newspapers

This is What We Lose

The new film Spotlight tells the story of an investigation by a team of reporters at the Boston Globe newspaper in the early 2000s. The reporters documented extensive child abuse by priests and brothers in the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. Their investigation also exposed a cover-up by church officials, who knew that widespread abuse had been happening for several decades but failed to do anything meaningful to stop it.

I saw Spotlight this week, and I highly recommend it. It’s a fascinating and engaging film. And as a former newspaper reporter, I thought the film very realistically depicted the work of reporting, especially in showing the amount of legwork and detailed research that goes into writing a major news story. It also illustrated the often-overlooked contexts within which news stories develop – in this case, the elites in Boston society that helped to keep the abuse hidden, and that also discouraged the Globe from pursuing the story.

However, as much as I enjoyed Spotlight, it also made me feel very sad – because (more…)

Newspapers, Endorsements, and Legitimacy

When a newspaper endorses a political party or a candidate during an election, the public assessment of the endorsement tends to turn on two factors: the reasoning leading to the endorsement, and the perceived legitimacy of the newspaper itself. But, as in any kind of legitimacy judgement of an organization, the perception of a newspaper’s legitimacy isn’t based on a single event or piece of information. It’s based on multiple factors, including the perceiver’s beliefs about whether the organization’s actions “are desirable, proper, [or] appropriate within some socially constructed system of norms, values, beliefs, and definitions”. And that is where the Postmedia newspapers in Canada went so spectacularly wrong with their endorsement of the incumbent Conservative Party in the upcoming federal election. (more…)

Bridging the Gap between Academic Research and Business

The Report on Business section of Canada’s national Globe and Mail newspaper invited me to write a commentary on how business people and management researchers could learn from each other. It has been a very long time since I wrote an article to a specified length and on a deadline, but it was good to use those skills again – even if at times it felt like running a marathon after doing years of five-kilometer races. Here is the finished product as it appeared in today’s paper.

Up Close and Personal with the UK General Election

Last month I spent two weeks in Britain, and purely by chance those two weeks were during the campaign leading up to the UK general election on May 7th. Elections are an incredibly important part of democracy, and I never forget how fortunate I am to live in a country where I get to vote and where my vote can make a difference. Since I became old enough to vote, I have only missed participating in one election that I was eligible to vote in (I had a good excuse – I was in Antarctica). But my trip to the UK gave me the opportunity to see how election campaigns work in another country with a parliamentary system of government – and that being the country whose legislative structure most strongly influenced my own country’s legislative system. (more…)

Society, Power, and “Hack Attack”

Nick Davies’ book Hack Attack  is a powerful read. It’s the story of Davies’ investigation into the phone hacking conducted by several of the British newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News International. The investigation led to a judicial inquiry, several criminal convictions,  and the closure of the News of the World newspaper. And since Hack Attack was released last year, eight victims of phone hacking have filed a civil suit against the Mirror group of newspapers for invasion of privacy – a suit that is currently being heard in a London court.

Davies’ book describes the details and scope of the hacking – and how the hacking gradually became exposed, thanks to several anonymous informants – but also illuminates (more…)

Jellyfish Journalism Fail

I’ve written a number of posts about media misreporting of scientific research, and here – sadly – is another example of the same problem, from blogger and oceanographer Dr. Craig McClain. His description of different news sources progressively misreporting his story about a jellyfish – and getting the facts more and more wrong – would be funny if it weren’t so depressing.

And to further contextualize his tale of woe, the Daily Mail website – which was responsible for some of the major errors as the story was circulated – is one of the most visited news websites in the world. So who knows how far this misinformation has spread, and who knows what else out there is so very, very wrong?

Sigh.

(Thanks to science writer Kathleen Raven for her Tweet that led me to Dr. McClain’s article.)

Statistics and University “Rape Culture”

In the last few weeks, as a result of incidents such as a sexual assault investigation leading to the suspension of the University of Ottawa men’s hockey team and its coaches  and a University of Ottawa student politician alleging online sexual harassment, there has been a great deal of heated discussion about whether a “rape culture” exists on Canadian university campuses.

Columnist Barbara Kay at the National Post newspaper waded into the fray with this column, in which she states “[rape culture] does not exist” and presents statistics which she claims prove that statement. She also asserts that “[i]f these statistics do not convince you, then I suggest you are in the grip of a serious ideological virus. There is a remedy for it, called critical thinking.”

Okay, then. Let’s look critically at the statistics in Kay’s column. (more…)

Vancouver Sun Story Has Similarities to Other Online Sources

I wasn’t planning to have “Bash the Vancouver Sun Week” here at All About Work, but it seems like many questionable things are slipping through unnoticed at the beleagured daily Vancouver newspaper.

The July 19 edition of the Sun includes an announcement of a Sun-sponsored “architecture tour” to New Orleans. Accompanying this announcement (on page C9 of the print edition) is a sidebar story with the headline “A guide to the storied architecture of New Orleans“.  No writer’s byline is attached to this guide. And no sources are credited for the information in it, either in the print or online versions.

If you Google “New Orleans architecture”, the second link that comes up (more…)

Good Content, Bad Design: Not What A Struggling Newspaper Needs

When I last wrote about recent events at my former place of employment, the Vancouver Sun newspaper, I commented on the leak of a doom-laden memo from newly appointed publisher Gordon Fisher, warning of financial crisis, threatening staff layoffs, and telling employees to be “part of the solution”. Since then, 62 Sun employees have taken a voluntary staff buyout and left the paper, while Postmedia (the Sun‘s corporate owner) reported a financial loss of $112 million in its most recent three months of operation.

On July 3, Fisher issued another memo, this time to the print subscribers of the Sun and the Province, the other Vancouver daily newspaper owned by Postmedia. In full-page ads published in both papers, Fisher announced that on August 1 print subscription rates would be “adjusted” – as in, increased – and promised “platform-specific content”. He wasn’t too clear on what exactly this would look like, or how this “content” would be produced with a significantly reduced workforce. But I’m really hoping that one part of last Saturday’s print version of the Sun is not representative of what the Sun’s print readers will get in the future – especially if they have to pay more for it. (more…)

Vancouver Newspapers in Crisis: Not Only the Industry’s Fault

This week, a shock went through the Canadian media world with the leak of an internal memo predicting a very dark future for Vancouver’s two daily newspapers, the Vancouver Sun and the Province. The memo, entitled “Next Steps”, was written by Gordon Fisher, the newly installed president and publisher of Pacific Newspaper Group (PNG) – the division of Postmedia which publishes the two papers. The memo called the business “unsustainable” because of declining revenues, announced yet another voluntary buyout program for employees, and warned that the new “audience-first, four-platform organization” would “continu[e] to aggressively cut costs”.

Full disclosure: I am a former employee of both the Sun and the Province (more…)