1. Tech bro does journalism
People have been asking my opinion about the Overstory Media Group (OMG) for some time, but until now I’ve declined to comment. What pushed me to finally speak was this week’s Canadaland podcast, “One Rich Man Won’t Save Journalism,” which discusses OMG, the recently firing of half the staff at OMG’s flagship outlet the Capital Daily, the company’s business strategy, and more.
One thing I get into in the piece is the role of advertising:
It doesn’t have to be this way, but in the actual world we live in, the tech industry exists mostly to take our attention. It doesn’t matter why we point our eyeballs this way or that — we might be captivated by TikTok shorts, doom-scrolling on Twitter, raging about some dumb thing someone said, or amused by cat videos — all that matters is that our attention and data are purloined and packaged up for sale to advertisers.
Canadaland reports that in the wake of the Capital Daily firings, OMG is shifting to a “community” focus in the style of BlogTO, which I take to mean fun and distracting takes on local restaurants and the like. I’m sure there’s profit in that route, but it leads to a product that is essentially anodyne and uncritical of the powerful.
I can’t stress this enough: advertising-supported news is bad.
I know this is heresy. Our entire society is built upon advertising. It’s so pervasive that it’s just a fact of existence, like gravity. As such, people are incapable of comprehending any critique of it. But still: advertising-supported news is bad.
Even in the glory days of thick daily newspapers with hundreds of reporters on staff, advertising was bad for the publications. It may have been necessary, but it was bad: stories got killed, compromises made, coverage skewed.
Now, when every outlet in the news business is cash-strapped, advertising is even worse for news. Advertorial is so common place it’s no longer commented on. Entire beats get slashed because the reporting might offend advertisers (how many labour reporters are left?). And what’s left of reporting gets packaged in a corporate friendly frame — why should any regular person care about the daily fluctuations of the stock market, a common news fixation?
That’s why I’ve kept the Halifax Examiner entirely ad-free. As I wrote:
Building a meaningful local news outlet is about more than money. Of course money helps. But my hope is that over these nine years, the Halifax Examiner has earned readers’ trust. And I hope you know this is not some grand scheme to “revitalize journalism” across the continent, but rather a small scheme to actually do journalism right here in Nova Scotia.
Ultimately, that’s what journalism is all about: a pact between reporters and readers, with reporters creating important work in return for readers supporting it financially. Everything else is simply a distraction.
Anyway, please give the full article a read. I hope it moves you to subscribe.
2. Report: child poverty reduced by 40% in 2020
This item is written by Yvette d’Entremont.
A new national report released Tuesday found that despite a global pandemic and economic shutdown, child poverty was actually reduced in 2020 by 40%.
Titled Pandemic Lessons: Ending Child and Family Poverty is Possible, the Campaign 2000 annual Report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Canada for 2022 found that progress was largely due to the federal government’s temporary pandemic transfers.
It also noted that because all pandemic benefits have been retracted, the progress made is unlikely to continue.
Campaign 2000, a non-partisan national coalition that monitors federal progress on child and family poverty, also found that Canada’s child poverty rate would have been almost 21% without COVID-related transfers.
“The lesson here is undeniable. Government transfers in the form of cash to families can reduce —– and eliminate — income poverty, and it can be done quickly,” Leila Sarangi, national director of Campaign 2000 and co-author of the report, said in a media release.
“We saw significant reductions in rates of child poverty in every province and territory and in nearly every socio-demographic group we have data for. Emergency and recovery benefits, and one-time top ups to existing programs such as the Canada Child Benefit were largely responsible for these gains. For a long time now we’ve been calling on the federal government to increase transfers to families who have been left languishing in poverty. This report shows just how much of a difference these investments can make.”
Despite that “historic” progress, Campaign 2000 noted that nearly one million Canadian children (one in eight) were left in poverty, “with disproportionately higher rates for people marginalized by colonization, racism and systemic discrimination.”
In a media advisory late Monday, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Nova Scotia (CCPA-NS) said Nova Scotia’s report card on child and family poverty will be released in the coming weeks. An exact date isn’t yet known.
The national report includes provincial child poverty rankings, but no other Nova Scotia-specific details.
“Elections Nova Scotia has awarded a contract for electronic voting services, but it won’t be an option on the next ballot for most people,” reports Zane Woodford:
The independent elections agency issued a request for proposals (RFP) in September 2022, as the Halifax Examiner reported.
On Tuesday, it announced Scytl Canada Inc. was the winner. The Spanish company has run municipal elections for Halifax. In 2012, it ran HRM’s e-voting on its own. In 2016, it teamed up with locally-owned Intelivote Systems.
Scytl won the contract for $349,500.
I have lost my battle against e-voting. Nobody much agreed with me anyway, sigh.
“A landlord who renovicted tenants from a run-down Bedford hotel has lost his case in small claims court,” reports Zane Woodford:
Bluenose Inn and Suites owner John Ghosn will now have to pay Brandy McGuire more than $13,000, as a residential tenancies officer first ordered him to do in August 2022.
As the Halifax Examiner reported in April 2022, McGuire was paying $1,400 for a room with a kitchenette for herself and four children. In March, tenants received a letter notifying them they had to leave by May 1 because the owners decided it was time to “retire” the building.
“Councillors are considering charging for street parking after 6pm and on Saturdays in a bid to raise an extra $800,000 in revenue,” reports Zane Woodford:
Metered parking in HRM currently only applies from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.
During a committee meeting on the Public Works budget on Tuesday, councillors voted to consider changing that. They’ll make a decision later in the budget process.
I’d feel better, or at least less irate, about paying for parking if it wasn’t so damn hard.
6. Long-term care
“Those are excellent standards. But like everything, they’re not going to be worth the paper they’re written on unless provincial governments put them in the legislation. We are strongly advocating for that to happen, but we’re not very optimistic because many of those recommendations are wonderful but we all know they’re expensive,” Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union (NSTU) president Janet Hazelton told the legislature’s health committee on Tuesday.
7. Thistle Street, Part 2: the snowy sidewalk
Now that we’ve gotten the street lighting restored, I will begin the second part of my three-part drive to improve Thistle Street.
Yesterday, the sidewalk plows came around just as the snowfall was ending around 6am. The plowing is never ideal (this will be Part 3), but in general, the hundreds of pedestrians who use Thistle Street could reasonably maneuver their way down to the Bridge Terminal.
But by 2pm, when I took the photo above, the wind across the Dartmouth High football field redeposited the snow on the sidewalk. This happens after every snowfall. Depending on the weather, the redepositing can become much worse than it was yesterday — sometimes, there’s even more snow on the sidewalk than on the ground beside it; often, two feet or so.
Last snowfall, I complained to Coun. Sam Austin about the snow-covered sidewalk, and he replied as councillors always do: call 311 and tell them about it.
But the solution to this problem is not for me to call 311 after every snowfall. Nor is the solution even for the company contracted to plow the sidewalk to return after every snowfall (although it should).
Rather, the solution is to put up a snow fence that keeps the windblown snow from redepositing on the sidewalk after every snowfall.
There’s a recurring problem that affects hundreds of people a day, but there’s a simple solution. Why is this so difficult?
Despite his friendship with Malcolm Gladwell, I find myself liking Michael Lewis, the author of The Big Short.
About a year ago, Lewis began researching the crypto currency industry and spent time following Sam Bankman-Fried around. This was before SBF’s FTX collapsed. Lewis is now writing a book about it all.
While the book won’t come out until late this year, Lewis is using his Against The Rules podcast to publish a series of interviews he had on background for the book. Yesterday, he published his interview with Andy Greenberg, senior cybersecurity writer for WIRED and author of Tracers in the Dark: The Global Hunt for the Crime Lords of Cryptocurrency.
Greenberg explains how bitcoin is not anonymous. Yes, we were all told cryptocurrency is anonymous, but the fact is that the entire premise of the blockchain is that each and every transaction is recorded forever, for all the world to see. It’s true, explains Greenberg, that the transactions are between perhaps anonymized accounts, but in order to cash out, bitcoin holders must use one of the many exchanges, which require identification.
Greenberg credits a then-grad student named Sarah Meiklejohn for developing the tools for identifying bitcoin holders, which she — now a professor in Cryptography and Security at University College London — explains in the video above.
“I’m riveted by her,” says Lewis. “There’s something bizarre and wonderful about lots of, basically, guys who think they’re very smart, who have a perverse longing for secrecy, who believe they have created or encouraged a technology that enables the secrecy, being totally exposed by a just truth-seeking, young, female academic.”
Greenberg responds by saying that Meiklejohn is ambivalent about her perhaps-too close relationship with law enforcement, but all the same, her work has resulted in the criminal prosecution of child porn dealers, drug cartels and such that operate on the dark web and trade via bitcoin.
Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am, City Hall) — contingency
Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall, and online) — agenda
Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 5pm, Power House Youth Centre) — agenda
The Russian Invasion of Ukraine – One Year On (Wednesday, 11:30am, McMechan Auditorium, Killam Library) — Jean Monnet European Union Centre of Excellence and the Centre for the Study of Security and Development open forum, featuring Raluca Bejan, Anders Hayden, and Lyubov Zhyznomirska, moderated by Brian Bow. Masks required, info here.
Secretoneurin is a new ovulatory hormone: evidence from studies in zebrafish (Wednesday, 2:30pm, Tupper Building, 3H1) — Vance Trudeau from the University of Ottawa will talk
Do the Right Thing(Wednesday, 6:30pm, Rooms 406 and 409, Dal Arts Centre) — screening of Spike Lee’s film, with an introductory talk by Fallen Matthews, Dalhousie University’s first Black interdisciplinary doctorate candidate in Cinema and Media Studies
You Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup: Imp of New Parents’ Mental Health (Wednesday, 7pm, online) — Dalhousie Mini Medical School
Prozac is a transgenerational neuroendocrine disruptor of stress, behaviour and reproduction in a fish model: is it time to raise the warning flag for human health? (Thursday, 11:30am, 5th Floor Biology Lounge, Life Sciences Centre) — Vance Trudeau from the University of Ottawa will talk
From SWELL to PAC: discovery of novel chloride channels (Thursday, 12pm, online) — Zhaozhu Qiu from Johns Hopkins Medicine will talk
Worried Earth (Thursday, 4:30pm, Room 1028, Rowe Management Building) — panel discussion: “Talking about eco-anxiety, entangled grief, and life in an age of climate catastrophe;” affiliated art exhibition features work by Connie Chappel, Luke Fair, Laura Findlay, Natalie Goulet, Maureen Gruben, Jenine Marsh, Kuh Del Rosario, and Xiaojing Yan. More info here
Panel Discussion and Conversations on Teaching While Black (Thursday, 5:30pm, online) — with Obiora C. Okafor, Uzo Anucha, Charles Gyan, Nimo Bokore, and moderator Dominic Silvio; info and registration here
Zen Conquests: Buddhist Transformations in Contemporary Vietnam (Thursday, 12pm, Room LI135, Patrick Power Library) — Alexander Soucy discusses his latest book; info and RSVP here
Autobiographical Reflections on Geography, Wholeness, and Meditative Inquiry (Thursday, 2:30pm, Science 221 and online) — Ashwani Kumar from Mount Saint Vincent University will talk
Sport and Settler Colonialism: An Autoethnographic Journey (Thursday, 4pm, Atrium 340) — Jason Laurendeau from the University of Lethbridge will talk
In the harbour
05:00: AlgoTitan, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Corner Brook
05:30: NYK Romulus, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove
08:00: Kamarina, tug, sails from Pier 9 for sea
15:00: Acadian, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
16:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 42 to Autoport
16:00: Seaspan Loncomilla, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
16:00: AlgoTitan moves to Pier 25
16:30: MOL Charisma, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
20:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Portsmouth, New Hampshire
21:00: Oceanex Sanderling moves to anchorage
Waiting to fight about Malcolm Gladwell.