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Tunnel vision, cranky editors, and very ambiguous headlines

March 21, 2011 Comments off

Some curiosities from the past week in the Interior:

Prince George Free Press editor Bill Phillips writes on his blog about how his cranky editorness caused him to not fall victim to the Enbridge hair hoax that bamboozled many news outlets last week.

This headline in Columbia Valley Pioneer, “Crook family history revealed in new book,” can be read the wrong way. (The family are Crooks, not criminals.)

Last Friday, the Nelson Star published a list, as part of an ongoing series of West Kootenay-related lists, of three abandoned highway tunnels, including one between Slocan and Silverton that was built more than 80 years ago, as the seventh part in a series of West Kootenay-related lists. It’s a good thing the list didn’t run one week later because on Sunday the Star reported that that same Slocan highway tunnel collapsed last week, possibly on the same day the paper went to press. (Remember, the tunnel was abandoned).

The Tampa Bay Lightning released Salmon Arm product Mitch Fadden from his minor league contract after the Salmon Arm Observer broke the news earlier this month that Fadden is facing drunk driving charges (although the Observer didn’t mention Fadden’s NHL connection in that story).

So the Kamloops Daily News ran an article about a man who was unhappy about having to pray at an AA meeting and the comments duly began — some fairly tame, others pretty vicious. And so the Daily News published an editorial pointing out that some of the commenters were a tad impolite and intolerant. I was going to write that this all makes one consider the point of comments in the first place, but then I remembered some of the letters my paper receives and publishes. I guess I can’t be against discussion and free speech, even though those who tend to lead the way are often imbecilic racists.

Ambiguous headline No. 2 comes from the Penticton Western News: “Penticton student heads to Midway.” Midway, some will know, is a small town two hours from Penticton. It looks like this in winter:

And for Midway residents who read that headline,  the story’s lede could be taken the wrong way:

While many high school students are looking forward to spring break as a chance to kick back or perhaps even travel with their family to Europe, Mexico or some other exotic locale, Emily Chartrand is making plans to go a bit farther afield, at least in terms of distance from civilization.

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The student, for those who must know, is going to the Midway Islands, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Don’t get me wrong about the story: there’s nothing wrong with it. But the lede combined with the headline is just plain funny.

And I’m slow on the uptake here, but former Vernon Morning Star reporter Natalie Appleton was shortlisted for a national short fiction award. She also recently finished her memoir, How to Meet a Nice Man from Medicine Hat, and is expecting a baby so all in all, sounds like a good year for Natalie, who’s now teaching at Okanagan College.

Oh, and two jobs, by the way: the Trail Daily Times needs an editor and the Rocky Mountain Goat needs a full-time reporter.

Photo by Havan Kevin via Flickr.

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This blog had more visitors in February than any previous months. It’s still a one-person show, though, so any help would be great. It’s easy, quick and the pay is shite. E-mail bclocalreporter (at) gmail (dot) com.

Have I made an error? It wouldn’t be the first time. Leave a comment and I’ll shamefully update the post.

We’re making inroads into our census of B.C. community newspapers, but there are still a lot of blanks in the Journo-lust Spreadsheet. How many journalists work at your paper? How often do you come out? Who’s your publisher? Participation is free! The benefits unlimited! The exclamation points boundless!

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Calling all journalism students

February 7, 2011 1 comment

Because you can’t see comments on the main page (you have to click on the post’s title), sometimes they can fly under the radar. For that reason I’m going to repost a comment here by Nelson Star reporter Andrea Klassen, who suggests that some ambitious journalism student should take note and write a kick-ass paper on the whole Nelson Star/Express/Daily News hubbub that has taken place in the last year. She commented:

Since the NDN closed last summer, I’ve thought Nelson would be a great study for some intrepid journalism student doing their honours review. With the Express gone and a couple new print things percolating around town in addition to the online sites, it seems like a better and better idea all the time—especially since I don’t think there’s a local journalist with enough distance on the issue to ever get at the full story, myself most definitely included.

I couldn’t agree more.

Bobsleds, drug dealers, and landfill rage (!)

February 7, 2011 1 comment

A bobsled wipes out at last year's Rossland Winter Carnival

The roundup is back this week with a look at papers in the Interior.

There’s a very interesting story by Tracy Hughes and Lachlan Labere in the Salmon Arm Observer that is a little too twisted for me to summarize completely without just ripping off, word-for-word, everything Tracy and Lachlan very capably write. In short: a court has pulled a $1.75 million house off the market because one of its residents is a convicted drug traffickers facing new charges. However, the property’s owners is not facing charges and only a little bit of pot was found on the property. But the alleged traffickers did own the home in the past. Great reportage.

Also, in the Salmon Arm Observer, Barb Brouwer reports on what may be British Columbia’s single worst job: defending the local landfill from angry and violent would-be dumpers.

Anger from customers continues to be an issue at the Salmon Arm Landfill and police are recommending assault charges following the latest instance of violence.

For the second time in three months, attendant Debbie Dystant has been injured on the job by a customer expressing his anger over the 4 p.m. closing.

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Over the past three years, Dystant has been sworn at and had angry customers attempt to run her down. But, while she was vocal about her previous experiences, she has hired a lawyer following this latest incident and did not comment. In November, another irate customer sprayed Dystant with gravel by peeling his tires, which bruised her legs and ruined her eyeglasses in the process.

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I. Will. Never. Complain. About. My. Job. Again. (Or at least I’ll feel a tinge of guilt when I do so.)

A 100-year-old Kamloops curler is is the oldest active curler in the world according to no less an authority than the Guiness Book of World Records. Marty The Reporter Hastings of Kamloops This Week has the story, while photographer Dave Eagles‘s very imaginative and all-round awesome profile shot may be included in the 2012 version of the book. Here’s what centenarian Steve Gittus has to say about being in the book:

“I don’t know why I should be in there,” Gittus said.

“I didn’t have anything to do with me getting older. That’s just the way it is. I didn’t make a deliberate choice to become old.

“It just happened.”

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An aside that has nothing to do with any of the story’s mentioned today: don’t use the word “noted” if it’s not absolutely perfect for the sentence. Use “said” instead. When you write “noted” it implies that the writer accepts whatever is being said as the clear and unarguable truth. It’s also just clumsy.

Matt Coxford of the Cranbrook Daily Townsman writes about mullet madness on the local junior hockey team:

Whether it’s lying down in front of a speeding puck or colouring his mullet red and black, Kimberley Dynamiter Rylan Duley will do what it takes to help his team win.

“Blocking shots is hard, but committing to a mullet is a different thing,” said Duley, shrugging off the suggestion it takes courage to sport the short-in-front, long-in-back hairdo.

“It makes you faster out there.”

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Elsewhere in the crazy Kootenay International Junior Hockey Leauge, there’s this Nelson Star story and photo, I think by Andrea Klassen (?), about a crazy end to a recent game between Nelson and Castlegar:

“I looked at the ref before I even shot the puck, and I’m like, ‘how hasn’t he blown the whistle?'” a bemused Moir told the Star following the game. “The goalie’s behind the net without his helmet, just swarmed. I shot the puck anyway. It’s probably the greasiest goal I’ve ever scored in my life.”

By the time play resumed a smattering of Castlegar fans were climbing the glass at the Nelson and District Community Complex and screaming from the stands, while a water bottle went sailing from the Rebel bench.

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Meanwhile, a terrific helmet-cam video (from YouTube) of a bobsled run down city streets is attached to the Rossland News’ story on the annual race, which was attended by Rick Mercer last year. Watch the video, it’s insane.

In the Castlegar News: a mother whose 11-year-old son *Cole (*CORRECTED) “suffered a life-altering spinal cord injury while skiing” leaving him paralyzed from the waist down — at least for now — writes a long and touching letter about her child’s recover and future. Making things more difficult is the fact that *Cole’s parents are separated meaning that there are two houses that need to be made wheelchair accessible. I wonder how often that happens, or how a paralysis affects families that have already split up. I don’t know how you’d get access to someone to write that feature, though…

Will someone write a column about the thousands of dollars ICBC is spending on all those bloody Vicky Gabereau advertisements? They’re fucking everywhere.

Finally, from the better-late-than never files: last week Prince George Free Press editor Bill Phillips wrote on his blog that the competing Citizen failed to sufficiently correct a wrong Page 1 story last week.

Monday’s banner story in the Citizen says the college board is “vowing to keep” the aboriginal programs. Nowhere in the story does it mention that they got it wrong on Saturday. To top it off, there is a small correction on page two that simply states their page one story on Saturday contained incorrect information … without offering any corrected information.

As mentioned above, the measure of a newspaper is in how it handles its own mistakes. I rest my case.

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Photo by urbanbenchwork via Flickr.

Nelsonitis and Kamloopox

February 5, 2011 Comments off

I can’t help but noticing that I’ve written quite a bit about various goings-on in Kamloops and Nelson.

Reason 1, of course, is the fact that there have been interesting developments in both cities, what with the closing of the Express and the banning of Gregg Drinnan.

Reason 2 is the advanced and relatively competitive media culture in Nelson and Kamloops, which are both hubs for the surrounding region.

Reason 3, though, is where this blog’s readers come in. It’s because of certain readers in those two markets have been particularly helpful in directing my attention towards stories and shenanigans that I find interesting.

My thanks go out to them. And to the rest of you freeloaders (I jest, I jest), if  you want to see more stuff about your region or paper on this blog, it’s up to you to alert me. E-mail me at bclocalreporter (at) gmail (dot) com. (The parentheses are to thwart nefarious spambots that try and clog my inbox. A pox on all your servers.)

 

Categories: Projects Tags: ,

Karl Marx and Adam Smith weigh in on the closing of the Nelson Express

February 4, 2011 5 comments

The Nelson Express published its final paper this week after being driven out of business by what Express publisher Nelson Becker said was the Black Press-owned Nelson Star’s aggressive competition.

He gave an interview to Kootenay Ko-op Radio’s Mike Chapman in which he talks about exactly why his paper has shut its doors. The entire interview can be heard here, starting about two-fifths of the way through.

Becker said the paper’s revenue simply couldn’t keep up with its costs, given the lower ad rates by the Star:

“For years the Express has been on the line of breaking even or losing money and for the last year and a half, more or less, I had to ask this question very seriously and in order to stay afloat I ended up having to as much as I could reduce my expenses.

“With the aggressive competitiveness of the Nelson Star I could not match their rates and I had no doubt that they could continue. I just could not see the way to continue.”

He said he hopes that the low rates will be maintained, now that the Star’s the only print game in town. “But that’s up to them.”

He said the tough economic times compromised the editorial side of the paper too.

“My coverage of city hall was much reduced and that came partially out of not having the City of Nelson newsletter which was a tremendous financial support to the Express.”

Chapman noted that both Becker and the publisher of the Star, Chuck Bennett, sat on the board of directors of the BCYCNA, the mission statement of which says the organization aims to: “Promote and cultivate co-operation, understanding, a spirit of fraternal regard and friendly relations among its members.”

Becker said:

“Not living up to what seems to be the objects of our association is indeed sad. I interpret that as having good competitiveness and not endeavouring to put each other out of business. The Nelson Daily News was also a member of the association.”

“We should not think that this situation is just in Nelson this is a provincewide and in many wides nationwide struggle of independent media against the large chains.”

Becker, though, is generally conciliatory and adamant that the Star operated as a business and, as such, it could do so as it saw fit. In general, he comes across as someone who’s loss will be felt in Nelson.

Indeed Becker is remarkably self-aware of his paper’s faults, noting that the tightening of expenses meant that he could pay his journalists enough to keep them on staff (Chapman seems more bitter than his interview subject). More than a couple publishers could take note of the following:

“I wasn’t able to pay staff what they needed in order to see this as a permanent job and that’s what for stability would have helped a lot. So I was squeezed in the middle. [On the] one end I had my expenses rising and my staff needing more financial support. On the other end I had advertisings say you’re charging too much . . . and I squeezed in the middle because I’m the sort of guy who wants to satisfy everybody.”

Becker was also asked if online news was the future of local journalism, given that Chris Shepherd, a former editor of the Express, and two former Daily News staffers are all plying their trade on the web.

Becker says that few people he knows get their news online (although Becker, himself, is an exception to that).

Of the Nelson Post and Nelson Daily, he said:

“I think that they will serve a community but I don’t think that the internet will be a mass media in a local community.”

Instead, he feels that online news works best, and is sustainable, when catering to a massive, worldwide reader base.

Becker said he’s not retiring, but is developing an online mailing list through which he will communicate his future plans.

Chapman also spoke to BCYCNA Lorne Derkson about aggressive competition between newspapers (although he skirted around it for a while). Finally, Derkson confirms that the BCYCNA doesn’t address competition conflicts between papers as occurred in Nelson.

That, in turn, sparked a dialogue between my internal Karl Marx and Adam Smith.

AS: Competition is good for papers, both editorially and on the ad side of things. When paper’s stop competing editorially copy gets stale. If they stopped competing on the sales side of things and kept prices up, they’d simply drive advertisers away from print.

KM: Competition merely leads to consolidation and that’s not good for anybody. Look at the situation in Nelson. Don’t tell me it’s better because of the competition. Co-operation—but not collusion—is better.

AS: The Star may have driven two papers out of business but those deaths led to new online news sources and, potentially, a rejuvenation of local journalism.

KM: The Star is too big. The Post and the Nelson Daily won’t be able to compete and will eventually go the way of the Express.

AS: Then something better will come along.

KM: Or we’ll just grow used to having one media outlet and turn to watching the Real Housewives of Orange County to placate ourselves. Vicki Gunvalson is the opium of the masses!

AS: Nuh, uh! The free hand of the market has spoken: Vicki for president!

KM: Fascist!

AS: Commie!

KM: Mother-lover!

AS: Crazy beard-grower!

Anyone looking to unleash their inner Mercantilist is welcome to comment.

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That was a pretty good post, eh? Keep them coming by helping me out.. It’s easy, quick and the pay is shite. E-mail bclocalreporter (at) gmail (dot) com.

Have I made an error? It wouldn’t be the first time. Leave a comment and I’ll shamefully update the post.

We’re making inroads into our census of B.C. community newspapers, but there are still a lot of blanks in the Journo-lust Spreadsheet. How many journalists work at your paper? How often do you come out? Who’s your publisher? Participation is free! The benefits unlimited! The exclamation points boundless!

January? That happened.

February 1, 2011 Comments off

Is this a new feature? Maybe, if the blog survives another month.

Here’s what you may have missed in January if you haven’t been following the J-lust religiously:

Nelson Star editor Bob Hall penned a must-read column on what it was like to be the final editor of the Nelson Daily News when Black Press made the decision to send the newspaper to a farm in the country, and then to be hired by Black Press to edit the Star.

Kamloops Daily News sports editor Gregg Drinnan was banned from speaking to members of the Kamloops Blazers after team management took offence to his reporter. Outrage ensued. The WHL were taken to task for being out to lunch on the issue. The Blazers were ridiculed as the ban blew up in their faces. It became clear that the WHL didn’t know what the fuck was going on. The Blazers met with the paper and the league. The ban was lifted, the Daily News promised to not change a thing, and the Blazers have continued to suck.

The aforementioned Nelson Star drove another Nelson paper out of business as the Express closed up shop, blaming aggressive competition from the Star. Meanwhile the Nelson Daily, an online newsite, took a swipe at Black Press but needlessly ignored the Post.

Former Prince George Free Press Reporter Michelle Lang, who died while reporting for the Calgary Herald in Afghanistan, was remembered a year after her death.

A Trail Daily Times reporter had the means to retire at the age of 54. I expressed disbelief and envy.

I criticized Black Press for sponsoring the lamest award ever: the CCNA award for best holiday edition.

A video of a cop kicking a man under arrest that was shot by Castanet reporter Kelly Hayes on his iPhone sparked an investigation and nationwide news coverage. He later shot an exclusive interview with the man, Buddy Tavares.

Mounties began an investigation into whether the Nanaimo Daily News and reporters Danielle Bell and Derek Spalding breached a publication ban with a recent article. But the Daily News pushed back, saying the cops were just bitter because the story left them with “egg on their face.”

Penticton Herald editor James Miller wrote about his brave turn as a transvestite on stage. In a strange sort of synergy, the aforementioned aforementioned Bob Hall also confessed to growing muttonchops and a moustache for a pantomime role as a snake oil salesman.

I asked “Why is there so much bullshit in community newspapers?” in an expletive-filled column.

Derek Bouchard, a long-time radio news guy with CHBQ 1280 (about which I can find little information) in Powell River, is running for city council. Derek no longer works in radio, according to the bio on his “Derek Bouchard for City Council” Facebook page. Instead, he’s now working for a company that maintains Canada Post mailboxes.

Good news for any Postmedia editor who, for whatever reason, would want to be publisher as Marlyn Graziano was named publisher of the Surrey Now. Marlyn was the editor of the paper until 2000, when she took over as editorial director of Canwest Community Publishing. She’ll keep those duties too.

Alaska Highway News reporter Ryan Lux fought off “a drug-addled delinquent” who burst into his Fort St. John apartment uninvited and threatened to kill him. Then he wrote about it in a gripping first-hand account you’ve got to read.

And Burnaby Now editor Pat Tracy gave all aspiring journalists a cheat-sheet for finding work in a newsroom with a terrific post on her blog. I added my two cents.

To recap the recap:

Shame on you award: Kamloops Blazers.

Editors on stage (and in drag)

January 17, 2011 Comments off

In the Okanagan Sunday weekend paper, Penticton Herald editor James Miller writes about his brave turn as a transvestite. On stage. Now, he can actually put “transvestite” on his resume or maybe even, he asks, his American Express card.

For those fortunate enough to catch one of five shows this past week of Chess: The Musical, you may have noticed me. I wore a dress, fishnet stockings, brassiere (filled with bird seed), makeup and high heels for a 45-second cameo in the Soundstage Productions musical that played at the Penticton Lakeside Resort.

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I now have an even greater admiration for women. It was painful. I started with a bad-ass pair of high heels, something Elton John would have worn in the 1970s, only to fall twice. They were replaced by a pair of stilettos. It‘s tough to find stilettos in size 13, so costumer Kerry Younie cut the back out of them to make them more of a sandal.

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Very funny.

And egads, what’s this? Another editor involved in a theatre production? Nelson Star editor Bob Hall recently confessed to growing muttonchops and a moustache for a pantomime role as a snake oil salesman.

Shortly after my facial transformation, I was walking through the Chahko-Mika parking lot when a big dude with a massive handlebar moustache gave me the head-nod and “heh” greeting. I happily nodded back, but having forgot about the handlebar I was rocking was a bit puzzled by this stranger’s acknowledgment.

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On a less cheery note, the homeless in Kamloops are drinking hand sanitizer, reporters KTW’s Dale Bass. This, it turns out, is dangerous:

One of the components of most sanitizers, however, is a chemical that has a medicinal use treating angina patients.

It does this by lowering their blood pressure, Salter said, but, in homeless people — most of whom are in poor physical health already — this can compromise their health.

The type of ethanol used is also toxic, affecting the central nervous system.

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Apparently students elsewhere have turned to the “booze ooze,” leading the Vancouver school district to not install sanitizer in their washrooms.

Please, if you, like the Merritt Herald, publish a column by a local politician, make sure the politician’s name (and position) is on the page on the website. Otherwise it looks like an editorial you would never, ever want to write yourself.

Nelson Star snow photo kicker: “Oh Snow You Didn’t.” Oh, NO they di’int.

Finally, this photo illustration by Vernon Morning Star shooter Cory Bialecki is pretty rocking. Story by Kristin Froneman is also well done. (I’ve noticed a common theme: good photos tend to be accompanied by good stories, written by a reporter not responsible for the photography).

Photo by Annie Mole via Flickr.

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Help keep this blog running for weeks to come by becoming a link farmer. It’s easy, quick and the pay is shite. E-mail bclocalreporter (at) gmail (dot) com. Also, take the poll on the right. It’s free. Lucky you.

Have I made an error? It wouldn’t be the first time. Leave a comment and I’ll duly update the post.

We’re making inroads into our census of B.C. community newspapers, but there are still a lot of blanks in the Journo-lust Spreadsheet. How many journalists work at your paper? How often do you come out? Who’s your publisher? Participation is free! The benefits unlimited! The exclamation points boundless!

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