NEWS

1. Nick Beaton sues the RCMP

A white man in a black ballcap and sunglasses talks to a crowd of reporters
Nick Beaton speaks at a gathering. Credit: Yvette d’Entremont

“Nick Beaton, the widower of Kristen Beaton, one of those killed during the mass murders of April 2022, is suing the RCMP for breach of privacy,” Tim Bousquet reports.

It wasn’t until Mar. 8, 2021 that one of the ITOs — numbers 20-0743 — was released to the families of the victims and to the media consortium. According to a letter faxed to the court that day by Beaton’s lawyer, Mark Pineo, the civic address of Kristen and Nick Beaton was included in the copy of the ITO given to the families.

“Mr. Beaton, Kristen’s widower and their 3 year old son continue to reside at that residence,” wrote [Beaton’s lawyer, Mark] Pineo. “Mr. Beaton has tried very diligently to keep his address where his son resides out of the media. Accordingly, I ask the court to exercise its discretion and put an immediate stop to the provision in the ITO being republished… I would like to impress on the Court that this has and will cause great upset to this already victimized family.”

Click here to read “Nick Beaton sues the RCMP for breach of privacy.”

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2. Emerging Lens plans to return

Two Black women stand at a podium with a decorated with a colourful African fabric. The woman on the left is wearing a black dress and glasses while the woman on the right is wearing a white top with black polka dots, and black pants. A banner in the background has the name of historic Black communities in Nova Scotia, including Monastery, Lincolnville, Cherry Brook, and East Preston.
Shelley Fashan, left, and Tara Taylor are the founders of the Emerging Lens Film Festival. Credit: Marsman Photographic

The Emerging Lens Film Festival is hoping to return, for the first time since 2019, Matthew Byard reports. The festival provides a platform for Black Nova Scotian filmmakers, and has been around since 2011.

The festival has also expanded its focus since it started:

In addition to filmmakers, [co-founder Shelley] Fashan said the Emerging Lens Film Festival also serves as a platform for local Black artists such as musicians, dancers, visual artists, and spoken word artists who kick off each night with a performance.

Fashan said this year’s festival will also continue with an educational component in the form of workshops.

Click here to read this article, which is for subscribers only. You can subscribe here.

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3. ‘Greenwashing’

This photo shows a typical clearcut on private land in Colchester County, with deep ruts from the harvester and almost nothing left to protect the exposed soil. Photo: Joan Baxter
A clearcut on private land in Colchster County. Photo: Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter’s story on concerns that the Sustainable Forestry Initiative amounts to “greenwashing” is now out from behind the paywall, and free to read.

Baxter writes:

Ecojustice executive director Devon Page describes the SFI standard as “greenwashed certification that misleads consumers and fails to protect forests and the environment.”

“Forest certification could be a useful tool to help consumers seek out and buy products from well-managed forests,” Page says. “However, industry-led certifications such as the SFI standard have been corrupted into a self-interested tool to greenwash irresponsible forestry practices.”

Click here to read “Enviro groups call Sustainable Forestry Initiative ‘greenwashing.’”

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4. Canada heads to world junior finals

The main entrance of the Metro Centre $48 NSF Fee Centre on a bright afternoon in June 2021. Photo taken from the grass of the Citadel, below the clock tower. There are coloured banners hanging in front of the building with illustrations of male hockey players, and in the background the behemoth of the Scotia Towers building. Two lone souls walk on the sidewalk, heading for somewhere more conducive to a nice stroll.
The former Metro Centre/$48 NSF Fee Centre, seen here in June 2021, will host the Halifax portion of the 2023 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship. Credit: Zane Woodford

Team Canada will play for gold at the world junior hockey championships. I would love to know what the actual economic spinoffs of this event have been, and if they justified the public money put into it.

Just casually looking at hotel reservation sites for Halifax recently, I found no shortage of available rooms downtown. The Chronicle Herald says restaurants and bars are doing well, as people go out to watch the games, but you’ve got to wonder if this is a net gain for the economy or not. If I decide to go to a bar to watch the game with friends, and then don’t go out to do something else next week, well, that’s good for the bar owner but it’s not exactly a boost for the local economy as a whole.

Over the course of the tournament, many national anthems have been sung. For more on that, scroll down to the “Views” section.

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VIEWS

1. Local news, independent outlets, and ethics

black and white polaroid of man on a sofa with his face blocked while reading a newspaper
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been stockpiling articles on various aspects of local and independent news, and thinking about where we are and what happens next in terms of the media landscape. I mean, since my living depends in considerable part on this, I generally think about it a lot, but several stories have caught my attention over the last few weeks. And, while your livelihood may not depend on local news, here you are reading an independent local news website, so I’m going to figure you care about these issues, too.

Before going further, let me give you the Philip Moscovitch capsule version of what’s happened in the last few decades in print media:

1) Newspapers were always businesses, but many saw news as a trust or responsibility too. Then, consolidation began, with papers becoming profit centres for larger concerns. Things were bad when those larger concerns were multimedia chains, but things are worse now that they are hedge funds.

2) Print media did an incredibly poor job of facing digital competition. They lost their ad revenue first to Craigslist and Kijiji, and then to Google. They also put most of their content online free, and when they realized this was not a viable model, it was too late to get people to pay in large numbers.

3) Facing cost pressures, papers cut, cut, cut, and consolidated, until most of what was distinctive and worth paying for was gone.

4) The papers also became overly dependent on Facebook, which “pivoted to video” causing newsrooms to lay off even more writers. Facebook was out-and-out lying about its video numbers, but the damage was done. Too bad, so sad. Then Facebook started burying news stories in the feed.

5) Some of the legacy media (hello, New York Times) have figured out how to survive and thrive. Others are desperately trying to figure out how to hang on. There has been much talk about scrappy local news outlets and indie publishing stepping in to fill some of the gaps in the market. (Hello, Halifax Examiner, etc.)

6) Journalists became overly reliant on Twitter and then Elon Musk bought it and began kicking off writers he didn’t like, once again proving that relying on any one platform is trouble.

The Poynter institute recently ran an optimistically titled story by Mariya Manzhos, called “‘Local journalism is stampeding back, town by town.” The story focuses on hyper-local startup papers, like the Concord Bridge (Concord is a suburb of Boston), which are set up as non-profits.

Concord has a local paper that’s part of the Gannett chain. See if any of this sounds familiar:

 The Concord Journal, owned by Gannett, no longer had a reporter dedicated to Concord, with regional content and ads increasingly crowding out local stories. Multiple rounds of Gannett layoffs accompanied changes at the Journal. In August, Gannett laid off 400 employees companywide and eliminated open positions. The company then cut more at the beginning of this month. 

Essentially, nobody was covering local news: city hall, the school board — decisions that affect the lives of residents.

There’s a telling paragraph about who is running this paper, and one that speaks to the sustainability of this type of effort in other communities:

The board assembled an all-star team: Jennifer Lord Paluzzi, a veteran local news editor, is editor-in-chief; Betsy Levinson, formerly of The Concord Journal, is editor; and Jessalyn Frank, is production manager. The three are currently the only paid, full-time employees, making in the ballpark of $40,000 to $50,000, according to board members. The seven-person board includes a FinTech industry entrepreneur with two decades of experience, a physicist, and three former Concord Select Board members. 

I saw someone online point out that average rent in Concord is $34,000/year. The story recognizes that other communities will need different models:

But how can less affluent communities achieve sustainability in their nonprofit newsrooms? Launching similar nonprofit newsrooms in historically marginalized communities with low wealth is possible, but it may require a different strategy, said [Jonathan[ Kealing [of the Institute for Nonprofit News], like focusing on institutional funders and underscoring the value of serving a particular community as opposed to soliciting money from that community. 

The Boston Globe reports on the town of Marblehead (population: 20,000) which was no longer being served by the supposedly local chain paper, and is now home to three competing news organizations, all of which run print and online editions. One of these news organizations was founded by people who had no journalism background, but knew there was a need for local news:

The Beacon grew out of conversations the three family friends had about “the fact that we were seeing things going on in our town that didn’t seem right, and we had a lot of questions about, and nobody was reporting on it,” said [Jenn] Schaeffner.

Have you followed the news about Republican congressman George Santos, who basically lied about everything on his CV? The story was broken nationally by the New York Times, but the Long Island North Shore Leader had been carrying stories about Santos’s lies for months:

Here is part of the paper’s endorsement for Santos’s opponent, Robert Zimmerman (no, Bob Dylan did not run for congress):

This newspaper would like to endorse a Republican for US Congress in NY3 (Oyster Bay, N Hempstead, NE Queens). But the GOP nominee – George Santos – is so bizarre, unprincipled and sketchy that we cannot. We endorse Democrat Robert Zimmerman…

Santos has been all over the map on abortion – and on Ukraine. He brags about his “wealth” and his “mansions” in the Hamptons – but he really lives in a row house in Queens. He boasts like an insecure child – but he’s most likely just a fabulist – a fake.

One fact, however: In 2020 Santos, then age 32, was the NY Director of a nearly $20 million venture fund called “Harbor City Capital” – until the SEC shut it down as a “Ponzi Scheme.” Over $6 million from investors was stolen – for personal luxuries like Mercedes cars, huge credit card bills, and a waterfront home – and millions from new investors were paid out to old investors. Classic Bernie Madoff “Ponzi scheme” fraud.

Santos’ campaign raises similar concerns. On paper Santos has raised over $2 million. But the money seems to have vanished – or never been there. Huge sums are listed with the FEC for personal expenses – like Brooks Brothers, Florida beach resorts, lavish restaurants and limo services – but many hundreds of thousands more disappear into a black hole of dubious “consulting fees.”

Covering news necessarily involves ethics. And with so any writers now pitching their work directly to readers through their own independent newsletters, Tim Carmody makes the case for the need for a new ethics for newsletter writers.

The newsletter model has been around forever, if we take print into account. (I used to subscribe to one put out by a fellow called Brainbeau, but I’ll save that story for another time.) Newsletter platforms come in and out of favour every few years: TinyLetter, Medium, now Substack. Substack makes it easy for newsletter writers to collect payments from readers, thereby funding their work directly. The readers get a subscription to the newsletter. There are various approaches to this. Some writers make all content free and ask for financial support, others let you read a portion of the newsletter, or a limited number of issues, before subscribing. Subscriptions are usually in the range of $5/month.

There is a certain appeal to this, and I like the idea of directly supporting writers whose work I admire, especially if they are folks whose pieces are less likely to be picked up by well-paying media outlets. But because newsletters are generally solo affairs, there is also plenty of room for abuse, Carmody says.

He gives an example from his own past, as someone who covered Amazon critically:

Last year, I was approached by a firm representing an unnamed client who was offering a large sum of money to support my newsletter, under the understanding that I continue to write stories critical of Amazon. Nothing proposed was anything other than factual, and not significantly different from the writing I was doing, but they had specific requests for areas I could focus on. They’d found an ideologically aligned writer with a reputation as an independent voice, and wanted to underwrite that work. But I could not disclose the sponsorship or even be told the identity of who the ultimate client was. I did not take this assignment, but I had to wonder who else was being made an offer like this, and who would ultimately accept.

This is not a scenario that a reporter in a traditional newsroom is permitted to consider, at least without violating many standards of professional ethics. But for a single newsletter writer, this can be an offer too good to refuse.

Traditional media aren’t immune to these concerns, of course. Look at the oafish new owners of the Toronto Star recently arguing that their reporters should pay more attention to the needs of advertisers, for instance. But the nature of the direct relationship between newsletter writer and readers demands a deeper discussion about what’s acceptable and what isn’t, Carmody argues:

I think a discussion about ethical guidelines for independent newsletters is far overdue. We have to talk about standards of who we work for, who we work with, and how we get our work done. It is not nearly so simple as saying that a direct financial relationship with your readers solves all your problems. It just poses new ones. In 2023 and beyond, we have to do better at recognizing and grappling with these problems before we’re overrun by them.

I don’t think the big, national media are going to die off anytime soon. The folks who run the Globe and Mail, for instance, have a crack tech team that’s developed its own dynamic paywall technology. (The number of articles I get to read free may not be the same as the number you get to read, for instance.)

I hope that local readers will care enough about local news to support organizations like the Examiner, which actually go out and cover council and committees, covers what’s up in the courts, and poke holes in government and corporate rhetoric to tell you what’s really going on.

And the newsletter model is potentially viable for communities of interest. If you want to read essays on sandwiches that brilliantly connect them to contemporary and historical currents events, for instance, there is a newsletter writer you can support.

Paywall vs no paywall is a longstanding debate, in news of course. The Australian satirical website The Chaser recently announced it was putting all its material behind a paywall for the first time. The reasons are partly, related to the inability to make money off advertising:

First there was Google and the never-ending stream of ad sellers who offer to take a mere 40% of our website profits in order to provide you with an endless stream of **Desperate Singles**, Definitely Not Gambling Opportunities, and SHOCKING PHOTOS OF CELEBRITIES where You Won’t Believe What They Look Like Now!

But while these ads rapidly chipped away at the reputation of countless trusted news sites around the world, at least they were making good money, right? Well, not really. For a million people reading a story, we’d scrape in maybe one or two thousand dollars, and if we’re being honest, we were not reaching a million readers most months. 

But there’s another reason too: a refusal to provide content to further train AI tools:

The rise of AI in the creative space is just something we’re going to have to get used to.

But one thing we don’t have to do is feed these learning machines our content for free. And that’s why, fairly soon, The Chaser will be closing off our archives and social media feeds after years of providing free content to you all. We’re sorry it’s come to this – but it sure was fun while it lasted.

Here’s hoping we can all find ways to make this local news thing last.

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2. Stand up straight and take your hat off

Artwork for a podcast. Text says National Anthems (The worst songs in the world) by David Pate. Below are several musical staffs with notes and flags, and words written like lyrics. They say: "A whirlwind journey across the globe to look at the bad, the worse, and the ugly of national anthems."
Cover art for David Pate’s podcast National Anthems (The Worst Songs in the World) Credit: David Pate

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I was trying to get away from listening to too many gloomy political and current affairs podcasts. (I began my day yesterday with a heavy dose of misogynistic garbage, courtesy of the CBC Front Burner episode on Andrew Tate, so I still have a ways to go.)

The enterprising David Pate read my comment, and sent along the link to his podcast, National Anthems (The Worst Songs in the World). Pate is a retired CBC Radio producer, so he knows what he’s doing. He’s got a somewhat wry delivery, and the podcast sounds great — if you don’t take into account the actual quality of musical compositions themselves.

I always appreciate media that take something ubiquitous and go, “Wait a minute, have you ever actually thought about this?” National anthems are pretty much the definition of rote repetition:

“O Canada!”

(Brain tunes out)

“We stand on guard for thee!”

(Oh, are we at the end already?)

This is why the scene in one of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books is so funny. Ramona dutifully sings the American national anthem at school every day, belting out, “the dawnzer lee light.” and figuring a dawnzer was some kind of lamp that emitted “lee light.” We can hear and sing the same words over and over and over without ever really thinking about them. And when we actually do, oh boy.

I mean, the English version of O Canada is relatively insipid, with true patriot love, a bunch of standing on guard, and an appeal to God. The line “our home and native land” hasn’t aged particularly well. But the French is a full-throttle Christian ethno-nationalist barn-burner. A 2016 National Post piece describes it like this:

While Anglophones hint at a northern land that they’ll guard somehow, the French version directly addresses Canada as a devout figure ready to smite its enemies.

Described as a someone whose “valour is steeped in faith,” the Canada figure carries both a cross and a sword and is cloaked in heroic wreaths of flowers…

And the triumphalism shifts into overdrive for the rarely sung second stanza. Canada’s men are described as the products of a “proud race” who, “under the eyes of God” will protect the “honour of their flag.”

In the podcast, Pate introduces us to the most violent anthems, the many, many national songs that posit a special connection with God, and, entertainingly, takes a detour into non-national anthems, like, uh, the corporate songs of KPMG and G4S security, which must be heard to be believed. (A hero has uploaded a banjolele/kazoo version of the G4S song to YouTube.)

He also devotes an episode to anthems for countries that no longer exist, one of which (Biafra) is probably the only good musical composition of the lot.

Who do we blame for the proliferation of national anthems? Well, as with so much else, it’s largely the fault of the British and colonialism says Pate (who is Scottish). Once Britain had God Save the King, other rulers wanted in on the action, too. Why couldn’t they have their own song? Often, in fact, a song with exactly the same tune.

Headshot of a middle-aged man with straight, graying hair and glasses, lookin straight at the camera. He wears a dark unbuttoned jacket with a maroon t-shirt below.
David Pate Credit: pate.ca

Pate’s been researching anthems for awhile, and is shopping a book manuscript about them. On his website, he discusses his database of anthems, and looks at the violence of many of the songs. Eighty-three countries have some form of violence in their anthems, he writes:

How violent? Let’s start with probably the most violent anthem: La Marseillaise. It’s truly a great revolutionary song, but have you listened to the lyrics? They tell of ferocious soldiers coming to your homes to cut the throats of your sons and comrades. The anthem calls on the people to arise and march and water the fields with the impure blood of their enemies. And if they fall in the fight, new heroes will be born and raised to renew the struggle. So, great song, wonderful tune – but is it really the best message to send to the world?

There’s a certain sameness to revolutionary anthems: they pretty much all call for marching, death and glory, which is probably more than the average sports fan is really ready to commit to when singing the song at an international soccer game…

I’ll leave you with one final anthem because it’s my personal favourite in this category: Algeria’s. This time we get streams of blood. The revolutionaries take the noise of gunpowder as their rhythm and the sound of machine guns as their melody. It’s truly in a class of its own: no other anthem celebrates machine guns (although to be fair there are plenty with bombs and cannons and they’d probably have tossed machine guns into those as well if they’d been invented at the time of writing).

Halifax has been home to much anthem-singing over the last few weeks, what with the World Juniors on. Pate says for many people, sports are the only context in which they regularly hear the national anthem. (Yes, he traces the origins of the anthem at games.) That, and, depending on where you live, at school, where — in Nova Scotia anyway — the anthem gets played every single day.

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NOTICED

Ad with five pieces of firewood in front of a box with a logo showing two axes. Text says "Wilson Enterprises Split Firewood Maple"
Wayfair ad for firewood.

On Sunday morning, after I finished solving the New York Times Sunday crossword on my phone, I lay in bed idly swiping through Instagram, when I came across one of those ridiculous Wayfair ads. If you are not familiar with the genre, essentially they are ads for the weirdest consumer items imaginable. Two-foot tall metal shelving units shaped like a fire escape. Bathtubs covers with a slot for your iPad. Head-scratching items that don’t seem to serve any particular purpose other than to get you to click the ad so you can figure out just what the hell they are.

And firewood.

Firewood!

Dear reader, I have cropped the image above, to allow you to guess who much said firewood costs. Please note that the company does not guarantee you will get this many logs. In fact, they refuse to answer this question directly on their website, saying just that the number of logs may vary, but that they are packed into an 12″ x 12″ x 18″ box. In centimetres, that’s 30 x 30 x 45.

Buying wood like this is so convenient! As the sellers write:

Order full boxes of our seasoned firewood logs and enjoy time spent by the fireplace or back yard campfire, without any of the hassles of finding wood!

All right, it’s time to let you know how much these 3-5 pieces of firewood will set you back: $127.99. Free shipping though!

Two people who I shared this with pointed out that works out to about $11,000 a cord.

Metal log holder on a porch, covered with a tarp.
Firewood log holder, as seen on Wayfair. This must be a bout a thousand bucks worth of wood.

My brother pointed out that there was no way anyone was paying this much for wood and then burning it, and the comments from buyers seem to reflect that.

“Melinda” says:

Did not burn it, used for decoration only, but very pretty.

“Jeannie” is apparently a decorator with clients who have more money than brains:

“Worked perfect for my client. He wanted logs to display next to his gas fireplace.”

Now, I must confess that I doubt the actual human existence of the person who wrote this review:

These cherry and maple firewood logs are great -not only do they burn for a long while, but they also make for a beautiful fire and a very pleasant aroma. I love these and am ordering more of them. Best firewood ever!

One malcontent points out she needed decorative logs, and these came without bark, and that she would have been better off buying a cord of firewood and then looking for four logs with bark on them. Live and learn, I guess.

My family have joked about buying the $8 bags of wet firewood at national parks, and wondering what that works out to per cord, but these Wayfair sellers take it to another level.

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Government

No meetings


On campus

No events


In the harbour

Halifax
05:00: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
06:00: AS Felicia, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York (itinerary)
08:00: MSC Sariska, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
15:00: NYK Meteor, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Antwerp, Belgium (itinerary)
16:00: Atlantic Sail sails for New York
22:00: Puka, cargo ship, sails from Pier 27 for Bilboa, Spain

Cape Breton
12:30: Shelia Ann, bulker, sails arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Sydney


Footnotes

Every writer I know hates having to write their bio. We’re fine writing other stuff — just not that. It’s awkward, it’s in the third person, we don’t know what to say, it seems boring, etc. So, I appreciate a bio that stands out, like this one I saw yesterday, on a piece in the Mental Hellth newsletter:

Rachael Vaughan Clemmons is a writer currently based in Philadelphia. She hates it there and pretty much everywhere else, too. 

Nice work.

The piece this bio is attached to is called “Rejecting the Strong Black Woman Archetype Saved My Life” and is well worth a read — for more than just the bio.

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Philip Moscovitch

Philip Moscovitch is a writer and audio producer, and the author of the book Adventures in Bubbles and Brine; Website:...

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6 Comments

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  1. The Guardian (UK, formerly the Manchester Guardian) is a great example of a quality newspaper thatis thriving in the digital world.
    It provides all online content for FREE, but you can (as I have done) subscribe, giving you the warm fuzzy feeling that you are supporting a worthy cause.
    It is fiercely independent of the big bad conglomerate world and is thriving on those voluntary contributions from subscribers who value quality reporting and
    investigations (e.g.Panama papers etc)

    I recently terminated my Herald subscription ($42/month for a senior) after 45 years(!), but continue the Examiner at $12/month and the Guardian at ~$21 per month. A great combination of high quality journalism, local and international.

  2. I’d love someone to tell me any purpose behind this ongoing WWII startup of playing national anthems at sporting events. Int’l competitions are slightly more understandable. But sporting events are mere entertainment – and we’ve long avoided playing anthems before movies, theatrical productions, musical concerts, etc. Why the insistence on pre-game anthems in North American club sports? When Man U hosts Liverpool / Real hosts Atletico / Boca Junior hosts River Plate … there’s no anthem played. And multiple American baseball clubs double down by playing “God Bless America” amid the 7th inning stretch. What makes headlines now in North America is when someone sits / kneels amid the anthem. Without offering personal opinion, please & thanks, can anyone point to an academic or quasi-academic article as to why North American club sport is held captive by national anthems?

    1. David Pate here… I get into this in my still-to-be-published book on anthems but for an immediately available take on the topic, check out Mark Clague’s 2022 book “O Say Can You Hear.” He’ll be a guest on an upcoming episode of my podcast, National Anthems: The Worst Songs in the World

  3. Fire wood is expensive. Thank goodness we have a wooded lot with enough storm damage to keep the home fires burning for years.

  4. Re: local news. I am a retired radio guy who hates it here in Colorado. One of the few things I do like is a guy by the name of Corey Hutchins who is a journalism prof at Colorado College. I used to work for CC’s radio station, KRCC. Hutchens puts out a free weekly emailed newsletter which I always read cause I’m interested in the media. He’s been on the front lines of pushing to get more and better local news for us in Colorado. So, I thought you might be interested in what he’s doing and what he has to say. Here’s a few links link to some of his stuff: https://colabnews.co/author/corey-hutchins/ https://open.substack.com/pub/coloradomedia/p/hedge-fund-tv-news-ownership-coming?utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=email