blogger Raif Badawi
(BBC) The case of a Saudi blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes has been referred to the Supreme Court by the king’s office, the BBC has learned.
Blogger Raif Badawi’s wife said the referral, made before he was flogged 50 times last Friday, gave him hope that officials would end his punishment. A second round of lashings was postponed for medical reasons.
15 January
Global TV anchor Leslie Roberts resigns after probe finds he breached conflict-of-interest rules Last week, Mr. Roberts was suspended soon after a Toronto Star investigation revealed that the anchor was secretly affiliated with Buzz PR—a public relations agency whose clients have frequently appeared on Global News.
12 January
CBC denies ‘sabotage’ allegation against business anchor Amanda Lang
CBC News Editor-in-Chief Jennifer McGuire said in a memo to staff Monday that the allegations about business reporter Amanda Lang’s involvement in the story on RBC’s use of temporary foreign workers were “categorically untrue.”
The CBC memo came after media website Canadaland published a report alleging Lang tried to scuttle the RBC story. It also said Lang was in a “serious relationship” with an RBC board member at the time the story ran.
Canadaland alleged Lang tried to convince colleagues during a conference call that the RBC outsourcing story wasn’t significant news.
11 January
These are the biggest hypocrites celebrating free speech today in Paris
French President Hollande is surrounded by heads of state as they attend the solidarity march in the streets of ParisWorld leaders are gathering in Paris to mark the murder of staff and police at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, as well as those killed in the hostage situation at a kosher supermarket. But as Daniel Wickham points out (as amplified by the journalist Glenn Greenwald), many of the 40 leaders attending the rally in Paris don’t have the best record of defending the principle of free speech so viciously attacked earlier this week:
8 January
Let’s not sacralize Charlie Hebdo
The satire that Charlie Hebdo exemplified was more blasphemous than political, and its roots lie deep in European history, dating from a time when in order to challenge authority, one had to confront divinity itself. In that one respect, the fanatics are not wrong: Charlie Hebdo was out to undermine the sacred as such.
(Al Jazeera America) Charlie Hebdo was in the business of giving offense, and it tried hard to offend everyone — right and left, Protestant and Catholic, Muslim and Jew, male and female, Western and non-Western. It was, if you’ll pardon the expression, an equal opportunity offender, and it reveled in its freedom to vex, irritate and derange.
If the magazine’s omnidirectional impudence had been limited to words, it probably would not have ended in a bloodbath. Language creates boundaries that words cannot transcend, even with the help of translators. Images, however, can cross linguistic boundaries as if they did not exist. Images are immediate, their effect is visceral, and as the journalist Jeet Heer reminds us, they move rapidly. The artists at Charlie Hebdo made no effort to blunt their impact or to convey the full historical context out of which their imagery grew.
#JeSuisCharlie: Cartoonists react to the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris
Charlie Hebdo Austrlian cartoonThe Blame for the Charlie Hebdo Murders
(The New Yorker) The murders in Paris were so specific and so brazen as to make their meaning quite clear. The cartoonists died for an idea. The killers are soldiers in a war against freedom of thought and speech, against tolerance, pluralism, and the right to offend—against everything decent in a democratic society. So we must all try to be Charlie, not just today but every day.
At least 12 people have died in Paris after masked gunmen opened fire in the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a provocative satirical newspaper.
Among the dead: Some of France’s best-known cartoonists. According to the AFP, they included editor in chief Stephane Charbonnier, a.k.a. “Charb,” and the cartoonists known as Cabu, Tignous and Wolinski.
The reaction to their deaths was swift and intense from their peers.

Sordid contrast
Ghomeshi faces three new charges
He now faces a total of eight charges; three new ones, four previous charges of sexual assault and one previous charge of overcome resistance choking.

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