How local news survives
Earlier this week, Torstar and Postmedia announced a deal that will result in the closure of more than 30 community newspapers and the firing of 290 people, mostly journalists. Reports H.G. Watson for J-Source:
Postmedia is acquiring 24 newspapers, among them Metro Ottawa and Metro Winnipeg. Of them, only one — The Exeter Times-Advocate and the Exeter Weekender — will remain open. The other papers will be closed by mid-January.
Torstar acquired 17 newspapers in the deal, including seven daily newspapers and two free commuter dailies, 24 Hours Vancouver and 24 Hours Toronto. Of those, 13 will be closing immediately, including the Barrie Examiner, Northumberland Today and Orillia Packet & Times.
The deal is a desperate attempt to maintain advertising revenue by each company maintaining near-monopoly control of newspaper advertising:
In effect, the two companies have carved out exclusive print advertising zones in Ontario. For example, in Ottawa, the overwhelming option for print sales will be through Postmedia. The same is true for Torstar in the Niagara Peninsula.
The problem is, advertisers have many more channels available to them than print advertising. The internet is destroying newspapers that rely on advertising, and there’s no returning to the glory days of old. We’re going to continue to see the collapse of the print newspaper industry. I predict that within a few years, most cities in Canada, including Halifax, won’t have a publication that is recognizable as the daily full-purpose print newspaper of old.
This Twitter thread by Jeff Samsonow, who I don’t know, encapsulates the issue:
It sounds hippy-dippy but #journalism is the kind of business that (mostly) needs to be run for altruistic reasons of public service. Look at some of what’s successful right now: @TheTyee and @CANADALAND – they have a purpose to tell stories. 5/
— Jeff Samsonow (@jeffsamsonow) November 27, 2017
And my own venture: @yegquotient. Much like others mentioned, all money from advertising and support at EQ goes directly into local news and content. I’m writing every week and I’m paying freelancers. This is how we maintain local news. 9/
— Jeff Samsonow (@jeffsamsonow) November 27, 2017
We don’t have to like that reader-supported online sites are the future of local news, but it’s just the fact of the matter: No other business model works. There’s some wiggle room between “pay what you will” and straight subscription models, but in the end, if we want local news, we’re going to have to pay for it.
Here at the Halifax Examiner, subscriptions are just $10 a month. That money pays for our ever-increasing roster of freelance writers, our research and investigation costs, and administrative, legal, and website expenses.
And while the annual November subscription drive is annoying, the flip side is that there are never any ads to contend with, nor popups of any kind. We do not collect your data, nor sell it or use it for any other nefarious purposes.
Please subscribe. It’s what makes this venture possible.
1. Bob Bjerke and Jacques Dubé
“Jacques Dubé worked as HRM’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for just 11 months when he decided to can the city’s Chief Planner, Bob Bjerke,” reports Erica Butler for the Examiner:
Bjerke had been heading up the city’s planning and development department for about three and a half years. His dismissal came abruptly, with no explanation to either him, or to the residents of Halifax.
In fact, only three weeks before he was let go, Bjerke met with Dubé to check in and see how he was doing with his new boss. Bjerke had been getting feelers from elsewhere, and wanted to make sure he was on solid ground in Halifax. Dubé told him he was. But then, somewhere over the course of the following three weeks, Dubé decided to fire Bjerke.
Of course, high-level managers making six figures do sometimes get fired. Bjerke himself has been fired before, from his position of Director of Planning and Sustainability with the city of Regina. That was right before he got hired as director of housing in Edmonton, and then later recruited to Halifax to become this city’s first Chief Planner.
There’s a difference in how Bjerke was fired in Regina and how he was fired in Halifax. In Regina, city bosses immediately offered up an explanation for letting Bjerke go, citing a desire for “a change in leadership, a change in direction.” It’s not much of an explanation, but one thing it has going for it: transparency. The message signalled to the city there was a change afoot.
Here in Halifax, we’ve been accorded no such consideration.
CAO Jacques Dubé and city council have not given even the most basic public justification for the sudden firing of Bjerke, citing privacy issues. So we are left asking: Why did Bob Bjerke get fired and what does it mean for Halifax?
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2. Blue Mountain–Birch Cove Lakes
“After a debate behind closed doors, Halifax regional council voted to enter into an agreement of purchase and sale related to the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Park, but there are no details being made public,” reports Zane Woodford for Metro:
Council voted 11-1 in favour of a motion to enter into an agreement of purchase and sale as per the terms and conditions of a secret report; to “undertake consultation” with the Nova Scotia government and the public; and to “direct staff to continue to implement the plan for future acquisitions of other lands within the Blue Mountain Birch-Cove Lakes Wilderness Park boundary.”
The debate on the motion was had in camera, and after the vote, Mayor Mike Savage had no details for reporters.
“There’s a reason things are in camera,” Savage said. “There’s a lot of sensitivities around it. We’re doing our very best to acquire and protect those lands, which are important, I think, for the citizens, but there’s a lot of complicating factors that make it difficult.”
What’s going on here? My guess, and I hope I’m wrong, is that council voted to acquire a much smaller piece of property than the original “ridgetop to ridgetop” vision for the park.
By the way, the main private property owner in the proposed park boundary is the Annapolis Group, which happens to be suing the city in an unrelated matter connected to Paper Mill Lake in Bedford.
In 1987, the old town of Bedford acquired a parcel of land at Lake Drive and Mill Court from Annapolis for parkland purposes — this is the trail that runs south from Lake Drive, near the Paper Mill Lake dam, and on to Millrun Crescent. According to the lawsuit filed by Annapolis in September, the land deal included a continued easement for Annapolis in order for the company to maintain the dam. The dam is owned by Annapolis, and serves to maintain the water level in the lake.
In 2014, the company had to repair the dam, but the city said it had no right to cross city property to do so. No one stopped Annapolis from doing the work that was required, but now Annapolis is asking the court for an order recognizing the easement.
The lawsuit doesn’t say why Annapolis is maintaining the dam. The lake is a public asset that is used by nearby property owners and has public access. Should the dam fail, the waters of the lake could potentially take out a dozen homes along Millrun Crescent and the Tim Hortons, and could even breach the Bedford Highway. By my way of thinking, the city, not some unaccountable development company, should be maintaining the dam, but whatever.
It’s just interesting that at the exact time the city is negotiating with Annapolis over the wilderness park lands, the company is suing the city about something else.
“New uptake numbers on the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Project show the program is off to a slow start in the region, with only a fraction of the total allocation for 2017 being utilized,” reports Andrea Gunn for the Chronicle Herald:
The pilot project was announced in July 2016 as part of the Atlantic Growth Strategy and officially launched in March. The program aimed to bring up to 2,000 additional primary immigrant applicants and their families in 2017, with increased numbers in following years if the program performs well. Earlier this month it was announced the program would continue and double to an allocation of 4,000 by 2020.
Nova Scotia was was given an allocation of 792 of the 2,000 slots available through the regional pilot project for 2017. So far this year, the province has designated 253 employers, received 237 endorsement applications and approved 170. A total of 31 people have applied for permanent residency in the province as a result of the program, and so far 18 have been approved.
Relatedly, on Monday the Econostats division of the provincial Department of Finance released some graphs using federal Stats Canada data on immigrants.
The graphs show that people who immigrate to Nova Scotia mostly don’t stay here. About 25 per cent leave in the first year or two, but by 18 or 19 years after their arrival, fully 80 per cent have left for greener pastures.
The other 20 per cent are me and the Buddhists.
4. Garnier trial
The trial of Christopher Garnier, charged with the murder of off-duty Truro cop Catherine Campbell, continues. (It’s a three-week trial.) Yesterday, reports Blair Rhodes for the CBC, Garnier’s lawyer Joel Pink brought up a hypothetical scenario involving rough sex that appears to be the defence argument in the case:
During cross-examination, Pink asked Bowes to comment on a hypothetical scenario involving a man and a woman who met on Sept. 10, 2015, at the Alehouse bar in Halifax and returned to an apartment.
Pink said the woman told the man she had a fantasy about being choked and asked the man to do so. She then asked him to slap her, which he did. She began bleeding, the man went to get a towel, and when he returned she wasn’t moving.
Bowes said the hypothetical can’t be excluded, but he didn’t consider it during his autopsy. He added that one problem with the scenario is he believes Campbell’s nose was broken while she was alive.
Pink asked whether erotic asphyxiation during sex can induce a brief euphoria in the person, and Bowes said he had heard it can. He later testified he’d never seen a case before, only cases of autoerotic asphyxiation where a person chokes themself.
This trial is going to get even uglier when the defence calls its own witnesses, I fear.
Incidentally, the CBC has brought in artist James Vincent Walsh to create courtroom sketches during the trial. I don’t recall any news media doing that locally before.
5. Fake taxis
“An unlicensed driver in Halifax has been posing as a legitimate taxi cab and picking up unsuspecting fares,” reports Jacob Boon for The Coast:
Halifax Regional Police spokesperson Dianne Penfound confirms a 64-year-old man was pulled over by officers on October 30 after trying to pick up fares in the 1000 block of Marginal Road.
The illegal taxi had a light-up roof number that was a duplicate of another licensed cab. Police took the driver’s information, but let him keep the fraudulent roof light.
A month later on November 22, HRP issued the driver a $1,272 summary ticket for operating a vehicle as a taxi without a valid license.
6. St. Andrews Community Centre
The city is looking to rent 5,000 square feet of space within one kilometre of the St. Andrews Recreation Centre off Bayers Road. The space will provide temporary housing for the community centre while it is torn down and reconstructed. The work is scheduled to begin May 1.
1. Explosion explosion
Stephen Archibald surveys the explosion of Explosion related events and media, and ends with “two gratuitous suggestions: gracefully end the Boston Christmas Tree tourism promotion. It’s embarrassing. And it’s time. Also, the Explosion is a great name for a football team, just not in Halifax.”
2. Cranky letter of the day
Mary Campbell gets mail:
Ian Whytock writes:
Dear Ms. Campbell,
The timing on your November 15th article, “Nothing Says ‘We Care’ Like Stock Photos”, was perfect, as I had just received my local MLA’s flyer too, I recognized them as stock photos as well, but thought, “wonderful, they actually saved some money, and didn’t go out and have professional head shots and photo shoots.” Like most Nova Scotians, I don’t give two hoots about the photos, it’s the content I’m concerned about. I think you were correct, when you admitted in your article that “Perhaps I’m just being too sensitive”.
As a journalist, please take care to be more concerned with content over form.
Although I still think that throwing some work to a Nova Scotia photographer or two isn’t a bad use of government money; and that photos are, in fact, “content;” and that, had I focused on the text in the government’s budget propaganda flyer, I probably wouldn’t have been any more impressed; I am not going to argue with Whytock.
Whytock speaks for “most Nova Scotians,” and when “most Nova Scotians” speak, I listen.
Shared Housing Public Consultation (Wednesday, 2pm and 6:30pm, Maritime Hall, Halifax Forum) — says the event listing: “Halifax Planning staff will host a meeting to discuss amendments to the Halifax Regional Municipal Planning Strategy and all applicable community municipal planning strategies and land-use by-laws to simplify, consolidate and remove barriers to the development of special care facilities.” So there.
Public Information Meeting – Case 21088 (Wednesday, 7pm, Rockingham United Church) — WSP Canada wants to rezone an approved development agreement in Rockingham.
Public Information Meeting – Case 21454 (Wednesday, 7pm, Harrietsfield Elementary School) — the city wants to build a new fire station on Old Sambro Road.
Public Information Meeting – Case 20573 (Thursday, 7pm, Cole Harbour Place) — W M Fares wants to build a seven-storey apartment building behind the Portland Hills Transit Terminal, and to have access to the building’s parking lot through the terminal’s park and ride lot.
Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — the Auditor General gets to fend off attacks from the Liberals.
No public meetings.
Board of Governors Meeting (Wednesday, 9am, University Hall, MacDonald Building) — the governors will discuss the Innovation Superclusterfuck Initiative.
Modeling Emergency Health Service Utilized by Young Adults with Mental Health Problems in Nova Scotia Using a Count Time-Series (Wednesday, 11:30am, MA310) — Shams Zaman will speak.
Dalhousie Jazz Ensemble (Wednesday, 12pm, Sculpture Court, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — Chris Mitchell directs.
Hydrofluorocarbon Synthesis (Wednesday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — R. Tom Baker from the University of Ottawa will speak on “Base Metal Catalysis Approaches to Greener Hydrofluorocarbon Synthesis.”
Recovering Canada’s Marine Fish and Fisheries (Wednesday, 7pm, in the auditorium named after a bank, Marion McCain Building) — Jeffrey Hutchings will talk about “Recovering Canada’s Marine Fish and Fisheries: the Roles of Science, Policy and Societal Will.”
No Such Thing as a Small Language: An Evening in Literary Translation with Sebastian Schulman (Wednesday, 7:30pm, the Khyber Centre for the Arts, Hollis Street) — a book reading and discussion on Schulman’s recently published translation of Spomenka Štimec’s Esperanto novel, Croatian War Nocturnal (Phoneme Media, 2017).
Thesis Defence, Chemistry (Thursday, 9:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Colin Kelly will defend his thesis, “Synthesis and Study of New Late Metal Complexes Featuring N-Phosphinoamidinate Ligands.”
Thesis Defence, Earth Sciences (Thursday, 3:30pm, Room 2055, Life Sciences Centre) — Masters student Rachel Milligan will defend her thesis, “Features of Apatite in Kimberlites from Ekati Diamond Mine and Snap Lake: Modelling Kimberlite Composition.”
Federal-Provincial Taxation for Canada’s Next 50 Years (Thursday, 3:30pm, The Great Hall, University Club) — Kevin Milligan from the University of British Columbia will speak.
Canada and the UN (Thursday, 4pm, Atrium, the Ocean Sciences Building named after a car dealership that tears down neighbourhoods) — Alice Aiken will speak with Marc-André Blanchard, Canada’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
ESS Graduate Showcase: Youth Leading Change (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Theatre, Marion McCain Building) — Jack Bennett, social activist and Artistic Director of the Phoenix Community Choir, hosts sustainability graduates and “changemakers” and leads everyone in song. I remember a changemaker in the basement cafeteria at the hospital when I was a kid. (I went to the hospital a lot.) He was a old blind man with an infectious laugh; he loved children and patiently explained to four-year-old me how he could make change even though he couldn’t see the bills he was handed. (In short: no one would rip off a nice old blind man in the basement of the hospital.) I don’t know if he can sing or not, or even if he’s alive — he’d be 120 or something — but I sure hope he shows up.
Russian Ark (Thursday, 7pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — a screening of Alexander Sokurov’s 2002 film. A bravura single-shot tour of the great Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russian Ark examines the art, culture, and history of Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union through the glass of the Tsarist Empire which preceded it.
Partners in Swing (Thursday, 7:30pm, St. Andrew’s United Church, 6036 Coburg Road) — Nathan Beeler and Chris Mitchell direct The Dal Jazz Ensemble and the Halifax All-City Senior Jazz Ensemble in a variety of swinging standards. Tickets — $10 and $15 — available at the Dalhousie Arts Centre Box Office and at the door.
Thesis Defence, Applied Science (Thursday, 12:30pm, Atrium 101) — Masters student John McKinlay will defend his thesis, “Adding a Numerical Description to Civil Standard of Proof Jury Instructions: Probabilistic Evidence Still Defies Correct Liability Assignment.”
Thesis Defence, Applied Science (Thursday, 2pm, Room 265 in the building named after a grocery store) — Masters student Isabel Chavez will defend her thesis, “Early Cretaceous Sand Supply to Offshore SW Nova Scotia: Tectonic Diversion of Sable Rivers During Naskapi Member Deposition.”
Museum of Natural History
Thursday is the first of three nights of screenings of films by Neal Livingston, with a Q&A to follow. Each night is sponsored by, and a fundraiser for, the Margaree Environmental Association.
Herbicide Trials (Thursday, 8pm, Auditorium, Museum of Natural History) — Livingston’s 1984 NFB film that the forestry industry tried to ban, Herbicide Trials.
John Dunsworth – The Candidate — Livingston’s 1989 film in which the late John Dunsworth runs for election in 1988 for the Nova Scotia NDP.
In the harbour
5am: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
6am: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Norfolk
6am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
6am: ZIM Alabama, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Algeciras, Spain
11am: Asian Sun, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands
1a1m: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
3pm: YM Moderation, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
4:30pm: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
4:30pm: ZIM Alabama, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
5pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport to Anchorage
I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.