The Globe and Mail becomes the news

The Wall Street Journal takes a look at how our corporate cousin, The Globe and Mail, is trying to win readers:

Splashy Front Pages Help Once-Staid Newspaper Prosper

Toronto's Globe and Mail is conducting bold page-one “experiments” — oversize headlines, jumbo art — to attract readers. But one advertiser, the Bank of Nova Scotia, says that it advertises in the Globe in part because of its financial Web site,

The writer of the piece, Elena Cherney, is a former colleague of mine. We were both day-oners at the National Post. She now mans the Journal’s Toronto bureau. In her piece, she notes that the ‘experiment’ appears to be a success:

It's an approach [the Globe] believes is helping to boost circulation and advertising at the Globe, which has national reach. The figures bear him out. In contrast with most U.S. newspapers, which are suffering from declining circulation and seeing their share of advertisers' dollars shrink, the Globe is selling more papers and winning advertisers away from the three other daily papers that serve Toronto, Canada's largest city and home to one-quarter of the nation's population.

Attention commuters: Get polled

My downtown-living colleagues here in Ottawa think I’m nuts for putting myself through a home-office-home commute every day where each commute time can take between 25 and 45 minutes to cover the 30 kilometres each way. They might have something but my comparable was the crazy, frustrating commute I had at my last job — coming into the CTV National News Toronto Bureau at Front and Spadina from Oakville, Ont. every day. That commute was 40 kilometres long and could take up to 2.5 hours on a really lousy day and usually took an hour – to one hour and thirty minutes.

So I’m all for gadgets and services that help improve that commuting experience. With that in mind, I’m happy to post a call I received this morning for volunteers who wished to be surveyed about their commute. The call is put out by some computer geeks from the University of Maryland who are trying to devise some new software tools to help us commuters:

Dear friends,

We are conducting a brief survey at the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory at the University of Maryland and would greatly appreciate your participation.  Our goal is to better understand how people choose which route to take for their repeated trips when there are multiple ways to go – to support us as we design new mobile mapping software.  We use the term “repeated trip” to mean any regularly traveled pair of origin-destination locations, such as your commute from home to work, and the term “route” to refer to the particular set of roads you take for a repeated trip.

You are under no obligation to complete the survey, but your participation will help inform our research on developing tools to better support the tasks described above.  The survey takes only a few minutes to complete and your responses will be kept anonymous.

When you finish the survey, we would also appreciate it if you could forward this email on to your family, friends, and colleagues to solicit their participation as well.  The more responses we receive, the better tools we can create.

The survey can be found at:

Thank you,

Ben Bederson                                                           Aaron Clamage
Associate Professor of Computer Science                      Faculty Research Assistant in Computer Science

Catherine Plaisant
Associate Research Scientist in Computer Science

Canadian journalists say advertisers and owners are biggest threats to freedom

When Ezra Levant decided to publish the cartoons that many Muslims found offensive, he justified the decision on the basis that it was a demonstration of the free press in Canada.

But a survey released minutes ago by Compas Inc. suggests that such a demonstration is hardly necessary in Canada.

“Journalists see press freedom as thriving in Canada. They give press freedom an extraordinary 81 score on a 100 point freedom scale. Furthermore, press freedom is not perceived as declining. The level of freedom is the same as 10 years ago, those polled say. Journalists do nonetheless see threats to their own freedom,” writes Compas CEO Conrad Winn in some remarks accompanying the poll results.

The journalists surveyed by Compas say that if there is a threat to press freedom it is not from governments and the regulatory power they possess nor is it from corporate agendas and concentration of ownership. “Concern about owners and governments is dwarfed by journalists’ concerns about the performance limitations of their own profession and the apathy of their audiences,” writes Winn.  “Media ignorance and audience indifference, they say, are the greatest threats, followed by interference by advertisers.”

As one of the 221 journalists surveyed, I tend to agree with Winn’s overall thesis.




What to build before 2050?

Charles Wilkins reviews Building Canada: People and Projects that Shaped the Nation in Saturday’s Globe and Mail which is

historian Jonathan Vance’s account of the construction of, among other things, our telephone and electrical lines; our highways, bridges and air strips; our railway hotels and beaux-art and neoclassical legislative buildings. It is the story of the people who did the planning, of those who did the painting and plastering, and of how the resulting structures and installations affected the lives and perspectives of Canadians . . . The underlying theme of the book is that the construction of all of the above (plus air strips, highways, bridges and performing-arts centres) served to unite the country and enhance its evolving self-awareness. “

Wilkins’ final point in the review is a provocative one:

“…it is perhaps telling that fully half of the projects depicted in Building Canada have fallen on shadowy, if not evil, days. Our grain elevators are but a memory; our arts facilities are begging; our biggest electricity company is swamped by debt. Our war memorials say as much about skepticism as heroism.

On the positive side, not all of our legislative buildings are madhouses, and a couple of our great railway hotels have managed to remain solvent.

Meanwhile, it is instructive to try to imagine what a sequel to Building Canada might look like, featuring nation-building projects from the past 20 or 30 years. Is there even a remote equivalency between the building of the information highway, or at least Canada's piece of it, and the building of the literal highway that stretches across the Prairies and through the mountains? Or between the bridges of cyberspace and those that span the St. Lawrence River or Burrard Inlet?”



Liberals name their critics

Opposition Leader Bill Graham has named his caucus critics. There’s a lot of them: 41 critics and 38 associate critics to watch a cabinet of 26 people. On top of that, there are seven Liberal MPs with caucus officer positions, like Whip or Deputy House Leader. So, in a caucus 101 MPs, 86 Liberals are critics, associate critics or caucus officers.

The full list has some other highlights:

  • Michael Ignatieff is not a critic. He is the associate critic for Human Resources and Skills Development. (Minister is Diane Finley). The critic is Geoff Regan.
  • Ignatieff is the only MP whose name has been bandied about as a possible leadership contender without a critic’s job. Other posssible leadership contenders with a critic’s job (which gives them a higher profile during Question Period) include: Scott Brison, Belinda Stronach, Maurizio Bevilicqua, Denis Coderre, Stephane Dion, John Godfrey and Joe Volpe.
  • Former Prime Minister Paul Martin is not a critic — a move that was widely expected.
  • Ujjal Dossanjh is National Defence Critic (Minister is Gordon O’Connor)
  • Couple of interesting Quebec matchups: Jean Lapierre is critic to Industry Minister Maxime Bernier and Coderre is critic to Minister of Labour Jean-Pierre Blackburn
  • Sue Barnes, who was Irwin Cotler’s parliamentary secretary in the last Parliament, is the Justice Critic (Minister is Vic Toews).
  • Brison will be the critic to Rona Ambrose in Environment.
  • John McCallum is the Finance Critic (Finance Minister is Jim Flaherty)


More polls: This time the Conservatives get a bump

The Strategic Counsel is the pollster for CTV News and The Globe and Mail. I’m subbing in today as host for Mike Duffy on his show Mike Duffy Live (CTV Newsnet at 5 pm Eastern/2 pm Pacific) and I’ll be talking to Strategic Counsel chairman Allan Gregg about his latest numbers which show that, despite some stumbles in their first few weeks in office, the Conservatives actually saw an increase in their national support.

Here’s the numbers:

  • Conservatives: 39 per cent (up from 36 per cent on election day Jan. 23)
  • Liberals: 28 per cent (down from 30 per cent on Jan. 23)
  • NDP: 19 per cent (up from 18 per cent)
  • Bloc Quebecois:  9 per cent (down from 11 per cent)

The poll was done Feb. 16 to Feb. 19. It was a survey of 1,000 people across the country and the margin of error is 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20.