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Posts Tagged ‘Vancouver Sun’

More Courier/Sun sniping, this time with lingerie and coffee

February 9, 2012 2 comments

In which the Courier’s Kudos & Kvetches column takes aim at the Vancouver Sun and the coffee it’s brewing to celebrate its 100th birthday, Pete McMartin takes a little offence and fires back using a Sun cannon composed of 38 Webster Awards, only to have Kudos & Kvetches use a hastily constructed lingerie slingshot to launch a new assault.

A sampling:

Kudos (from the online version that is, apparently, a little different than the print version:

Unfortunately, the full-bodied flavour quickly gave way to empty filler not unlike running an op-ed piece from the L.A. Times about how “we” Americans lack a monarch like Queen Elizabeth.

McMartin:

In that last decade in which our editorial shift has supposedly become less dense, Sun staffers have won 38 Jack Webster Awards, which celebrate the best journalism in the province. The Courier has won none. But who’s counting?

Kudos (again):

Initially we were going to launch a scathing rebuttal and blame our lack of Websters on corporate conspiracy, but we were too distracted by a story the Sun had just posted to its website: “Abbotsford gets Lingerie Football League team” and the completely necessary 17-picture photo gallery that really fleshed out the issue for us. Mind you, it wasn’t quite as investigative as the 40-image Lingerie Football League gallery posted last year—on the same day the paper, possibly ironically, launched its Raise a Reader campaign.

So what do I think of the Vancouver Sun? First of all, the web product is laughable, and obviously the byproduct of marketing idiots, so I’m not going to touch it (beyond that sentence—although I’d pause to mention that the awesome Pass It To Bulis is the future of sports coverage). The print version does, as McMartin notes, boast a bunch of good stuff. But while each reporter does great work (Kim Bolan, Chad Skelton and Vaughn Palmer are my top three and cover their beats better than anyone in Western Canada), there simply aren’t all that many reporters at the Sun covering The News anymore. Yes, there are a few and they are very good. But pick up a paper and the front section is downright skimpy with the paper’s heft filled out in the back end. Maybe it’s economically necessary, but it has definitely hurt the quality of the paper. One must only drive south to Seattle and pick up a copy of the Times to see that the Sun could offer much more, both in terms of non-institutional, on-the-ground reporting, and in the way it covers the entire Vancouver metro area. That’s not the fault of any of the great writers there, of course. But someone is to blame (I volunteer the guy who drove Postmedia into mountains of debt).

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Journo-jobs returns (Dec. 12)

December 12, 2011 Comments off

Blog has been slow because I’ve been busy and haven’t had a lot to write about. That said, here are some jobs that are currently open:

The Sooke News Mirror needs a full-time reporter: “Our broad reach extends from East Sooke to Port Renfrew and everywhere in between. We are seeking a full-time reporter who would be responsible for sports coverage and community news. This position offers a solid grounding in community news and is a natural for anyone seeking a wide variety of experiences.” Submit by Dec. 21.

The Vanderhoof Omineca Express needs a reporter/editor to step into the intrepid shoes of Hannah Wright: “The successful candidate will be required to work independently in a one-person newsroom, however will also be part of a larger regional news team.” Submit by Jan. 3.

And if you really need some, any work, the Cowichan News Leader Pictorial needs a part-time, temporary reporter: “The position opens in January and offers a flexible schedule. It requires about 15 hours a week, with the possibility of additional hours as situations demand.” Submit clips and resume by Dec. 16

The Merritt Herald needs a reporter: “The successful applicant will work with the editor, with both responsible for all aspects of getting the newspaper to press — writing, editing, taking photographs and laying out pages using InDesign.” Closes Dec. 30.

Also, for what it’s worth, the Vancouver Sun needs a temporary copy editor and a permanent web copy editor. That reminds me: I read somewhere that copy editors have the lowest level of job satisfaction among journalists. Just sayin’.

The Sun or Province? I’ll pass.

April 26, 2011 Comments off

As far as community newspaper journalism jobs go, mine is about as guaranteed as they come. I am not getting fired or laid off anytime soon. I know this. It feels good.

At the same time, and perhaps because of this security, I have not lost all ambition. While I wouldn’t hate working at my newspaper until I retire, I still hope to achieve some unspecified, umm, achievement. I don’t know what that is but I know what it isn’t: an every day job as a reporter at one of British Columbia’s two biggest daily papers.

In fact, I would much rather work as a reporter at my current newspaper, than at either the Province or the Sun. (Caveat #1: there are one or two positions at the Sun, particularly, that I’d probably take; and if the pay was right, perhaps a couple more. But for the purpose of this post, I’m looking at a general assignment reporter position, e.g.  someone whose job it is to churn out copy for the web and the paper).

There are a couple reasons for this:

1. Security

A lot of people work at the Sun and Province. A new reporter, thus, automatically starts at the bottom of a very tall tree. But that can be OK. More scary is the fact that the outlook is still bleak for large daily papers. I didn’t go to the Sun’s website or paper for coverage on the Japanese tsunami, like I would have gone to its pages 20 years ago. And yet there are still people producing that type of content. It doesn’t matter that, as a reporter, I wouldn’t be assigned to collect wire service material for the website. The fact remains that the Sun and Province — and Postmedia in general — seem to have no overarching vision for the 21st Century. The reliance on photo galleries to generate page views demonstrates that, as does their woefully behind-the-times website.

Many community newspapers, meanwhile, are running about as lean as they can get. That’s bad for workload, but there also comes a time when your job can’t be cut. And that’s an OK feeling.

2. Lack of vision

As I said above, the Sun and Province have no ambition at the present time. They’re not treading water so much as flailing about for air. That’s not a great feeling and is definitely not conducive to producing, or showcasing, great journalism.

3. Beats

As a community newspaper reporter, you have the opportunity to cover an array of beats and get to know a range of people. That breadth can be exhilarating. It’s kind of like the difference between reading a piece of genre fiction, or an epic on the scale of War and Peace. You get to see all the moving pieces and how they interact with each other.

At a daily, while one can get the same sort of breadth the depth that comes with covering small events as well as large is missing. Instead, one tends to jump from one major event to another, with little time in between to focus on the smaller stories that put the big ones into context. That can result in a loss of perspective. If you spend every day writing about murder, it’s hard to grasp and life-altering just how dramatic such an event can be for those involved.

Then there’s the fact that those diversity of beats allow the curious journalist a little bit of variety in their days.

4. Independence

While most reporters can pitch their editors story ideas, when you work for a community newspaper, those pitches aren’t going to get shot down often, if ever. Essentially, as long as a story mentions your community by name, you have a green light to write about whatever tickles your fancy.

The downside

Of course each of those points come with downsides. Job security can mean working with colleagues who have lost their desire and should have retired years ago. Community papers are often (usually?) ignored by their owners and have no guiding vision for the future. You can get stuck in pretty shitty beats, or covering lame stories for months if not years between big news events. And that independence also means you don’t get much training or editing to help you improve.

But at this point, they’re all not enough to make me want to throw my lot in with another crew.

Postmedia lowers the bar with shameful “Swarmjam” pieces

December 3, 2010 2 comments

If you thought Black Press’s sleazy story about its “BC Daily Deals” group-buying site was bad, Postmedia thinks you’re a prude. PM has its own group-buying site, a bee-themed outfit called SwarmJam, about which you may have noticed rapturous “stories” in the province’s two largest daily newspapers.

The bylined (!) story begins:

Today marks the launch of Swarm-Jam.com, a new group-buying site that is creating a buzz across the country. SwarmJam channels the power of online word-of-mouth and consumer purchasing power into special deals on select goods and services from local retailers. The more people sign up for the “DailyJams,” the lower the price goes.

“It’s a fabulous way for consumers and readers to save money, and also a fabulous way for local businesses to attract new customers,” said Alvin Brouwer, president of business ventures, Postmedia Network.

Unique DailyJams will be available in major cities across the country, as well as in cities and towns across mainland B.C. and Vancouver Island. The advertising reach of the Postmedia Network, publisher of The Vancouver Sun, provides promotional opportunities not available to competitors, Brouwer explained.

more of this horrendous drivel…

This is in the Vancouver freaking Sun, for crying out loud. And you’ve got to know if this is appearing in the Sun, you’ll soon be seeing it in the small Postmedia community papers.

At least Marco Morelli, the Black Press web staffer who wrote their story, nobly buried the Black Press angle at the bottom of his story. The Postmedia story is shameless. It appeared on the second page of the Sun’s business section and on page A8 of The Province.

Even more concerning, it appears that it marks the end of the principled editorial/advertising policy of ol’ CanWest Publications (from which Postmedia is a direct and recent descendent).

That policy has four guidelines:

1) Commercial placement will not be used as an integral part of editorial content. (Example:Logos dropped in an editorial environment.

2) Editorial must never appear to be endorsing an advertising message.

3) Editorial content must never appear within the body of an advertising message. (Example: Column of opinion within an advertisement).

4) Advertising must never be placed adjacent to editorial content in such a way as to imply endorsement of the advertising.

For point 1, note the big-ass bee on the web edition of the Sun story. Point 2 has obviously been violated so badly that editorial isn’t endorsing and advertising message, it is an advertising message, which in turn means point 3 has also been breached. And while I can’t scan the published version of every Postmedia paper, but I can pretty much guarantee someone somewhere will breach this point.

On Dec. 7, Postmedia headmaster Paul Godfrey will address workers in a companywide webcast. I implore journalists to join me in asking Godfrey whether the CanWest editorial/advertising policy has been turfed and, how the company rationalizes these horrible advertorials. I have sent the following e-mail to pvgmessages@postmedia.com.

Dear Mr. Godfrey

In recent days news articles have appeared in various Postmedia newspapers that prominently tout a new Postmedia product called SwarmJam. There appears to be little editorial value to these articles; they mention no other sites and no proof nor even anecdotal evidence that SwarmJam is, indeed, “creating a buzz across the country.” It is a transparent attempt to promote a product. In other words, it seems like a mix of advertising and editorial.

The old CanWest Editorial/Advertising Policy directly states “Editorial must never appear to be endorsing an advertising message” and “Editorial content must never appear within the body of an advertising message.”

The policy also states “It is in the interest of the entire CanWest community that we maintain the principles and practices which have been demonstrated to support and enhance public trust in all of our media assets.”

CanWest, obviously, no longer exists. I am wondering if Postmedia has abandoned that Editorial/Advertising Policy or, if the old policy is still in place, how you excuse the placement of those advertisements—and let’s be honest, you and I both know that’s what they are.

With great concern,

A very worried community newspaper journalist (Yes, I’d like to use my own name, but hopefully you know how it is when it comes to criticizing one of the only two possible employers in your industry when jobs are so hard to come by.)

Please leave comments of outrage in the thread below.

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Seen something else I should know about? Want to write a post? Have better photos than the Creative Commons Flickr pool ones I use? E-mail bclocalreporter(at)gmail.com.

Help complete a census of B.C. community newspapers by filling in the blanks of the Journo-lust Spreadsheet. 

Photo by Joshua Ganderson via Flickr.
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