1. Battle lines set at Chronicle Herald
Talks between the Halifax Typographical Union and Chronicle Herald management broke down yesterday. Late in the day the union issued the following press release:
Herald rejects major concessions offered by newsroom union.
In a last-ditch attempt to avoid a lockout, unionized members of the Halifax Typographical Union offered major concessions to Chronicle Herald management Wednesday but were rejected outright.
The concessions offered include:
• An immediate five per cent wage cut across the board and no wage increases for the next two years.
• A 25 per cent reduction in starting salaries for new reporters and photographers.
• Placing a cap on severance.
• Reducing the mileage rate by 17 per cent.
• Reducing vacation allotment.
Management fully rejected these concessions and informed the union they plan to impose a new set of working conditions as of 12:01 a.m. Saturday.
As a result, the union intends to immediately file a 48-hour strike notice. However, management has said they will impose a lockout before a strike could take place.
Unlike the union’s position, which has changed since this process started in October, the Chronicle Herald’s position has remained unchanged throughout this entire process. We believe the company was always intent on locking out its 61 unionized editorial employees.
The company’s attack on jurisdiction and seniority has remained unchanged since bargaining began. In essence, if we were to agree to their demands, we would be giving away all job security, some access to severance pay and layoff protection tied to seniority.
We believe the company’s strategy is nothing short of union-busting.
The union is willing to continue negotiations. However, if an agreement cannot be reached, we ask readers and advertisers to suspend their subscriptions and advertisements until a deal has been reached.
HTU Local 30130 also wishes to advise the public that unionized employees, should they be locked out, will launch a news website. It will be called Local Xpress, with further details to follow.
More talks were scheduled for today, but it doesn’t look like they’re proceeding. Unless something unexpected happens, workers will either be locked out or on strike Saturday morning.
J-Source gives a good overview of the history of labour relations at the Chronicle Herald.
Sure, ad revenue is in free fall for news media, and the old model doesn’t work any more. I don’t have the answer to the question of how to move news media into the next era. We’re all experimenting. The Examiner is one approach, and it works well enough so far, but there are other ways of going about it, as allnovascotia.com, Buzzfeed, iPolitics, Vice, and others are demonstrating.
I speak to j-school classes a few times a year. Four or five years ago I’d look out at those young and energetic faces and think, “What, are you crazy? Why would anyone get into journalism?” But now I feel completely different. I’ve had many reporter friends go on to successful careers in the newly emerging platforms. Now, when I go to speak with students, I tell them these are exciting times, and that with creativity, openness to new ideas, and hard work, they can find a place in the media landscape.
But back to the Chronicle Herald. What should Mark Lever and Sarah Dennis do?
The general sense is that neither Lever or Dennis are particularly thrilled to be running a newspaper in the first place — it’s either in your blood or it’s not, and unlike the Dennis patriarch Graham Dennis, Sarah’s heart just isn’t in it. And Lever doesn’t seem interested in anything much beyond selling himself as an “innovator” with no new ideas whatsoever. There’s not a thing innovative to Lever’s approach; it’s completely old school: cut pay, cut workers, reduce labour costs, but then continue to do the same thing you’ve always done. It’s a classic example of legacy media being hamstrung by its own bulkiness.
It’s apparent that the real money at Halifax Herald Ltd is not in the Chronicle Herald daily newspaper, but rather in the printing business and the weekly throwaways. The dead tree Chronicle Herald is probably a liability, or at least heading that way. So why not give it away? Simply give it to the employees and let them figure out the future of the enterprise.
If giving away a collapsing asset is too, well, bold for Lever and Dennis, there are other innovative ways to approach the issue. They could recognize that advertising revenue can’t continue to support the paper, and so at some point in the not-distant future the paper is going to be a faint shadow of its former self. If that’s true — and does anyone think it’s not? — then maybe they should step back and ask themselves if they really want to go through round after round of cuts, labour wars, decreasing ad sales, and the abysmal PR that comes with it all, or if they’d rather use the resources they have now — before they’re all gone — to repurpose the enterprise all at once. Kill the dead tree completely, or reduce it to a single weekend edition, keep your best reporters and concentrate on a few things they can do exceptionally well, and put it all behind an internet paywall. Give everyone else a generous severance and wish them well, and be praised for being a true innovator.
2. Free advertising
In the US there’s a donut chain called Krispy Kreme that has mastered the art of getting free advertising masquerading as news coverage. Back in 2003, Jill Rosen of the American Journalism Review detailed how and why it worked:
Most newspapers, TV newscasts and radio programs find it hard to ignore the opening of a new Krispy Kreme outlet. Actually, they probably don’t even try. When a store comes to town — any town — it’s treated like a news event, from the time its plans pass the zoning board to its meticulously razzmatazzed grand opening.
And this is no ordinary coverage. Objectivity goes out when the “hot now” sign goes on. This is ecstatic coverage. Enamored, awestruck and charmed. As reporters strain to put the delight into words (“gooey, glazed goodness,” “savory, addictive ambrosia,” “let the mouth watering begin”), one can only wonder how many donut crumbs are falling into their keyboards.
At the Star Tribune, some on the staff got something of a sugar-induced headache last year realizing the paper went overboard in its opening day A1 donut blitz. Star Tribune columnist Doug Grow diluted his paper’s excesses with a piece a few days later, dryly noting, “Krispy Kreme had newspaper, radio and TV reporters crawling all over themselves to get at ‘the story.’ “
Grow vehemently disagrees with [Sid] Smith’s [a business reporter at the Star Tribune] donut-as-Beatles rationale for coverage. “A $%?@ donut???” he gasps. “Once upon a time with newspapers, perspective used to be part of the deal.” He says that the Star Trib fueled whatever fire Krispy Kreme’s arrival generated by doing a 40-inch business front story nearly two years beforehand headlined “Donut fans’ prayers are answered.” Of course people showed up and went crazy, he says.
As for why news organizations continue to do this, Grow has a theory, one that reaches far beyond the allure of free donuts. In Krispy Kreme, journalists see the brass ring, the way to reach the Everyreader. “We want to prove we’re not this big, corporate, cold, lefty newspaper — we’re a newspaper of the people,” he says. “And what shows this more than getting excited over a donut shop.”
Fuck that. If you want to advertise your donut shop, or your, I dunno, Swedish furniture chain, pony up some real money and buy an honest ad already.
I’m so old I remember when business reporters might ask how the arrival of a gigantic multinational retail operation would affect smaller local mom and pop retailers, or be curious about the multinational’s labour practices, or the multinational knowingly profiting from slave labour, or that the multinational has set itself as a “charity” for tax avoidance purposes, or… well you get the point.
3. New police station(s)
The city this morning issues a Request For Proposals for a consultant to conduct a Facilities Replacement Business Case. This is the first step towards replacing the Gottingen Street police station, but also looking at all police stations in the Halifax Regional Police Department’s coverage area and suggesting the best placement of personnel, stations, and vehicles.
This is analogous to the review the fire department just completed, but somehow I doubt it will twig the same level of citizen excitement.
4. St. John’s
“After seven years of vacancy a nearly century-old Halifax church may finally get a new owner,” reports the CBC’s Carly Stagg:
The old red brick St. John’s United Church on Windsor Street was listed for sale this month for $1.35 million. Along with the church, the sale also includes a two-storey home on Willow Street the congregation used for office space.
Real estate agent Ashley Urquhart with Turner Drake & Partners Ltd. said the owners have accepted a conditional offer on the property from a local developer.
The Halifax Regional Police tweeted the above photo yesterday. This is no laughing matter.
1. Big boxes
“If there are successful models for stores in the middle of neighbourhoods, why do companies like IKEA prefer to build in big box parks, where the only option is to drive?” asks Ben Wedge:
The simple answer is that cities let them do it. Halifax is expanding the Bayers Lake and Burnside “Business Parks,” providing massive subsidies to developers along the way. By requiring stores like IKEA and Superstore to be built at the centre of communities, on the second and third floors of bustling retail buildings, we can have all the advantages of big box shopping with none of the disadvantages of driving to Dartmouth Crossing. Halifax has the chance to do this, by putting stronger rules in the new Centre Plan and putting a moratorium on office park development. Sure, we may wind up paying multi-million dollar settlements to developers, but that sure beats the $3 billion the city says we’ll save by concentrating development in our existing neighbourhoods.
Of course, the location has already been set. It will be in Burnside, with a trip as pleasant as going to Costco on a Saturday. But we can dream.
2. Cranky letter of the day
Re: the new super mailboxes. We only got ours a couple of months ago, and at least three times since, I could not get my key to open the box. (It was frozen.)
Also I spoke with the mailman who told me carriers were instructed not to put any mail in the boxes if the snow was not plowed out. This would be whose responsibility? The box was on Everette Street at the top of the hill. That proved to be an unacceptable place because of traffic, so it was moved around the corner.
It is enough trouble trying to get your mail without the extra inconvenience.
Margaret Jollimore, Dartmouth
Community Planning & Economic Development (10am, City hall) — whoops, meant to write about this. Go read it yourself.
Standing Committee on Resources (10am, One Government Place) — Peter Rideout, the executive director of the Wild Blueberry Producers Association of Nova Scotia will talk about, I don’t know for sure, but probably blueberries.
Maliseet Cultivation and Climatic Resilience (11:05am, Banting, Room 32, DAl-AC campus, Truro) — Deborah Stiles will discuss the Acadiensis article by Jason Hall, “Maliseet Cultivation and Climatic Resilience on the ‘Woolastook’/St. John River During the Little Ice Age“:
Professor Stiles is leading the seminar, which will be of interest to those examining or thinking about more in-depth and accurate analyses of farming within First Nations cultures, climate change, cultural resilience, and growing maize under challenging conditions. As Hall notes, “Although climatic change may have tipped the scales against maize cultivation in the Maritimes during the Little Ice Age[1300-1850 CE], Maliseets’ extensive cultivation skills and nuanced local environmental knowledge tipped them back. Their achievements with maize, and with other crops, set the stage – and prepared the fields – for the European agriculture that followed.”
The evolution of the internet of things (11:30am, Slonim Conference Room, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — explanation here.
Moving beyond GDP (12:30pm, University Hall, Macdonald Building) — if I can find the time (I probably can’t), I’ll go to this:
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been called the “world’s most powerful number,” but its dominance is now being challenged by demands around the world for alternative measurements that incorporate a wider understanding of social, economic, and environmental wellbeing. The panel will discuss the potential of new measurement systems, progress and challenges experienced so far in the EU, Canada, and elsewhere, and the next steps in moving beyond GDP as the dominant measure of progress.
Enrico Giovannini (by video link), University of Rome, former Director of Statistics and Chief Statistician for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and Italian Minister of Labour and Social Policies
Ron Colman and Gwen Colman, GPI Atlantic
Anders Hayden, Department of Political Science, Dalhousie University
Wait, Ron Colman’s in town? Colman for a while had the ear of government and was making progress budging Nova Scotia into thinking about the real social and environmental costs of policy. But then he up and left to go to Bhutan. This happened about the same time Mark Parent (father of the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act) was voted out of office, and now no one much is championing these analyses, or at least no one with real power.
I haven’t asked him, but maybe I can grab Colman and interview him for Examineradio.
Debriefing Elsipogtog (7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain Building) — Miles Howe will speak:
Miles Howe is a journalist for the independent Canadian news site, Media Co-Op. He was embedded in the anti-fracking movement spearheaded by the Elsipogtog First Nation and was arrested during the aboriginal resistance headed by the Mik’maq Warriors when the peaceful protest erupted into a clash against heavily armed members of the RCMP. His book, Debriefing Elsipogtog: The Anatomy of a Struggle, chronicles how people allied to build the resistance movement and how the state intervened to undermine inherent treaty rights.
Planetarium show (7:15pm, Room 120, Dunn Building) — tonight’s presentation is “Bright Stars on Cold Winter Nights in a Warm Planetarium!” Five bucks at the door. Leave kids under 8 out in the car.
This date in history
On January 21, 1839, the Baptist Educational Society opened Queen’s College in Wolfville to teach Liberal Arts and Theology; in 1841 the name was changed to Acadia College. It’s now Acadia University.
In the harbour
I’ll have an exciting announcement tomorrow. I expect all other media to write free articles about my upcoming exciting announcement.