McGill looks at media influence on the 2004 Canadian federal election

Tom Popyk ( who is also running an election blog)just posted this interesting tidbit up on the CAJ-List:

McGill University's Observatory on Media and Public Policy is tracking news coverage and bias [for the June 28, 2004 Canadian federal election]:

“Each day, a team of coders will scrutinize the main news sections of the Globe and Mail, National Post,
Toronto Star, Calgary Herald, Vancouver Sun, La Presse and Le Devoir. They will note all articles relating to federal politics, including reportage, analysis, opinion, and editorials. This content will be coded for mentions of issues, parties, and leaders, as well as positive or negative (or neutral) tone. The precedence of these mentions and their prominence within the paper will also be recorded, along with other factors.
The Globe and Mail is analyzing the raw data, and generating graphics, as part of its coverage.
But OMPP is also posting daily roundtable discussions of the data, featuring participants like: Barry Cooperr (U. of Calgary), Donna Logan, (Director UBC Graduate School of Journalism); Lydia Miljan, (U. of Windsor), Hugh Segal, Michel Vastel (Columnist, Le Soleil), William Watson (McGill University), Paul Wells (Columnist, Macleans).

I've got a couple of methodological nit-picks with the Observatory's mission.
First: The Observatory is watching the trends of seven daily newspapers and will try to extrapolate from that survey some ideas about the media's influence on the current election. Well, there's only roughly a million Canadians watching CTV National News every night. Global National, depending on the night, is clocking real close to 900,000 viewers a night. And between its national and local radio and television programming, CBC is about as dominant a voice as it gets when it comes to media in this country. So if you were serious about wanting to study media bias and the election, why wouldn't you include broadcasters? (And who cares about Le Devoir? Do they even sell 100,000 papers any day of the week? Why not track TVA instead or Le Journal de Montreal?)
Surely the media observers at McGill can't have missed all the studies that indicate that fewer and fewer Canadians get their news from newspapers.
Second: There's that panel. Wow. Talk about the establishment elite talking about themselves. Cooper, Miljan, Segal, Watson, and Wells are all former or current National Post/Fraser Institute/conservative commentators. That's five out of seven (and I don't know Donna Logan or Michel Vastel's work well enough to put them in a cubbyhole) all coming from or associated with one very blue side of the political spectrum.
If you were running an “Observatory” on media and politics — wouldn't it make sense to have a panel that might include someone — anyone! — from one of the four provinces east of Quebec? Where's the perspective from the independent and alternative media? How about media unions?
(And why Cooper and Watson? Cooper is a historian/political scientist and Watson is an economist. Both of those are great occupations if you want to be a columnist but they're lousy qualifications if you want to be a media critic. )
In fact, I'll bet that none of those could say who the single most influential reporter in this campaign is. Would it be Jeffrey Simpson? Peter Mansbridge? Mike Duffy?
None of those.
Instead, I'd suggest that it would be none other than my colleague Peter Murphy.
Peter is a Toronto-based CTV National News reporter but for this election, he's charged with filing the daily DNS report on the election. DNS in the CTV world stands for Domestic News Service. This is kind of like our in-house wire service. National news reporters routinely file a different edit of pieces that will end up on the national newscast for the dinner-hour local TV news shows.
Now, on our national newscast we might have three or four items a night on the election. (We've got one reporter each with the Liberal, Conservative and NDP campaigns and other reporters filing issue-based pieces and yet more producers and reporters on the CTV election bus)
It's Peter Murphy's job to boil all that down into one two-minute news item that can be aired on the noon-hour and dinner-hour newscast in all of CTV's local markets across the country.
All of which means Peter's reportage on this federal election is seen daily by — I'm guessing here — two, and maybe, even three million Canadians (CFTO in Toronto alone gets a million viewers I understand for its 6 pm news) right across the country — from Halifax to Vancouver.
With those kind of numbers, I think you could make a fair claim that Peter is this election's most important reporter.

Sad Day – Tom Mangan retires Print the Chaff

Tom Mangan is a copy editor (I think — correct me if I'm wrong anyone who might know) at the San Jose Mercury News and ran one of the best blogs for folks who worked in a print newsroom. It was called “Print The Chaff” and it was funny, informative, and even inspirational. Some of the stuff Tom put up at his blog was sure to make you a better writer which, if you ask me, is the uber-mission of all great editors. [Check out Tom's collection of cliches that all writers should strive to avoid lest they get decidedly mixed reviews for their reportage, something that is my single biggest fear each and every day I go to work 🙂 ]
But today, Tom shut it all down.
“I don't want to do this anymore. It's taking too much time away from people and other stuff I care more about. And besides, the place I'm moving to has only dialup access, and daily blogging at 33k is madness.
I'd rather do this right or not at all — that is, post every day and give the topic the time it deserves, rather than let it whither or fade into irrelevance. Burnout vs. rust, as Neil Young would put it.”
Tom, who I've never met but will be happy to buy beer for the day we do meet, will still be running his own blog. Good luck with that, Tom, at 33K, and thanks for Print the Chaff.

Credibility, Blogs, and How Newspapers Work

One of the problems with mining the Internet for sources and info, of course, is verifying the identify of authors of what looks like interesting material. Such is the case here with an alternatingly funny/cynical/misguided/spot-on blog entry by a fellow named Steve Gilliard. I have no idea what Gilliard is or does. He appears to be anti-Bush and may be a Democrat (mind you, he may just be an Independent) but, beyond that, I'm stumped. He provides no active links at his blog to identify himself.
Which is a shame, really, because he just put up a post titled How To Read a Newspaper Story in which he tries to explain to his readers what a print reporter's day is like —

….they check what is knows [sic] as an assignment desk to see what the editors expect. Some days, they'll have to cover a conference or a meeting, some days they'll have to work their sources. Which means pester them.”

— then goes on to explain the difference between a copy editor and a reporter —

Daily newspaper journalism is divided into reporters and copy editors. Usually being on then [sic] desk is a quicker route to promotion, while being a reporter is the route to some public fame and book contracts.”

After quickly defining and describing how newspaper work is produced, he then dissects a Washington Post story about the selection of the new Iraq PM.
There's a ton of spelling errors in the post which hurts his credibility but his credibility is boosted, I think, by getting quite a few things right (if you've ever worked in a newsroom, you'll quickly spot the right from the wrong).
But again, his credibility would be stronger if he let us know about his own background and/or his own qualifications or experience to be the media critic it seems clear he wants to be.

The Rebirth of the New York Review of Books

One of my favourite periodicals is the New York Review of Books. Scott Sherman has a piece that looks at the rebirth of this publication in a recent issue of The Nation. It's a good article and I didn't realize until I was reading Sherman's assessment of the NYRB that I agreed with most of it. (I first became a subscriber in 1984 while at the University of Guelph.)
“Let it be said that the editors met the challenges of the post-9/11 era in a way that most other leading American publications did not, and that The New York Review of Books–which turned forty last fall–was there when we needed it most,” Sherman writes.
Sherman keys in one on contributor as sign of its re-birth: Tony Judt. Judt's essay “Israel: The Alternative” is a great example of the kind of provocative writing the NYRB is running these days:
“The problem with Israel,” Judt wrote, “is not—as is sometimes suggested—that it is a European “enclave” in the Arab world; but rather that it arrived too late. It has imported a characteristically late-nineteenth-century separatist project into a world that has moved on, a world of individual rights, open frontiers, and international law. The very idea of a “Jewish state”—a state in which Jews and the Jewish religion have exclusive privileges from which non-Jewish citizens are forever excluded— is rooted in another time and place. Israel, in short, is an anachronism.”

Broadband beats the newsstand

Several items this morning suggesting that the future of newspapers is pretty dim.
The Heartland Institute (a U.S.-based education reform activist group, so far as I can tell) reports on a study, jointly authored by the Columbia School of Journalism and the Pew Foundation that looks at newspaper readership in the U.S. In Who Will Read Newspapers?. the Heartland Institute concludes that while newspaper readership was often linked to higher levels of education, readership levels among university-educated Americans is now decling.
“Newspaper reporters continue to produce thought-provoking and substantive stories. However, recent reports raise concerns as to whether newspapers will continue to have readers in tomorrow's America,” the report says. “”The share of the U.S. population that reads newspapers has been shrinking for more than two generations, but population growth once masked the trend. Now circulation is decreasing in absolute terms.”
The Heartland Institute suggests declining levels of literacy at all levels means fewer potential newspaper readers.
The guy who covers politics for U.S. music video channel, though, says young people are looking elsewhere for news and information.
Young people are also turning to the Web for advice on movies. As an article in the Christian Science Monitor notes, people who are between 18 and 24 would rather go to online movie sites than take film-going advice from a critic who works for a mainstream media outlet like Time.
Trying to respond to declining levels of readership, many newspapers try to move downmarket, publishing shorter articles with a heavy focus on entertainment news. I think that's a short-term fix, if it's a fix at all. Newspapers are for readers. Even if there are fewer readers, you need to publish something that's a satisfying reading experience. That means intelligent language and articles that are as long as they need to be to tell an interesting and compelling story. I realize that's pretty vague, but it's a better goal to shoot for than some of the formulas would-be newspaper saviours come up with for “brighter, tighter” news-you-can-use solutions.

Blog searching

Librarian Christina Pikas has some advice for those who need to search blogs. “Blogs are everywhere,” she writes, “and it is important to either be able to search them or to make sure you’re not searching them when you are looking for authoritative, accurate, and unbiased information. As blogs and RSS feeds either continue to explode across the net or start to go out of style, the search engines will adapt. Next time you are shopping for a new technology product try searching in a blog search engine to see what people are saying. Use Waypath to find related blogs. If you need to do a very precise search, use Feedster; but, if you want a little of everything, stay with the big general search engines (like the one that starts with G).”
Pikas does not assess Technorati, which is usually my first engine when I need to search the blogosphere.

Obsessive Compulsive Blogging

The New York Times has a story tomorrow on Technology > Circuits > For Some, the Blogging Never Stops” href=””>obsessive bloggers.

Blogging is a pastime for many, even a livelihood for a few. For some, it becomes an obsession. Such bloggers often feel compelled to write several times daily and feel anxious if they don't keep up.

Tip 'of the hat to: [Micro Persuasion]

Canada is lone G8 offshore outsourcing destination

Paul Kedrosky points to a new study which looks at the top destinations for offshore outsourcing. India is number one and Canada is ninth. From Kedrosky's blog:

Infectious Greed: Offshoring to Canada:
“Interestingly, there is only one G8 country in the list: Canada. I'm not convinced that is anything to write home about.”

Look for a piece by Kedrosky, incidentally, in the June issue of the Harvard Business Review. “It is about some business strategy/structure implications of syndication (i.e., RSS, Atom, etc.),” Kedrosky writes. ” The article is mostly concerned with the broad idea of freeing up “dark matter” in organizations, although I do touch on some more tactical syndication-related issues, like news distribution and the like. “