1. Happy birthday to the Halifax Examiner!
[originally posted yesterday afternoon]
The Halifax Examiner is one year old. I made the site live with a promotional video announcing the Examiner on Wednesday, June 18, 2014; here it is:
By the time I made the site live, it also contained a bunch of older stuff that I had previously written on my own blog. As I recall, I posted something two days later, on Friday, June 20, but I can’t remember what it was except that I said something like “I’ll start posting real stuff on Monday.” Then, I did my first Morning File on Monday, June 23, 2014. Back then, I was publishing Morning File by 7:30am… that morphed to 8am, then 8:30am, and now to 9am, as I find I just go on and on about stuff. But I think it’s fair to say that the Halifax Examiner came screaming out into the world at 7:30am on June 23, 2014.
I have no idea what it means.
I’m not a fan of excessive navel-gazing or self-promotion, but I think the first anniversary of this enterprise warrants a bit of both, so here goes.
First of all, the thanks. Thanks to all who have supported the Halifax Examiner through their subscriptions, their patronage, their advice, and their criticism (seriously, I’ve learned a lot through criticism). Thanks to my friends and family for their moral support, their encouragement, and their forbearance. Thanks to readers for simply reading; this project is pointless if no one is reading it. I thought about mentioning specific people here, but the list would go into the thousands; I’m overwhelmed and humbled by that support.
I’m particularly proud of a few things over the last year — my reporting on the local business scene and Nova Scotia Business Inc., Moira Donovan’s coverage of campus issues, and El Jones’ weekly Saturday commentary. I’m somewhat surprised that I’ve devoted so much attention to media criticism, and I’m surprised that the reaction has been mostly favourable — I think I’ve done worthy work on the multiple conflicts of interest at the Chronicle Herald, and earlier this month the Toronto Star picked up my piece on Evan Solomon.
On the minus side, I think that especially in the last couple of months, my coverage of City Hall has slid. I’m not sure if this is because not so many important issues have come forward recently or because I’m losing interest, or both. The first of council’s two summer breaks starts tomorrow, so I’ll have time to reevaluate and consider how to better approach that coverage.
As for the immediate future, I’ve been working on a special project that I hope to begin rolling out later this summer. It is, by far, the most ambitious journalistic project I’ve attempted in my career. It has already consumed hundreds of hours of my time, and will require hundreds more. It’s challenging me in new ways, and I’m learning new-to-me journalistic techniques. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to embark on such a large project were I working anywhere else.
One year in, my biggest problem is I’m stretched far too thin. I’m basically behind on everything. What falls most behind is my administrative tasks— bookkeeping, keeping up with subscriptions, answering my email, etc. Every day I play a game of triage, putting out the biggest and most immediate fires, and ignoring everything else. This can’t continue.
My hope is that I can soon hire an administrative person — someone to stay on top of the administrative side of things, manage freelancers, edit me, like that.
Hiring an administrative person will of course require money.
I’m the softest sell in the world. I’ve tried as much as possible to avoid asking for subscriptions, for money, etc. I figure people know what this is about, and I leave it at that. Honestly, I don’t monitor the subscription rolls. People will subscribe or not, for their own reasons, and I’m cool with that; I don’t want the subscription issue to interfere with my personal relationships, or my relationship with readers, so I really try not to know if any particular person is a subscriber or not. I mostly avoid discussion of the issue.
Today, however, I’ll make an exception. I’d like to bring in enough subscription and support money the next couple of months to hire that administrative person, bring back on an education reporter when classes start in the fall, and beef up my freelance budget. In short, I’d like to take the Examiner to the next level.
If you haven’t already, please consider subscribing.
OK, enough of that. Navel-gazing and money issues taken care of, what I most want to do is celebrate the one year anniversary. Please join me tonight, Wednesday, between 5 and 10pm at the Company House, 2202 Gottingen Street. Jill Chambers and her band the Hold’er Newts will play a couple of sets, Natalie Chavarie and Virgil Muir will bring some Food Wolf snacks, and I’ll have Halifax Examiner swag for sale. (You can also buy a subscription if you want, but no hard sell, promise!) There will also be the CoHo bar, of course. But mostly I’d like to just enjoy some time with friends old and new.
I hope to see you there.
2. Leibovitz collection
CBC’s Stephanie Domet asked newly appointed Art Gallery of Nova Scotia CEO Lisa Bugden what’s taking so long getting that Annie Leibovitz collection displayed, and got a bunch of gibberish for a response:
I’m learning about this world and it’s quite exciting but it’s also quite complex. I think the gallery had hoped to quickly mount a exhibit but the reality is, in doing it right, it does take time. We’re talking about a very busy artist with an international following. We need to leverage this opportunity to the best advantage and ensure it helps both the gallery and this province. We are very excited about this. It’s a very good news story and it’s going to take the time to do it right.
[We’re] looking at partnerships, looking at international exposure. It means really taking this once-in-a-lifetime gift to put the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia on the map. It means looking at a travelling schedule and partners that are much further afield than Halifax, Nova Scotia.
What better way to save lighthouses than to pit people in small towns trying to restore their local lighthouse against each other?
That is the approach taken by the National Trust of Canada, which along with the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society and corporate sponsors RBC and Telus is running the This Lighthouse Matters contest. People are encouraged to go to the This Lighthouse Matters webpage and cast a vote (one per day) for their favourite lighthouse; the top vote-getting lighthouses win the top nine prizes. The other 14 lighthouses in the contest? Shit out of luck. Should’ve had better social media skills, you loser lighthouses.
The contest mentality that has infected fundraising is all wrong, for a lot of reasons.
One, contests favour groups and organizations that are most internet savvy and have the largest number of Twitter and Facebook followers as opposed to less social media adept groups that may have more worthy projects. Take, for example, the very connected Soul’s Harbour group that won the insurance company contest for charitable funding in order to get a new kitchen; are we certain that was truly a more deserving project than the losing Autism Project in the Annapolis Valley, which wanted a new facility to better serve its clients? I doubt most people voting in the contest bothered to look at competing projects; they simply cast the vote for their Twitter friends, and that was the end of it.
Two, contests equate popularity with worthiness. In the case of limited funding for a project like lighthouse preservation, I’d rather have a panel of historians judging the relative worth of the projects than, no offence, dog walkers who happen to live near a particular lighthouse.
Three, contests are very often a low-cost strategy of corporate advertising, a way to encourage the well-meaning public to retweet the name of a corporation in positive association with some cause, saving the corporation enormous amounts in advertising costs. Although this doesn’t appear to be the case in the lighthouse contest, such contests further the acceptance of more corporatized contests.
Four, what’s going to be done with the personal data collected through voting in contests? This Lighthouse Matters’ rules and regulations spell out two seemingly contradictory rules for data:
45. By voting in the Competition the Voter consents to the collection, use and distribution of any personal information provided to the National Trust for the purposes of implementing, administering and fulfilling this Competition. The National Trust will not sell or transmit this information to third parties except for the purposes of administering the Competition.
The link takes us to this policy:
Using Personal Information
The National Trust uses personal information for the following purposes:
• To process and renew your membership application and to respond to your requests
• To process stated member benefits
• To communicate with you concerning National Trust news and events
• To process your donations
• To offer you National Trust–endorsed products, services, e-bulletins, invitations to National Trust conferences and events, invitations to participate in national task forces etc. that we believe to be of interest to you
• To offer you opportunities to support the National Trust, e.g., through a fundraising campaign, and to process your acceptance of such offers
At the very least, that sounds like a lifetime worth of email spam. Probably it means they’ve collected your IP address and will direct advertising at you.
Worst, in corporate sponsored contests, data policies are rarely easy to find or intelligible.
Five, contests reframe the public’s understanding of charity and of the role of government. Instead of having a progressive tax regime, including healthy corporate taxes, the contests have the unstated starting point that money is limited and there is nothing we can do about it. We can’t possibly increase tax rates to 1970s’ or dog forbid 1950s’ levels, and so we have to bow down to corporations that toss a few coins into charitable causes that best fit their branding strategies, and we have to ration ever-decreasing pots of funding through these cutthroat contests. Whether they acknowledge it or not, by taking part in the contests voters are advancing the neoliberal agenda that will further cut government services. There is a direct line from casting a vote for the Soul’s Harbour kitchen in the Aviva contest to the McNeil government cutting government funding for community organizations.
Posing as worthy charitable causes, funding contests are in reality advancing the anti-people political agenda of austerity.
Six, get off my lawn.
4. Water taxis
Chebucto Water Taxi starts service today, providing “an on-call, point-to-point service around Halifax Harbour and the Northwest Arm… Service to popular destinations including the Downtown waterfront, Dartmouth, the Northwest Arm, and McNab’s Island.” The company hasn’t yet posted rates on its website.
Meanwhile, Francis Fares is starting a taxi service between his King’s Wharf development in Dartmouth and the Halifax boardwalk just next to the Wave sculpture, for five bucks. (Is it really a “taxi” if it’s on a fixed route?) He charging five bucks, twice what it would cost if you walked a block down to the Alderney Landing ferry terminal to take essentially the same trip, but you wouldn’t have to sit near the riffraff.
Both companies are promising to provide service to McNabs Island.
Robert Milner got his bear back, reports the Truro Daily News:
Milner couldn’t remember the exact date he had reported it stolen to police, but remembers his emotions that day.
“It really pissed me off, and I don’t get pissed easily,” he said.
Milner had spent hours working on the project, and hadn’t even finished the bear before it was stolen. He said he was hoping to finish up what needed to be done before putting the bear up for sale.
Staff Sgt. Randy MacKenzie said the bear was recovered June 17 at a residence on Cedar Drive, as a result of a search warrant.
A search warrant for a bear?
1. Mawkish monstrosity
I think I’ll start collecting the terms of derision used for the proposed Mother Canada memorial in Green Cove. Paul Schneidereit calls it a “mawkish monstrosity” and compares it to the 1958 sci-fi camp movie Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, staring Allison Hayes as Nancy Archer, “a normal, voluptuously beautiful woman,” who turns into the 50 Foot Woman: “You think I’m drunk, don’t you?” she screams. “All of you! I’m not drunk! I’m not!” (She was drunk.) Hayes goes on to terrorize the town, of course.
2. Cranky letter of the day
A recent newspaper article titled Natural Disasters may not be demon sent, sparked a reflection of my own life over the past 83 years. The article dealt with the eruption of a Malaysian volcano, which that government says was caused by a group of depraved tourists cavorting nude on its summit. If that wasn’t enough foolishness, a deputy minister later announced that a ritual would be performed to appease the mountain spirit.
Great Scot! And in the 21st century too.
In all my years I have never seen any evidence of a mountain spirit or any other kind. I have never seen a ghost, an angel, a haunted house, a UFO or anything else of an extraterrestrial nature. My whole life has been involved with things of this world, which were problem enough without importing others from outside. I cannot believe in luck, good or bad, superstition, premonition, time travel or the absurd notion that the vast, unfathomable universe was invented for the sole benefit of mankind.
What I know about gods and religion does not extend beyond the nonsensical crap that is the scourge of the world; that preaches love and benevolence while creating most of the misery, hatred, political insurrection and premature death in the world. I have never known a prayer to be answered, or evidence of a soul, a hell or a heaven that exists by proclamation.
But I know a human race that is inordinately cruel, that thrives on inherent greed and self-interest, that preys on its own kind unlike any other creature on Earth, and I see every day the gradual ruination of the home planet that will be inescapable when the crunch comes.
I have lived through times of war and epidemic, through financial ruin and recovery that reaches indecent corporate profiteering, saw government sanction of environmental destruction and resource depletion, not for need but for profit; saw episodes of political subterfuge and mismanagement, while the rank and file clamour for more of the same. I daily see lies and deceit by the profiteers vying for our money, and I have seen entire generations of children that never grew up, whose entire outlook from cradle to grave was based on creature comfort and having fun.
I see the daily immigration of potential terrorists and the export of damn fools wishing to fight for the terrorist cause. I see more crime and less ability to deal with it; expanded police forces and ultra-efficient convict-oriented prisons; an out of control North American gun culture that is so big that it constitutes a large part of the industrial economy and export trade. I see absurdities ensconced as human rights, while true rights on which countries were founded are being trampled or ignored. I hear the foolishness of all men being created equal, and nothing at all about that equality being applied to the women. Tell this equality business to a Mississippi black man denied a job or an education, or Pakistani women convicted and imprisoned for being the victims of rape.
Is there reason to hope for change? Not in my lifetime or the lifetime of anyone alive today. Hope, according to Ambrose Bierce in his Devil’s Dictionary, is desire and expectation rolled into one.
Delicious Hope! when naught to man it left—
Of fortune destitute, of friends bereft;
When even his dog deserts him, and his goat
With tranquil disaffection chews his coat
While yet it hangs upon his back; then thou,
The star far-flaming on thine angel brow,
Descendest, radiant, from the skies to hint
The promise of a clerkship in the Mint.
John G. McKay
Community Design Advisory Committee (11:30am, City Hall)—the committee continues to look at the Centre Plan.
Heritage Advisory Committee (2pm, City Hall)—the committee is set to approve $150,000 in heritage grants, as follows:
Public Accounts (10am, Province House)—Auditor General Michael Pickup will be questioned about his latest report.
On this date in 1610, Chief Membertou was baptized, ushering in a new era of peace and mutual respect with the newly arriving Europeans.
In the harbour
ZIM Texas, container ship, arrived at Pier 41 this morning, sails to sea this afternoon
Atlantic Cartier, container ship, Liverpool, England to Fairview Cove
Elixer, oil tanker, Paldiski, Estonia to Imperial Oil