Salim Jiwa at Social Media Club Victoria

May 25, 2010 at 11:59 pm | In free_press, newspapers, victoria | 9 Comments

This is not a press release…

Tonight I had the great good fortune to attend Salim Jiwa‘s presentation at Social Media Club Victoria. Focusing on newspapers, the industry of professional media, and the revolution that is digital media, Jiwa’s talk was one of the most refreshing I’ve heard on the subject. It was the kind of open, forward-looking perspective I wish Kirk Lapointe had offered listeners at Northern Voice 2010 earlier this month (or had been on offer at an earlier Social Media Club Victoria panel).

“Print media faces extinction,” was Salim Jiwa’s key message: like it or not, we’re living through a revolution created by digital media. In this new paradigm, the economic models of sales and advertising that we may have grown up with don’t apply anymore. Whether you’re getting your news for free online or shopping for the cheapest tires online (and then taking that quote to a bricks-and-mortar retailer for a price match – which you’ll probably get), the bottom is falling out of old-style business models.

Note the common denominator in both consumption practices (consuming news, buying tires): o-n-l-i-n-e. Consumers, driven by the need to find the best price for everything (with “free” being the jackpot), are changing their consumption habits. But as Salim noted, traditional newspapers depend on reader habits – such as picking up a physical newspaper in the morning, to read over coffee. The people who still have that habit are aging, and they’re not being replaced. Our new habits let us reach for online news sources instead.

And we want news quickly. Why bother reading a story in print when that story is already ten hours old by the time it gets printed? When that story can be read online within minutes of an occurrence? Canwest (the Canadian media corporation) says it plans to “go web-heavy,” but doing so means cannibalizing its print outlets even more. If you’re going web-heavy by putting all your good content online as soon as it becomes available, why should anyone bother to read that content in print, given it’ll be a day old by the time it finally appears?

Those were just some of the cold facts Salim Jiwa described. But for me the biggest “aha!” moment came when he spoke about press releases – or journalism-by-press-release.

Consider this: The White House keeps up a running stream of information (including press releases) on its site, to the point that journalists become nearly redundant. You could just as well outsource the story-writing itself to a journalist in India: all he or she needs to do is read the official press releases online and cobble together the story. Eventually, you could ask, “why bother doing even that?” Interested readers are probably already following @WhiteHouse on Twitter, reading those same press releases as they appear. The newspaper no longer has (1) exclusivity; or (2) the financial wherewithal to do investigative journalism – which at any rate is being obviated by press releases and an open stream of information from the source itself.

That combination (funds drying up even as cultivating sources behind the scenes becomes redundant because organizations and institutions are releasing news and information through official channels) means that a kind of press release culture is actually helping to make journalism obsolete (also see this article).

This is funny (not haha-funny, but weird-funny).

On the one hand, we’re living in this incredibly open, accessible digital age where anyone with access to the internet can set up a website (blog) for free and produce content (including news content), or, consume (for free) content created by others. We should be awash in information – and we are, for the most part. I would hope that with the push for Open Government, there’s hope that enough information is available in addition to sanitized press releases, meaning we will need journalists (and others) who can interpret (and investigate?) the information and present it back to readers.

On the other hand, however, consider the agencies that don’t release information in an open way and instead over-rely on corporate communications to “inform” the public and the press (albeit a tame lap-dog – not watch-dog – press).

Take, for example, the City of Victoria, which is one of 13 municipalities in the Capital Regional District (which locals and outsiders often refer to simply as “Victoria,” even though the City of Victoria proper is just one small piece of that agglomeration). The City of Victoria has a population of just ~80,000 people (the Capital Regional District has ~350,000). Yet the City of Victoria has a Department of Corporate Communications (headed by a director whose 1998 salary was only $2,000 under the six-figure $100,000 mark). In addition, this department of Corporate Communications is staffed by two coordinators and a graphic designer, and the City found $180,000 worth of spare change to hire two additional communications coordinators, …and (since that was not enough) the City recently hired another basic communications person at $61,000 annual salary (a two-year replacement, possibly for maternity leave?).

All this, just so Victoria can issue well-groomed press releases and control the outgoing message. Where are the reporters digging in at City Hall? The newspaper for the most part relies on what the City tells it, and what the City tells citizens is massaged by Corporate Communications (which does not, however, appear to have its own webpage on the city’s site: it is opaque and unavailable to scrutiny…).

Journalism-by-press-release does not help democracy or make for a healthy city.

Tomorrow: more on Salim Jiwa’s talk, with special reference to his digital news project, Vancouverite.

(Update May 29: Second part of my report posted here.)

Journalism and (use of) social media

May 14, 2010 at 11:32 pm | In danah_boyd, facebook, free_press, guerilla_politics, media, newspapers, northernvoice, web | 1 Comment

During the How (Should) Journalists Use Social Media? session at last weekend’s Northern Voice 2010 blogging conference, panelists Lisa Johnson and Kirk Lapointe both noted that newspapers regularly mine social media, especially Facebook, for information, leads, and photographs. Sometimes the journalists use the site to obtain information on criminal activity – if I recall correctly, Lisa Johnson explained how Hell’s Angels member Leonard Pelletier’s involvement in a Vancouver-area shooting was (partially?) outed via Facebook. And sometimes the media uses Facebook to obtain photos of teens who have died.

I sensed that some people in the audience were perturbed to learn this, even though it’s increasingly clear that material published online can be discoverable in one way or another. And if it’s on Facebook, it’s even more likely to be found – hence the growing popularity of the google search, “How Do I Delete My Facebook Account?”

Lisa Johnson and Kirk Lapointe – photo by Kemp Edmonds

Based on what I heard from Lapointe and Johnson at Northern Voice, the discussion of journalism’s use of social media now splits, for me, into two directions.

One path, broached by Kirk Lapointe after he was challenged by an online new media journalist, Linda Solomon of the Vancouver Observer, leads to the question of how the mainstream media uses leads and information – stories – that it harvests from social media sources, and whether or not it shares those sources with its readers.

Most of the time, mainstream media doesn’t share its sources with readers, as my post from yesterday (about Bruce Schneier’s article for illustrates clearly. Lapointe tried to cow Solomon, who challenged him (in his capacity as managing editor of the Vancouver Sun), by arguing with her, claiming that bloggers and online media also “steal” the newspapers’ stories. True, Solomon replied, but, she added, we give credit – aka “link love.” Bloggers and digitally native media freely give links back to the various sources, which is something the mainstream media still has to learn to do. We don’t need to “own” the story – but mainstream media apparently still does. This is particularly odd thinking, in my opinion, since – as Kirk Lapointe said himself at the very session – in the new landscape opening up for journalism, “the topic, not the article, is the centerpiece.” How, I would ask him, can a news outlet, “own” a topic?

The other path that’s red hot right now, which Johnson and Lapointe also opened up, is the question around privacy and social media. For an impassioned analysis of that issue, read Danah Boyd’s blog post, Facebook and “radical transparency” (a rant), which she published today.

Boyd says it better than most: questions around transparency and privacy are also class issues, which must be analyzed in terms of privilege and/or disadvantage. Mainstream media can certainly use social media as a “news scanner” (or maybe police scanner), as Lisa Johnson put it (see Raul Pacheco-Vega’s live-blog of the session). But the media must also realize its use (and possibly abuse) of power here. Given Boyd’s excellent deconstruction of the power relationships exerted by closed platforms like Facebook vis-a-vis the users, there should be a conversation – and maybe policies – around the morality of mainstream media mining social media sites for information. Of course they (we, anyone) are going to mine these sources, but we don’t do so innocently.

(note: photo by Kemp Edmonds, on his Flickr stream here.)

Link love is better (or why blogs trump MSM)

May 13, 2010 at 9:53 pm | In free_press, media, newspapers, web | 1 Comment

My husband is a regular reader of Bruce Schneier, and earlier today he pointed me to Schneier’s post, Worst-Case Thinking.

Here’s a screen shot of what the entry looks like – note all the links (in blue):

I’m particularly interested in Schneier’s final sentence:

This essay was originally published on, although they stripped out all the links.

So let’s take a look at the version, shall we?


Sorry about the indecipherable text (but the images are clickable and will take you to the original posts) – the key thing is the absence of links in the version.

The only links in the post are in the editor’s introductory note, namely a link to Schneier’s site (which you can make out in my screenshot), and one single link in the article itself, which happens to be to one of‘s own stories (which is off the page in my screenshot, but if you click through you’ll see it).

Ok, that’s so f*cking stupid. So,, you’ll only link to yourself, and not to other sources?

Question: does MSM have any idea how stupid this is?

From my perspective the main take-away is that there was an editor (or maybe a team of editors) making the decision to be anal in such an epic way. The editor includes a link to Schneier’s site, …and then makes the choice to strip all the other informative links from his article. The editor also makes the choice to “protect” the brand by including only a link that points to another story. How retarded is that? That is no way to grow the pie.

But bottom line? It’s people, stupid. Maybe has a social media / links policy – but maybe they don’t. We know that Canwest’s Times-Colonist doesn’t – who’s to say that media giants have ’em? It gets back at any rate to individual people making these idiotic choices – even if has a policy, individuals made it. It’s not magically in the technology – it’s how people deploy it. In‘s case, it’s a big fat #fail.

(Bonus: I like that Schneier included a link to Frank Furedi. Check it out.)

(Oh, and PS: Be sure to read Schneier’s post – it’s excellent.)

Journal bricolage?

May 11, 2010 at 10:58 pm | In free_press, media, newspapers | Comments Off on Journal bricolage?

Off-topic preamble, part 1: Lately, when I have a “must-write” on my agenda, I find myself staring at a “can’t-write.” Take the topic of journalism (please, take it!)…

Continuing off-topic preamble, part 2: Bricolage means putting something together from cobbled together pieces, or processes.

Cut to the chase (not exactly part 3, but getting there): With that in mind, two pieces, which the reader may complete or associate in ways that she sees fit:



^ That’s one item (a screenshot of a tweet today by David Eaves, apropos of transactions at the Canada 3.0 Digital Media Forum in Stratford, Ontario).

The second item is from today’s Toronto Star, CanWest sees future in digital content, about the sale of Canwest Global Communications‘ newspapers for CDN$1.1 billion to a group headed by Paul Godfrey:

Citizen journalists, reporters equipped with video cameras, news stories that are filed first to the latest mobile gadget before they appear in traditional print media.

These are some of the concepts the man who will be advising the next owners of Canada’s largest chain of newspapers will bring to the table. (source)

I’m not so sure that anyone in the suits really cares about “intrinsic nature,” frankly.

Some resources for Victoria’s MSM

April 29, 2010 at 10:13 pm | In free_press, local_not_global, media, newspapers, social_critique, times_colonist, victoria, web | 7 Comments

Someone named Adrian (not sure if it’s the same Adrian, different email address) just …um, remarked that I haven’t yet responded to the comments thread on my No policy …no strategy, either post.

Ah yes, newspaper and MSM people get to complain about being understaffed, but we bloggers are expected to be on 24/7/365 (for free!)…? 😉

As I mentioned in yesterday’s brief post, my internet went down around 3pm. It didn’t come back till this afternoon, so my usual method of snatching a moment here and a moment there to go online, to listen in, to read, and even to write was down the tubes for nearly 24 hours. I don’t own a smart phone (mobile telephony – drool, one day, one day!), nor do I ever seem to have the luxury of taking myself off to a third place to be alone and work in peace – my first and second places are one and the same, and they get crazy. When I go out, it’s for meetings (as happened today) or to walk the dog. So, if I can’t glean a minute inbetween other minutes, it seems it doesn’t get done.

But let’s see if I can now expand into some sort of follow-up on No policy …no strategy, either.

First: I was very impressed by Bryan Capistrano’s comments, who commented initially via Twitter and then on my comments board. Among other things, he noted:

I’ve mentioned that radio stations can sometimes get into an easy habit of talking AT a listener and not TO a listener. The social media that we use has allowed us on a number of occasions to be an ear and not just a mouth (I thought of that while walking back to my car last night and kicked myself for not saying it)! If that’s not considered a strategy, I would at least consider it a good starting point.

This is of course one of the basic tenets of markets are conversations (see Cluetrain Manifesto), a kind of blueprint (now 10 years old) for what new media (and new business) is all about. I would really really encourage local media people to familiarize themselves with the Cluetrain’s theses. Of course you don’t talk AT people, you have conversations. This means you can forget about hierarchies, too.

Bryan gets this when he writes,”I’m a firm believer that the only way to learn about something is by looking at it from all sides.” I would argue that Adrian doesn’t quite get this. In his comment, he writes, “The notion that everything in daily papers is suddenly a bunch of bunk seems to be rather overstated.” That’s an unnecessarily defensive statement since neither I nor anyone else on the comments board said “everything in daily papers is …a bunch of bunk…”

After all, a cardinal rule of conversation is that you also learn to listen.

Bryan was one of the panelists, along with Dana Hutchings, who I thought would have the best overview of the managerial/ revenue questions since his station isn’t owned by some corporate overlord(s). (I think his station is independent – I could be wrong; happy to be corrected if so.) In his comment, Bryan wrote, “social media has in no way affected our medium’s revenue stream.” I wish I knew more about the radio business, but I don’t. TV and radio are two mediums I rarely pay attention to (I don’t have cable, so no TV for me; and I listen to radio once in a blue moon – say, while driving, which means for ~10 minutes at a time). But it’s obvious from Dana Hutchings’s CHEK TV saga and also clear from Bryan Capistrano’s comments that these two do have incredible potential for steering their own destiny. I also wonder if it’s a condition specific to Victoria (which still has a deep digital divide) that revenue streams have not been affected.

Bryan and Deb (not sure if I should note which organization she’s from since she didn’t provide that link in her comment) noted that my body language further into the evening spoke volumes – and yes, while I was initially intrigued by what people were saying, I grew more impatient as the panelists began to respond to questions from the audience.

If anyone was making this an “us and them” issue, it was, I’m sorry to say, the panelists themselves who grew increasingly defensive at being questioned.

This was all really bizarre since, at the very end of the evening, Sarah Petrescu in particular sketched out a fairly detailed vision for what her ideal online news world should entail – and it’s one that absolutely includes the participatory “we.”

But as long as the wall between editorial and management persists, any visions will exist in silos – and the editorial side stands to lose because, as newspapers die, their jobs will evaporate.

Janice commented:

There was an interesting discussion on CBC radio the other day about the increase in citizen-generated news (and its credibility as real news!) on the internet and in SM, often around things that MSM deems un-newsworthy like re-zoning.

This speaks to revitalizing local coverage. We are terribly under-served right now: City Hall makes important decisions that directly affect us where we live, but we don’t hear about them. Social media can be way ahead of traditional media in being able to cover this (via that mobile telephony I don’t have, or if City Hall ever gets its act together to provide wi-fi), and the only way that traditional media can catch up is by including bloggers and others who will cover these news. It’s not rocket science.

Overall, I’d say Tuesday’s meeting was a great start – props to Social Media Club Victoria and Paul Holmes for organizing the event. There should be more, there should be follow-ups.

Speaking of follow-ups, did anyone see if the MSM that attended reported on its own participation? (I get my news online, and since the internet was down, I missed whatever was on. Give me a link if it was reported, thanks.)

As I noted in my comments board yesterday, this is a huge topic – presumably this isn’t the end of it in Victoria, unless the MSM want to shut down the dialog and leave it to social / new media to sort things out. My follow-up, such as it is, is already too long, so let me wrap up with a list of what I’d call must-read resources.

My favorite post is now nearly three years old: Ryan Sholin’s 10 obvious things about the future of newspapers you need to get through your head. Must-read. Ryan posted a follow-up in 2008, 10 obvious things, one year later, which reports on how well (or not) the industry has dealt with the points he raised in 2007. Pay special attention to #5 (I heard a few rumblings from some panelists that maybe charging for content is a good idea. It’s not. Don’t go there.) And of course those who think it’s an “us v. them” issue, puh-leeze: check out #7. The next point, #8, is really great, too. Just go read the whole thing now.

Clay Shirky, the here-comes-everybody (and long-tail) guy. Read his The Collapse of Complex Business Models (which I blogged about here), and watch his superb presentation, Clay Shirky on Internet Issues Facing Newspapers (on Youtube). Shirky delivered this talk at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society in September 2009. Must-see.

Dave Winer, who writes about many things – often technology, and very often with a special focus on media. Check out his January 2010 entry, Why newspapers should host blogs, for a glimpse of innovative thinking around both content and business models.

Why should news orgs host blogs for members of their community? Because the business of news organizations is information. Gather it up, sort it, organize it, keep it current and do it again. People have a huge thirst for new information, more these days than ever and increasing all the time. It’s ridiculous that information-gathering orgs should be shrinking in a time where what they do is in such high demand. (source)

Pop in on his blog or tweets to see what he’s up to with Jay Rosen of NYU, too.

Ok, that’s it for this evening. I’m deeply embarrassed that my list has only guys on it. I know there must be women I’m forgetting/ leaving out. Maybe something for another follow-up …or comments?

No policy …no strategy, either

April 27, 2010 at 11:57 pm | In advertising, black_press, facebook, free_press, local_not_global, media, newspapers, social_critique, times_colonist, victoria, web | 13 Comments

Tonight I attended the 14th meeting of Victoria’s Social Media Club to listen to five panelists from Victoria’s mainstream media (MSM) talk about how new media (including social media) is affecting their business.

Panelists included Bryan Capistrano (promotion director for radio station The Zone); Amanda Farrell-Low (arts editor for weekly paper Monday Magazine); Dana Hutchings (producer/ host for “Island 30” on TV station CHEK News); Sarah Petrescu (reporter and webmaster at daily paper Times-Colonist); and Deborah Wilson (journalist for CBC Radio-Victoria “On The Island”). The panel was moderated by Janis La Couvée.

blog might render photo cropped – click on picture to see original


The setting was the gymnasium of a former elementary school (now used as the University Canada West campus), hence the …well, gym-like setting.

But the setting wasn’t really the disappointing bit: it was the panelists. They all came across as very sweet people, but I left wondering just what the hell they’re doing.

The panelists (representing local heavy-hitters CBC Radio, Monday Magazine, CHEK News, The Zone Radio, and the Times-Colonist) all stated that their organizations have no specific social media policies in place.

Maybe that’s fine – but what was striking was the absence of clear thinking around social media strategy. The one glimmer of an exception was Dana Hutchings of CHEK. In the summer of 2009, while on vacation in Sweden, she received an email from her boss, letting her know that the owners were about to shut down the station.

CHEK had orders from its owners that forbade the station to report on its own troubles. In his email, Dana’s boss wrote (and I’m paraphrasing): “You’re on Facebook! What can we do?”

First, a brief digression on the history of CHEK News, which is worth knowing: see this wikipedia page for details. In brief: CHEK launched on December 1, 1956, which makes it a venerable local institution. Over the decades, CHEK underwent various changes in ownership, and by 2000 it was owned by Canwest, which happens to be the media conglomerate that owns so much of Canada’s media – including most newspapers, the Times-Colonist among them. Canwest, however, was in deep financial trouble by the middle of the decade, and by late 2009 it had to file for creditor bankruptcy protection. Leading up to this, Canwest tried various downsizing moves to save itself, including pulling the plug on CHEK in August of 2009. But by September 2009, the employees had managed to put together a scheme to buy the station and keep it in operation as an independent in Victoria.

Social media played a huge role in CHEK’s turnaround. Dana Hutchings answered her boss’s question (“You’re on Facebook – what can we do?”) by starting a Save CHEK News fan page, which in turn galvanized the local community who learned about the true goings-on at the station through the Facebook page. Before long, the page had thousands of fans.

The employees at CHEK, spurred by the support they saw pouring in through social media, worked feverishly around the clock for over 46 days, and in the end the station was saved – bought by the employees and contributors.

The point, however, is that without the resonant support from CHEK’s fans – support that would not have found a gathering spot without social media because of Canwest’s gag order on what was happening at CHEK – the employees wouldn’t have been able to muster the energy and enthusiasm to save the station.

But when asked how social media was affecting their business models, the other panelists relied on the old separation between “editorial” and “management” to absolve themselves of any strategic thinking around how the new media might save their old media bacon.

“I don’t know, I’m editorial, that doesn’t concern me,” was the gist of it. The panelists also seemed to think that the new media folks in the audience were trying to find ways to “pitch” to them, the arbiters of media truth. It was laughable.

First, people in the audience weren’t trying to figure out how to “pitch” to the MSM – they were trying to sound out the MSM to find out how they could get it to listen to them, the community.

Second, the panelists repeatedly told the audience that what would work – what they would be willing to retweet or run a story on – would be semi-sensationalist crap, like “there’s a house on fire on X Road,” or “the ferries are running late,” or “it’s snowing on the Malahat.”

Aside from sensational “news” like this, the MSM wants “human interest” stories: “how I found my true love on Twitter,” or, “my child survived bullying on Facebook,” or similar stuff.

This is truly sad. There must be more to MSM than burning buildings and true romance, no?

There were other annoying contradictions, and then also outright delusions. For the latter: the belief that bloggers are just the rumor mill, while the MSM are the arbiters of truth. Hahahaha. If anyone still believes that what is written in the daily paper is the truth, I feel sorry for them – I know for a fact that it isn’t. I know plenty of bloggers who are more assiduous about fact-checking than so-called professional journalists – and bloggers don’t mind correcting themselves. Try getting a newspaper to do that.

At the same time, every single one of the panelists belly-ached about being underfunded and understaffed, which was their main excuse for no longer doing investigative journalism.

Ok, so which is it? You can’t do investigative journalism because you’re understaffed and underfunded? Or you’re the arbiters of truth because only you are the professionals who can get at the truth?

You can’t have it both ways, kids.

While thumping their chests to claim truth-telling status, the panelists also begged “social media” to “spoonfeed” them potential news items (because, remember, they’re underfunded and understaffed and can’t get their own stories – the news are “thin” these days, as one of them put it). In other words, please spoonfeed us, but don’t think you can pitch us.

Are they nuts?

Which is it?

I could go on, but this entry is already costing me dearly in a town where everyone has to play nice and not step on anyone’s toes – and besides, it’s almost midnight and I’m on a deadline here.

Update, April 29: a follow-up post here (also noted in comments).

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

January 24, 2010 at 1:31 am | In arts, free_press, heritage, johnson street bridge, links, newspapers | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Surprised to see that Victoria’s Johnson Street Bridge made it into the “Journal of Commerce – Western Canada’s Construction Newspaper” (Jan.25/10) …for its heritage value (not its potential as a mega-replacement construction project)! Right on. (Would love to know the story behind JSB’s entry into the the Journal of Commerce…)

    From the article:

    “The main opening span is 148 feet in length and when in the open position is balanced over a 45-foot fixed span. The Strauss Bascule Company Ltd. prepared the design for the bascule spans and the operating machinery.

    The superstructure of the bridge was fabricated in Walkerville, Ontario and contains 100 tons of steel. “


    tags: johnson_street_bridge, victoria, journal_of_commerce, heritage, preservation

  • Would really like to view this film. The paintings by Nicolas Poussin and by Jacques Louis David are both such powerhouses, one can’t help but think that only film-video artists of overarching ambitions would tackle this subject. This interpretation by Eve Sussman sounds very intriguing:


    “The Rape of the Sabine Women is a reinterpretation of the Roman myth, updated and set in the idealistic 1960’s. Filmed on location in Athens and Hydra, Greece, and in Berlin, Germany, the 80 minute video was directed by Eve Sussman with an original score by Jonathan Bepler, choreography by Claudie De Serpa Soares, and costumes by Karen Young.\n\nThe Rape Of The Sabine Women was conceived as allegory based loosely on the ancient myth that follows Romulus’ founding of Rome. Re-envisioning the myth as a 1960’s period piece with the Romans cast as G-men, the Sabines as butchers’ daughters, and the heyday of Rome allegorically implied in an affluent international style summer house, this version is a riff on the original story of abduction and intervention, in which Romulus devises a plan to ensure the future of the empire. While the Roman myth traces the birth of a society, this telling suggests the destruction of a utopia. The intervention of the women is fraught, and the chaos that ensues transforms the designed perfection into nothingness.\n\nThe Rape… is a video-musical conceived in an operatic five act structure that opens in Berlin’s Pergamon Museum, moves to the S-Bahn and Tempelhof Airport, Athens’ Agora meat market, a classic modern 60’s dream house overlooking the Aegean, and finally, Athens’ Herodion Theatre. Forgoing the compromise of the original, the Rufus Corporation’s re-imagining pits mid-twentieth century ideals against the eternal themes of power, longing, and desire. A modern process piece created in improvisation-a product of 180 hours of video footage and 6000 photographs-the video with 7.1 sound installation features compositions by Jonathan Bepler, recorded live on site , incorporating a bouzouki ensemble, a Pergamon coughing choir, and a chorus of 800 voices.

  • tags: video, films, rape_sabine_women, eve_sussman, rufus_corporation

    • Beautiful video of Aakash Nihalani creating his “tape art” interventions in New York City’s public spaces. By taking us with him (through his tape interventions) I think Nihalani is really re-imagining and re-seeing space, and that’s an amazing gift to the rest of us.
      “When artist Aakash Nihalani moved from the suburbs to NYC he was compelled by its symmetry. As an organic response he started laying down tape on the streets and on buildings, creating brightly colored sticker tape boxes framing aspects of the city he wanted to show people, creating tableaus from real life. Both uncomfortable at potentially defacing property by using permanent materials, and enraged at the continued treatment of public artists as vandals, we join him as he brings 3D to his work for the first time, via use of mirrors and passers-by, and discuss why impermanence is important to the acceptance of street art.”

      tags: art, aakash_nihalani, street_art, video

    • A rather amusing look at history according to Victoria’s mainstream media (in this case by Times-Colonist reporter Bill Cleverley). Wow, this is quite the ellipsis…

      If there’s one thing I’m learning from the whole Johnson Street Bridge issue and process is that one apparently can’t trust our media to get the stories right.

      tags: johnson_street_bridge, media, newspapers, times_colonist, bill_cleverley

    Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

    News that skews

    November 22, 2008 at 12:15 am | In free_press, local_not_global, newspapers, times_colonist, victoria | 3 Comments

    This is an entry about a story of local interest, but its implications are broader. It is also about truth in newspaper reporting, about credibility, and the problems that develop under a media monopoly.

    The other day I came across two versions of the same article, published by two different papers in the Canwest newspaper empire, about Susanne Butscher, the woman in Britain who recently was able to give birth to a baby because her twin sister, Dorothee Tilly, donated one of her ovaries to her almost two years ago. The article was by Ian Austin, and was sent out by the Canwest News Service: it appeared in my local Victoria paper, The Times-Colonist, and presumably was sent out multiple times to the other newspapers in the Canwest chain. The second version I read appeared in The Calgary Herald.

    Normally I don’t go hunting for multiple versions of the same story, but I read the Times-Colonist version first and was intrigued to know whether the story had had much additional exposure. So I googled the names (Susanne Butscher and Dorothee Tilly). While lots of other articles turned up, I was immediately struck by the headline in the Calgary Herald version: Vancouver woman becomes aunt and mother. Why did that seem noteworthy?

    Well, living in Victoria, I’ve become a tad over-sensitive to how my city is made to disappear off the national stage, as though out here on the We(s)t Coast only Vancouver existed. Because, you see, the Times-Colonist version reported that Dorothee Tilly is from Victoria, yet it’s a detail that was dropped from the national version (which also didn’t list Austin as the author).

    Here’s what the hometown version looked like (I bolded a couple of lines for special emphasis):

    Donated ovary allows sister to give birth

    Ian Austin, Canwest News Service

    Published: Wednesday, November 19, 2008

    Dorothee Tilly became both an aunt and a mother last week when her twin sister gave birth to baby Maja

    Maja was conceived using an egg produced by Tilly’s ovary, which had been transplanted into her identical twin Susanne Butscher.

    “It’s a miracle,” Tilly said yesterday. “We have the twin telepathy thing. I feel like I’m a part of her, and she’s a part of me.”

    Dorothee Tilly, with her children Johanna, 7, and Lars, 5, is also an aunt of a special nature to her sister's child.View Larger Image View Larger ImageDorothee Tilly, with her children Johanna, 7, and Lars, 5, is also an aunt of a special nature to her sister’s child.
    photocredit: Debra Brash, Times Colonist

    Tilly, 39 and from Victoria, already had two children, but her sister gave up hope of having kids of her own after she went into early menopause.

    Then Butscher’s gynecologist told her of groundbreaking research at the Infertility Centre of St. Louis, Mo.

    “The doctor told my sister, ‘You and your twin sister are ideal candidates for this surgery,'” said Tilly.

    Tilly said her sister’s request initially made her feel “a little awkward.”

    “With two children, I counted my blessings,” she said. “My major driving factor was to help her.”

    The transplanted ovary helped Butscher’s battle with osteoporosis, and let her stop taking hormones that had their own negative side-effects.

    Her daughter’s birth in England almost two years later was an unexpected surprise.

    Despite her genetic contribution, Tilly said she’s not Maja’s parent.

    “She’s my niece,” said Tilly. “I don’t think I’m the mother.”

    Tilly is planning to visit her sister and baby Maja in England sometime soon.

    “It’s the gift of life,” she said. “My sister is super happy. She’s trying to get some rest after the whole ‘miracle thing.’ It’s just amazing the attention she’s getting from around the world.”

    Compare that to the version in The Calgary Herald (which I’m guessing is also how it looked if it ran in any of the other Canwest papers):

    Vancouver woman becomes aunt and mother

    Canwest News Service

    Published: Wednesday, November 19, 2008

    Dorothee Tilly became both an aunt and a mother last week when her twin sister gave birth to baby Maja.

    Maja was conceived using an egg produced by Tilly’s ovary, which had been transplanted into her identical twin Susanne Butscher.

    “It’s a miracle,” Tilly said Tuesday. “We have the twin telepathy thing. I feel like I’m a part of her, and she’s a part of me.”

    Tilly, a 39-year-old Vancouver Island resident, already had two children, but her sister gave up hope of having kids of her own after she went into early menopause.

    Then Butscher’s gynecologist told her of the groundbreaking research at the Infertility Centre of St. Louis, Mo.

    “The doctor told my sister, ‘You and your twin sister are ideal candidates for this surgery,’ ” said Tilly.

    Tilly said her sister’s request initially made her feel “a little awkward.”

    “With two children, I counted my blessings,” she said. “My major driving factor was to help her.”

    The transplanted ovary helped Butscher’s battle with osteoporosis, and let her stop taking hormones that had their own negative side-effects.

    While there isn’t a huge difference between the two versions, there is enough of one to make me worry about the veracity of what I can read in the papers. Yes, Victoria is on Vancouver Island, so it’s technically not a lie to say that Dorothee Tilly is from Vancouver Island – but why the change in Austin’s text from “Tilly, 39 and from Victoria” to “Tilly, a 39-year-old Vancounver Island resident”?

    And what about the headlines?  The first version has an accurate, non-sensational headline, and the article specifically includes Tilly’s disclaimer about not feeling like she’s the “mother” of the new baby.  The second version not only leaves out the disclaimer (which was an affirmation of science – “She’s my niece” – and appropriate kinship – “I don’t think I’m the mother”), but in fact offers a headline worthy of The National Enquirer.  With that headline, most readers will probably miss the point of the transplant, which was to help Butscher in her battle with osteoporosis: “[Butscher’s] daughter’s birth in England almost two years later was an unexpected surprise.”  That sentence was left out of the national version.

    When I set out to write this post, I was most concerned by how the national version of the article managed to erase Victoria from the map. I’m still concerned by that – it’s a serious issue in my book since it happens too often.

    But compare the two versions and decide.  From where I sit I conclude that the locally reported story is stronger, more vivid and accurate; and that dissemination via a media monopoly results in stories that are bereft of complexity and therefore realism, and are skewed to grab eyeballs (perhaps through some level of sensationalism).

    How Victoria’s Monday Magazine gets it wrong

    February 2, 2008 at 10:16 pm | In free_press, homelessness, local_not_global, media, newspapers, NIMBYism, scenes_victoria, victoria, writing | Comments Off on How Victoria’s Monday Magazine gets it wrong

    Victoria has a weekly tabloid newspaper called Monday Magazine, which, starting as an alternative publication ~35 years ago, has somehow managed to stay mired in the worst sort of “us and them” thinking that feeds into (and off) the roiling Schadenfreude of the perpetually resentful.

    Lately, one of their old writers from some many years ago, Sid Tafler, returned to roost. He is riding the resentment wave, in particular with an article published a week ago Wednesday (Jan.23), when the Jan.24-30/08 edition hit the street, with Tafler’s “Faulty Towers; Empty condos a tragedy of urban planning failure.” The article — full of errors and shoddy thinking, was promptly posted to Victoria’s best online forum for urbanism, Vibrant Victoria, where it received both a thread of its own, Monday Article – Faulty Towers – by Sid Tafler, as well as lengthy critiques.

    Some Monday Magazine articles are online, while others aren’t. Tafler’s wasn’t, but the forumer who started the thread posted a scanned version to the thread — if anyone wants to read the article, click through to the thread. Note that the columns of text in the scans run vertically, and you have to finish the first column on the first scan in the first column on the second scan, and so on…

    In the next issue of Monday, the magazine printed 3 letters strongly in support and 1 conditionally in support of Tafler’s junk analysis, with one by former architect Roger Smeeth taking the prize for suggesting silly and impossible things. (Again, see the forum thread for really incisive critiques of Smeeth’s letter.)

    I too sent a letter to Monday Magazine, dated Jan.26, but since I was critical of Tafler’s odious column, the editors perhaps didn’t see fit to publish it. And so I’m publishing it here on my blog — because I want to make sure that a record of the opposition and criticism that Tafler’s cheap shot provoked never fades from the Google record.

    Here’s my letter:

    Dear Editor:

    I sincerely hope that Sid Tafler’s ears started burning on Thursday Jan.24, when he, with “Faulty Towers” freshly published, attended Charles Campbell‘s UVic lecture on conglomeration in the Canadian press and heard Campbell specifically and vigorously castigate Canadian journalists for their slovenly habits of retailing untruths. “Faulty Towers” is certainly and thoroughly corrupted by untruth and exaggeration, to the point that one wonders whether Tafler’s exercise in demagoguery veiled another purpose. But maybe he is just being jejune.

    It’s difficult to know where to begin setting Mr. Tafler straight, because of course he’s just clever enough to appeal to legitimate concerns around affordability, which breathe enough life into his straw man (or is “Condoria” a woman?) for his article to appeal to the credulous.

    But let’s just remember that practically all the condos he so abhors sit on what used to be surface parking lots, and they didn’t displace anybody’s “comfortable single-family home with a back yard.” Really, Mr. Tafler: you appear to be concerned about social and environmental ills, yet advocate a hackneyed suburban vision.

    Mr. Tafler writes that “the city of Victoria approved 3,000 condo units in the last five years — 800 in 2007 alone, more than any other year” — as if that were a bad thing. I’d argue it’s a great thing: that’s 3,000 fewer “units” going to suburban sprawl; that’s 3,000 more “units” contributing to the city’s tax base (even if some of the owners are absent some of the time, they’re still paying property taxes, which happen to fund a vast part of the city’s budget); and that’s 3,000 potential “units” of people downtown, shopping, recreating, adding life to those streets.

    Believe it or not, there are people living in many of those “units.” Good friends of mine live in Shutters, although, since they travelled for the past 2 months, their “unit” is dark. Likewise, you’ll find many empty-nesters who leave Victoria at this time of year to catch some sun. Their “units,” too, will be dark. In the lower price range, you will find investors buying “units,” but guess what? They rent them out, which helps alleviate Victoria’s rental crunch.

    What would Mr. Tafler do instead? Have all these “units” to move to Bear Mountain? Would that be preferable? Incredible as it may seem, some of us cheer every time we can wrest some “units” back to our downtown.

    Nor did these projects derail some magical solution to homelessness or affordability. It’s not the case that anyone was willing to step up to donate a building to that cause, nor is it the case that city councils can somehow magically wave a wand and make affordable housing appear.

    Which brings me to my last point: you have to love the armchair quarterback, second-guessing all those lazy, incompetent city councilors, don’t you? Really, judging from Mr. Tafler’s grasp of economics (a simultaneously shallow and flaccid grasp it is), I’d hate to see him in a councilor’s seat, because I’m sure he’d go mad at the workload and the demands on his attention by every citizen who knows everything about anything better than he, the councilor, does. Those folks, as Mr. Tafler’s own example shows, are a dime a dozen, and when you’re in that seat, they’ll have you for breakfast. I wonder how Sid Tafler would like being made a meal of.

    Yule Heibel

    Tafler was at the Charles Campbell lecture (about which I’ll have more to blog later), and my use of the word “jejune” specifically points to a rather acid comment Campbell was making about Conrad Black v. the Asper family.

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