Prince George Free Press adds digital offering

December 4, 2012 1 comment

The Prince George Free Press, a twice-weekly community paper in B.C.’s northern capital, has embarked on a new experiment: a daily, digital edition.

As reported here, the paper says it has launched a new, non-traditional daily product. Indeed, separate from its own website, which uses Black Press’ standard template (it’s no longer under Black Press ownership, although they do remain affiliated in some ways), this product is delivered right to your e-mail and readers scroll through it like an actual paper.

From the announcement:

“The Free Press Daily is markedly different than a website in a couple of ways,” said Bill Phillips, Free Press managing editor. “We haven’t loaded it up with web enhancements that have nothing to do with delivering the news of the day, and we actually deliver it to you. Rather than having to go a website to get your news, it comes to you … just like the paper version does.”

I also couldn’t help but notice a slight, light-hearted jab to their main competitor, the Prince George Citizen, a subscription-based daily paper. That came from a comment from the Free Press’ sales director:

“Why should you pay to get your daily news?” said Roy Spooner, Free Press sales and marketing director.

It’s definitely a neat idea. I’ll be curious to see if it sparks any other projects like that from other papers in the area.

– Northern Reporter

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Walter Cordery update

October 7, 2012 Comments off

The Nanaimo Daily News’ Paul Walton wrote me over the weekend about Walter Cordery‘s recent and unexpexted death:

Thanks for your posting about Walter Cordery.

I just want to make sure the record is clear about his passing to remove any conjecture.

While his death was indeed unexpected and upsetting for all who knew him, information provided to me by the police and coroner indicate that Walter died of natural causes.

Beyond that, I can offer no further information.

Columbia Valley Pioneer, Invermere Valley Echo sign co-operation agreement

October 5, 2012 5 comments

The owners of the Columbia Valley Pioneer and the Invermere Valley Echo have signed a joint operating agreement that will preserve the existing newsrooms but consolidate administration and accounting duties.

The Pioneer will remain free, while Invermere Valley Echo will remain a paid-subscription paper with a paywalled website. The papers will remain owned by different entities, but Rose-Marie Regitnig will serve as publisher of both papers.

The Pioneer reports:

This means both businesses can work together, instead of fighting for survival in the face of decreasing profit margins.

Each newspaper will maintain its owner. Black Press still owns The Echo, and Misko Publishing still owns The Pioneer. And both will maintain their distinctive editorial voices, Ms. Regitnig explained.

“To serve the community best we feel that each paper should maintain its personality and thus both will have varied content, just as they do now,” she said. “Significant stories may run in both, but as we have two separate editorial teams, the coverage of the same event will differ.”

“This agreement is set in place to make each newspaper better, in every way.”

….

“I believe that this joint operating agreement will allow us to get so much further by letting us shift our mindsets and work together, rather than against each other,” Ms. Regitnig added. “That can be an uncomfortable and intimidating concept to most of us when we think of our business competitors, but we are taking this approach because we believe in it.”

“Our competitive editorial spirit at both newspapers will still be there, and that is good and healthy. It creates better newspapers.”

The Pioneer has a poll on their website asking what their readers think. So far, of 22 votes, half think it’s the wrong move, while six people approve.

If somebody could explain to me who, exactly, the publisher will report to (e.g., who’s her boss?), it would be much appreciated, because I sure as hell can’t figure it out.

Also, please feel free to explain how newspapers can retain a “competitive editorial spirit” while running some of the same stories?

Nanaimo Daily News reporter Walter Cordery dies at age 54 [UPDATED]

October 2, 2012 Comments off

Nanaimo Daily News reporter Walter Cordery has died at the age of 54. Neither the news story or two columns in the paper about Cordery includes his cause of death, but while it was “unexpected,” Paul Walton wrote that the 23-year veteran of the paper had long battled health issues.

UPDATE: Walton wrote me over Thanksgiving weekend:

Thanks for your posting about Walter Cordery.

I just want to make sure the record is clear about his passing to remove any conjecture.

While his death was indeed unexpected and upsetting for all who knew him, information provided to me by the police and coroner indicate that Walter died of natural causes.

Beyond that, I can offer no further information.

Here’s the news story:

Family, friends and colleagues are mourning the unexpected death of longtime Daily News reporter and columnist Walter Cordery.

Cordery has been with the newspaper since he graduated from the journalism program at Vancouver’s Langara College in 1989. A back injury ended his previous career as a butcher.

He covered a wide range of issues in his 23 years with the paper, but his favourite topics revolved around politics and crime in Nanaimo. Cordery gave his own impressions of daily events in the city in his well-read column Wonderland.

Cordery’s ex-wife Heather, mother of his two daughters Elyse and Nadine, said his two passions in life were his children and journalism.

“Walter was a great dad who really loved his girls, and that was evident every time he was with them,” Heather said. “His other great love was journalism and he worked hard at his job.”

more…

Interim editor Philip Wolf’s column:

I knew he was as sharp as a tack the minute I met him.

I Back in 1991, a baby-faced young lad (that would be me) showed up for his first official shift at the (then) Nanaimo Daily Free Press, sporting a rather impressive black eye.

I mumbled something about a stray elbow in a weekend football game, which seemed to placate my new colleagues.

Not Walter Cordery.

After everyone dispersed, he sidled up to me quietly and said: “OK, so what really happened?”

You could never put anything past Walter.

Today, I look around the newsroom and it just doesn’t feel right.

Directly behind me is the spot where Michael Rhode is supposed to be.

He’s not there.

One quadrant over is where Walter is supposed to be.

He’s not there either.

Walter passed away over the weekend.

He was just 54 years old.

My sense of sadness today is overwhelming.

more…

And Paul Walton’s aforementioned column:

Nanaimo is for the worse today with the loss of our Daily News colleague Walter Cordery.

For some time Walter had been struggling with health issues that would test the bravest of us. And amidst the various tests, medications and consults, his commitment to the readers of this newspaper never wavered.

Walter was a newshound and a political junkie. He got into journalism in the 1980s after studying journalism at Langara College. We used to tease him that he started at the Daily Free Press when the earth was cooling and that he reported on the Crimean War for the Free Press.

Almost, but not quite. It was the depth of Walter’s knowledge that made him appear so long-lasting. If I had a question about provincial or municipal politics, Walter would usually know.

“Hey Walter,” was usually met with “Hey Paul.”

“When was the ALR created in B.C.?”

“Under the NDP and Dave Barrett in the early ’70s.”

“Who was mayor before Gary Korpan?”

“Joy Leach.”

“Before that?”

“Graeme Roberts.”

more…

Penny for your thoughts? Yeah, right.

September 21, 2012 2 comments

I’ve been asked a lot of things in my time as a community newspaper reporter. But the one thing I’ve never been asked is what I think my newspaper chain can do better. I’ve thus also never been asked how it might make more money, or produce better content, or alienate fewer readers, or piss off fewer employees. (Which is, of course, one of the reasons I started this blog.)

Every now and then you’ll read a story about an innovative company that is great to work for. What sets these companies apart isn’t usually what they produce, but how they produce it. Google allows workers to set aside something like 20 per cent of their time for their own personal projects. Toyota asks front-line workers to suggest improvements to allow it to run more efficiently. Other companies ask their employees what they can do better. Not newspaper companies. At Postmedia, which has blessedly sold off its community papers, Paul Godfrey set aside time a couple times a year to answer employee questions. Which is a nice gesture, I guess, but also condescending and ridiculous and symptomatic of all that’s wrong with the industry.

Or you have the old executive visit. This happens at most every paper: you’re working a pumping out another edition when the publisher or editor brings some guy in a suit around to your desk. Your boss states your name and position, makes small talk and facilitates a handshake. It’s an utter waste of time and demeaning for all concerned, the equivalent of dogs sniffing each others’ asses. Except at least the dogs might find something interesting.  The reporter and editor goes through the charade because they have to, obviously. The boss does it to plant the company’s flag and show his face and, if he’s an idiot, because he (it’s always a he) thinks it’s good for morale.

If the guy really cared, of course, he wouldn’t ask about the news of the day or how the family is doing, but rather if there’s anything he and the other folks at head office should know that would make the paper run better. To pull this off requires skill and the allocation of actual time and effort on the part of the suit. The workers need to know he’s coming (so they can prepare their pitch) and be promised that any suggestions they make won’t come back to bite them in the ass. But it’s not that hard. And it shouldn’t take that much time: most employees will be too shy, or too apathetic, to offer suggestions. Some might, though. Maybe it’ll help. Maybe processes can be streamlined. Maybe new markets can be found. Maybe smart new employees will reveal themselves. And maybe somebody will show that even non-executives can have good ideas, or at least the same old bad ones.*

Maybe the suits will ignore all the suggestions. But at least they’d be pretending to fucking care.

*One of the problems with newspaper chains is that innovation (if you can call it that) tends to only happen from the top. All the websites (save that of the Powell River Peak) look the same, and all changes can only be implemented on a chain-wide basis by somebody working at some head office or location set apart from the individual papers. There is no room for experimentation. An idea is conceived and implemented across dozens of websites. This takes substantial time and money. If it fails…scratch that….nobody’s allowed to admit failure because doing so requires someone to admit that all that effort was wasted. And because the chains discourage failure, they inevitably discourage innovation and promote imitation. Imitation, of course, is safe and comfortable and allows the suits to keep collecting their salaries while they cut from the bottom.**

**Maybe that’s why chains don’t want to hear from us.

Kamloops daily gets new editor; Nanaimo gets two

September 14, 2012 1 comment

I’ve probably missed a lot of these types of announcements in recent months, but I’ll at least take a swing at acknowledging a few recent comings and goings, including two biggies.

First, today is Mel Rothenburger‘s last day as editor of the Kamloops Daily News. He’s retiring and associate editor Robert Koopmans will take the reigns after a long apprenticeship in the newsroom (and six Webster nominations). I’ll try to link to Mel’s goodbye column when it’s posted.

Meanwhile, on Vancouver Island, Cale Cowan is no longer the editor of the Nanaimo Daily News. He’s heading down the road to be the news editor at the Victoria Times-Colonist. (Dave Obee is the new head honcho there). Meanwhile, NDN deputy editor Philip Wolf has been named interim editor. Details on how to get Cale’s old job here. Also, here’s Cale’s goodbye column, in which he recounts a letter from a reader “who, on one short hand-scrawled note, questioned my intelligence, commented disparagingly on my physique and likened my character to a very specific part of the human anatomy.”

The other paper in town, the Nanaimo News Bulletin, already has a new editor, with the promotion in August of former arts editor Melissa Fryer. Read her first column as editor here. Here’s the goodbye column by outgoing editor Mitch Wright, who has taken a communications gig with the University of Victoria.

Parksville Qualicum Beach News editor Steve Heywood will become the Peninsula News Review third editor in less than a year. He takes over for Erin Cardone, who is moving overseas.

And the Fernie Free Press‘s newest reporter Nicole Liebermann introduces herself to readers.

If you need a job, today’s the last day to apply to be the Nanaimo News Bulletin‘s newest reporter or the Goldstream News Gazette‘s new editor.

Finally, North Shore News sales and marketing director Dee Dhaliwal has been named the new publisher of the Vancouver Courier. Reading the story announcing her appointment was the first time, really, that I noticed just how few non-white publishers, editors and reporters there are at community papers in B.C. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s a little disturbing, now that I’m aware of it.

Herbal supplement company sues Kamloops Daily News

September 14, 2012 Comments off

The Kamloops Daily News has been sued by Strauss Herb Company over an April 2 column by Russ Reid.

The company says Reid’s column gave readers the impression Strauss was knowingly trying to sucker customers into buying a worthless product, according to a story by Kamloops This Week reporter Tim Petruk.

According to Petruk:

The column was in response to a KTW front-page story nearly a month earlier — in the March 6, 2012 edition — titled Strauss claims victory, describing the fact Strauss Heart Drops had received natural-health designation from Health Canada.

In its statement of claim, Strauss took particular issue with one paragraph of Reid’s column — which stated Strauss “has refused to reveal its formula and put standard specific information about the ingredients on its product label.”

Reid went on to compare Strauss to 19th-century snake-oil salesmen and New York Ponzi-scheme con man Bernie Madoff.

……

The Kamloops Daily News responded, in documents filed last week, with a counter-claim against Strauss,  alleging false advertising and seeking orders from the court that Strauss stop making exaggerated claims about its products.

The newspaper also denied any malice in publishing Reid’s column and claimed it was a matter of public interest — specifically citing reader comments under the column when it was published online, including a number of “intemperate remarks” from a user traced back to a Strauss computer.

more…

As the story notes, none of the claims have been proven in court.

The Daily News published an unbylined story on the lawsuit with the headline “Paper responds to Strauss lawsuit.” (Although, I usually just quote snippets of stories, what with copyright and all that, I’m going to reprint in full since it’s pretty much a press release. If that’s a problem, let me know.)

Lawyers for Glacier Media, the Kamloops Daily News and a retired city doctor have filed a response to a lawsuit from a Kamloops company alleging defamation and libel.

The legal documents were filed in B.C. Supreme Court Friday, in response to a lawsuit from Strauss Enterprises (the Strauss Herb Company), and Peter Strauss, Brian Kettle, Bill Carey, Don Schulz and Robert Jackman of the company.

Strauss’s lawsuit, filed earlier this year, names Glacier Media Inc., The Daily News, Dr. Russ Reid, editor Mel Rothenburger and publisher Tim Shoults.

Strauss claims it was defamed in a column authored by Reid, who wrote about Health Canada’s awarding of a natural product number to Strauss Heartdrops. The article was published in The Daily News last spring.

The Kamloops Daily News and the other defendants have filed a response in which they deny that the column has the meaning claimed by the plaintiffs, and some of the defendants have challenged Strauss’s advertisements.

It’s not known when the case will reach court.

Rothenburger, incidentally, was slated to retire Sept. 14, two days after the news of the lawsuit was made public.