News

1. Fool’s Gold, Part 3

We’ve published the third instalment of Joan Baxter’s “Fool’s Gold” series.

Part 3 looks at the provincial Department of Natural Resource’s efforts to open the Cobequid Hills up to gold production, and the effect prospecting and potential mining would have on the French River, which is the source of Tatamagouche’s water supply.

Click here to read “Fool’s Gold, Part 3: Cobequid Gold and Tatmagouche water.”

This article is a coproduction of the Halifax Examiner and Cape Breton Spectator, and is for subscribers of either publication. Click here to subscribe.

Your subscriptions are what makes these investigative reports possible. Thanks!

And Part 1 of the series is available for everyone to read. Click here to read Part 1.

2. Saltwire

In July 2017, soon after Chronicle Herald president Mark Lever announced the purchase of most of the Transcon newspapers in Atlantic Canada and the formation of the Saltwire company, he was interviewed by National Post reporter Quentin Casey, who wrote:

But the Transcontinental acquisition should not be seen simply as a short-term doubling down on print journalism, Lever said. “It’s doubling down on local storytelling — whatever platform.”

“I believe telling local stories in Gander and in St. John’s and in Corner Brook and Summerside and Sydney are going to be what supports this network,” he said. “Not amalgamating. Not putting the same copy in every paper.”

That means there likely won’t be cuts and layoffs at the newly acquired publications, Lever said, in part because those properties have already been “cut to ribbons.”

“There’s still a heartbeat but the patient is open on the table and in desperate need of a transfusion,” he said of the acquired papers.

“Some of my critics would suggest that I’m destroying local journalism … (But) some of these daily newspapers — provincial capital daily newspapers — have (already) fallen below what I would say is the standard for a minimal viable product.

“So we’ve added pages to those papers. We’re hiring reporters.” 

How’s that going, eh?

Mark Lever. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Yesterday, just 10 months after the purchase of the Transcon papers and the creation of Saltwire, Lever sent the following email to all Saltwire employees:

Dear colleagues:

There are some important changes happening to our Nova Scotia publications that I want to share with you. Specifically, these changes affect the Amherst News, Citizen Record, Truro Daily News, The News and the Queens County Advance.

As of July 1, 2018, the following changes will go into effect:

1. Amherst News and The Citizen Record will merge to become one publication. The Amherst News will also shift from a paid-for subscription publication to a free community newspaper which will be delivered to all residents of Cumberland County. Wednesday, June 27, 2018 will be the final publication date for The Citizen Record and Friday, June 29, 2018 will be the final publication date for the Amherst News in its current form. The new Amherst News will begin circulation on Wednesday, July 4, 2018.

2. The Truro Daily News and The News in New Glasgow will both shift from paid-for daily publications to paid-for weekly publications, with the Truro Daily News becoming the Truro News. Saturday, June 30, 2018 will be the final publication day for both publications as a daily product. The new publication day will be Thursdays, with the first edition printed on July 5, 2018.

3. The Queens County Advance will consolidate with the South Shore Breaker. Both publications serve the same market and this move eliminates redundancies and strengthens the Breaker, which has quickly become a beloved fixture in south shore communities.

There’s no doubt that the newspaper business has changed dramatically over the past two decades. But when a model or product is outdated, we don’t simply say there’s no other way. We evolve. Companies of all kinds constantly update their product offering to respond to the preferences of consumers and the marketplace. It doesn’t mean they’re dying, it means they’re alive and dynamic. Product evolution is not an uncommon practice and newspaper media must do the same.

Although the model is changing, we remain as committed as ever to ensuring that our communities have access to local content. We have developed a solution that delivers daily local content and a weekly package of news, analysis and entertainment delivered to the doors of the people we serve.

To accomplish that, and in addition to the weekly products in each of these markets, space for local news and events for the Amherst, Truro and New Glasgow areas will be created in the pages of The Chronicle Herald, giving residents of these communities access to daily news updates, while also receiving the content of The Chronicle Herald. This also means that the news out of these communities will be reach residents, decision-makers, influencers and politicians across the province.

With today’s announcement, there will be some staffing changes and we are saying goodbye to some team members at the related locations. I want to say a sincere thank you to these individuals for their contribution and service and wish them nothing but the best as they move forward.

As always, if you have any questions or need more information about any of these, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Sincerely, Mark

So consolidations and layoffs and moving to fewer publication days. And I guess everyone in the province will now get those damn red bags delivered to their driveways.

I particularly like this line:

It doesn’t mean they’re dying, it means they’re alive and dynamic.

Mmmk.

There’s no word yet how many people are being laid off, and the people to be laid off have yet to be named.

Privately, Saltwire employees are telling me morale is, in the words of one of them, “in the toilet,” and all I’ve spoken to fear that more layoffs are likely down the road.

Frank Cassidy, the former editor of the Truro News, commented last night:

The Truro Daily News, during my 23-year tenure, was the information lifeblood of Colchester County.

We dealt with issues. Editorials were local, poignant and controversial.

The newspaper created change.

The Daily News, under administrations of the past nine years, turned its back on the community and — in return — the community turned its back on it.

It’s that simple — from the author of It’s News To Me [his long-running column].

This evening I weep.

Cassidy is of the view that “the failure of newspapers in general — and community newspapers in particular — is not necessarily due to a shift to online publication. Rather, it is the rise of publishers that do not understand that editorial content sells newspapers.”

I think there’s some truth to that. I recall that in the 1980s and 1990s in California, a company called NewsMedia bought up a bunch of rural and small town weeklies and then consolidated the papers into one office, first laying off then-redundant sales and office staff, but moving quickly to reporting staff. The success of that consolidation demonstrated, the company went on to buy all the suburban LA papers and do the same.

Understand that this was before the internet impacted the industry. Pre-consolidation, many of these papers were responsible for good local reporting, and some of them rose to the level of excellence. And another thing: pre-consolidation, all of them were profitable — extremely profitable, like over 20 per cent in annual returns. That round of consolidations and layoffs had nothing to do with turning a failing product around, but rather with squeezing every bit of potential profit from them. Those local scattered newsrooms were “inefficient” in the eyes of the Wall Street investors who bought the newspapers and the management school grads who ran them, and that was the end of the equation; producing journalism wasn’t a consideration. It didn’t take long for the quality of reporting to suffer, and the papers are all now boring and uninspired.

So I take Cassidy’s point. But the internet has taken it to an entirely different level by pulling ad revenue out from under the old business model. Simply put, even a well-run dead tree newspaper isn’t going to make it. Lever’s solution is to turn them all into free weekly ad sheets, and who knows, there might be a business model for that, but it has nothing to do with journalism.

Squirrel on the Transformer Media.

Which brings me back to the unfortunately named Squirrel on the Transformer Media or Saltwire Media or whatever it is — something that reminds us of our power going out. Even if there is a business model for a red bag thrown onto every driveway in the province, I kinda doubt Lever is up to running it successfully. In that National Post article, reporter Quentin Casey writes that:

[Lever’s] business past and inexperience in publishing have been consistent points of criticism over the years.

An ex-tennis pro, Lever was previously president of Marjam Tennis Inc., a tennis club that filed for bankruptcy in 2010, owing creditors more than $2.1 million. “The lesson … is that you have to be conservative in a business in your cash management,” he said of the bankruptcy.

“You can’t fund expansion with money you hope to make.”

Lever also argues that his past business failures are assets that will help SaltWire, since he’s learned to recognize and understand major problems before they become unfixable.

“Having been in the poop before, you … want to try to do what you can to avoid that,” he said. “The trust that my wife has put in me here … you can’t let that trust down.”

Sitting in his office, with his back to the pickets below, Lever said: “I don’t want to say I’m motivated by fear, but (by) hope for success in the future. I don’t want this to end on my watch.”

I can understand why Lever doesn’t like to give interviews.

Anyway, red bags aside, in the long run (by which I mean in the next couple of years), if we’re going to have successful news outlets that provide in-depth reporting, they’re either going to be heavily subsidized (the CBC is subsidized by public money, of course, but all the broadcast news rooms are internally subsidized as part of a larger business plan) or they’re going to be subscriber-supported web-based sites.

Lever evidently has no interest in going to exclusively subscriber-supported sites for his papers because he’s got a bunch of printing presses to keep profitable. That leaves the future of journalism to a bunch of upstarts.

Er, please subscribe.

3. Christina Lamey now promoting cruise ships

Christina Lamey

Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator looks at the hiring of Christina Lamey by the Port of Sydney Development Corporation:

Yes, the mayor’s “political” hire, who was tapped without a competition for a job CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke created out of whole cloth for her in 2012, is making the move to the Port of Sydney where she will supervise the cruise division for the next year. Lamey’s new job — interim manager of cruise marketing and development — has opened up because Nicole MacAulay, who has been serving as “acting” manager since the departure of Bernadette MacNeil who was injured in a car accident, is going on maternity leave.

Campbell posts the job description as advertised with Lamey’s LinkedIn page, and asks:

Do you see anything in that that screams: CRUISE MARKETING AND DEVELOPMENT?

No, I don’t either. I see the latest chapter in a “You Scratch My Back, I’ll Scratch Yours” saga that started with [Marlene] Usher, in her former incarnation as an Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation (ECBC) executive, securing the money necessary for Business Cape Breton (BCB) to hire Cecil Clarke (without a job competition) as an economic development adviser. In return Clarke, after being elected mayor in 2012, tapped Usher to head the Port of Sydney Development Corporation (without a job competition) and hired Lamey as a spokesperson (without a job competition). Now Usher has also hired Lamey, who is getting out of the mayor’s office before the mayor does.

Click here to read “Mayor’s Spokesperson Jumps Ship, Joins Port.”

As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.
White space

4. People overboard

Speaking of Campbell, Tuesday, after I published the bit about people going overboard from cruise ships, many of which stop in Halifax, Campbell pointed me to MUN prof Ross Klein’s database titled “Cruise and Ferry Passengers and Crew Overboard, 1995 – 2018.” It’s depressing reading.

5. More on racism at Metro Transit & HRM

An update from yesterday’s post: Arthur Maddox was fired last week.

Also, the law firm Nijhawan McMillan (Nasha Nijhawan and Kelly McMillan) points out that:

In this human rights case about a municipal workplace poisoned by racist epithets, counsel for HRM tried (unsuccessfully) to defend the use of slurs among employees as protected speech under Whatcott 🤷🏽‍♀️🤦🏽‍♀️ https://t.co/kv1gTg1HlG

— Nijhawan McMillan Barristers (@nmbarristers) May 30, 2018

The part of the decision that details this is found on pages 75 and 76; it reads in part:

Counsel for HRM offers as a defence the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Saskatchewan (Human Rights Commission) v. Whatcott, 2013 SCC11. Counsel for HRM argues that in Whatcott the Supreme Court of Canada applied the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to limit the application of the Human Rights Legislation intrusions on freedom of expression. It was respectfully submitted by Counsel for HRM that the comments and dialogue of the co-workers and management personally appear to fall within the cope of constitutionally protected expression as set out in Whatcott.

Understand that we’re talking about people tossing around racial epithets and other disparaging comments to their co-workers and to people they supervise.

Lynn Connors, the chair of the Board of Inquiry, rejected the argument out of hand, pointing out that Whatcott involved citizens posting fliers opposing the teaching of sex education in public schools:

The case before me does not have anything to do with freedom of speech or the distribution of pamphlets. Whatcott deals with public discourse on issues of some public relevance, and not discourse in a work environment where an employee is subjected to inappropriate comments and has little, if any, recourse but to endure it or seek its cessation.

The decision in Whatcott is not applicable to the case before me because it deals with the public distribution of flyers, as opposed to statements made in a work environment where an employee subjected to it would have little, if any, recourse but to endure it and seek its cessation. Factually, I find that the Whatcott decision is not applicable and that circumstances before me do not touch on freedom of expression, as described in the Whatcott decision.

The Burnside Transit Garage. Photo: Flickr / Wilson Hum

On another note, yesterday Mayor Mike Savage told Yvette d’Entremont at StarMetro Halifax that:

“This is a staffing matter, and it’s not the way that the municipality should operate, it’s not the behaviour that we should condone. The person who did this is no longer with the municipality,” Savage said.

“It’s very concerning to me, even though this happened many, many years ago, over a decade ago. It’s not acceptable, and we’re doing everything in our power as a council to ensure that the diversity of our community is respected and we expect the same from staff.”

That’s not correct.

First of all, it was not “the person” — Maddox — who was solely responsible for the racism in the transit garage. As Connor’s ruling shows, there were many people, perhaps dozens, regularly using inappropriate and racist language in the garage. To cite just one example, Cathy Martin testified (page 40) that:

…the lobby, and that’s where we would go and have our meals. We’d all sit up there. And a lot of the guys would go up there, the employees from the Transit garage would go up front to have meals. So we’d sit down. And that’s when conversations would be communicated, loud, profanity, racist remarks, would call black people n—s, and make jokes or comments. And didn’t never think that they were insensitive to anybody else around them that they would make these types of comments or racist slurs. And disrespect people. And if you said anything it didn’t matter, they still went off like they didn’t have to holding anybody about it.

And then there was times that, being on the front counter all the time, you were privy to conversations constantly with several guys standing together conversing or a group. They could be making fun of Dave Buckle because he’s a no-good Indian or you could have a conversation pertaining to a no-good n— or a wagon burner.

So this is not just the bad apple of Maddox, but an entire atmosphere, in Connors’ words, a “toxic workplace.” I have no idea if those other employees are still working at the garage.

Moreover, it wasn’t just that there were racist people working in the garage, although that’s horrible enough. It’s additionally that management failed to do anything about it or to properly address it. And by “management” I mean everyone from the direct supervisors at the garage to then-city solicitor Mary Ellen Donovan, to then-deputy CAO Mike Dunphy, to then-deputy police chief Chris McNeil, and to then-Mayor Peter Kelly — all of whom are named or referenced in Connors’ decision.

6. FOIPOP

“Nova Scotia is remaining tight-lipped about the future of its relationship with the company tasked with maintaining the government’s online services, including a provincial website that has remained offline for the past 55 days,” reports Alexander Quon for Global:

The contract between Unisys and the Nova Scotia government is set to expire on June 30, and the department in charge of the government’s internal services says a decision has yet to be made.

“A decision will be made before that time,” Brian Taylor, a spokesperson for the department of internal services, wrote in an email.

The contracts in question involve a program created and sold by Ontario’s CSDC Sytems known as AMANDA, which is used to “manage the processing of business licensing, permits, registration, certificates, rebates and collections.”

… the province pays Unisys roughly $4 million a year to handle security issues and technical services for the province — though it’s likely to be more since the adoption of the FOIPOP portal, which operates on an updated version of the program, known as AMANDA 7.

A pair of contracts, obtained through a freedom of information request, and dated March 29, 2016, and Dec. 19, 2016, respectively, detail the costs associated with the FOIPOP portal.

The contract, which is signed by Unisys and the department of internal services, which operates the FOIPOP portal, indicates that the introduction of the FOIPOP portal cost an additional $13,500 a month, or $162,000 a year.

They should probably ask for a refund of that $162,000.

Last year, the Department of Internal Services paid Unisys $3,95 million, but there are other provincial contracts with Unisys. The Department of Public Service, for example, paid Unisys $3.56 million. All told, in the 2017/18 fiscal year, provincial departments and agencies paid Unisys $7,712,892.40.

7. Chelsea Peretti

Matt Whitman is gunning for it pic.twitter.com/QjXITufZwP

— slurm (@sluurrm) May 30, 2018

Chelsea Peretti is a star of the TV show Brooklyn Nine-Nine. She seems nice. But really, Chelsea, stay away from that creep.

Nova Scotia Twitter blew up yesterday.


Government

City

Thursday

Port Wallace PPC Meeting (Thursday, 6:30pm, HEMDCC Large Meeting Room 1, Alderney Gate) — no agenda posted.

Friday

No public meetings.

Province

No public meetings Thursday or Friday.


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

Spring Convocation, Morning Ceremony (Thursday, 9am, Rebecca Cohn Auditorium) — ceremony for graduates in the Faculties of Health and Graduate Studies.

Spring Convocation, Early Afternoon Ceremony (Thursday, 12:30pm, Rebecca Cohn Auditorium) — ceremony for graduates in the Faculties of Health and Graduate Studies.

Friday

Spring Convocation, Morning Ceremony (Friday, 9am, Rebecca Cohn Auditorium) — ceremony for graduates in the Faculties of Science and Graduate Studies. Honorary Degree Recipient: Robert Frank.

Spring Convocation, Early Afternoon Ceremony (Friday, 12:30pm, Rebecca Cohn Auditorium) — ceremony for graduates in the Faculties of Science and Graduate Studies.

Spring Convocation, Late Afternoon Ceremony (Friday, 4pm, Rebecca Cohn Auditorium) — ceremony for graduates in the Faculties of Science and Graduate Studies.

Saint Mary’s

Friday

Why Atlantic Canada is Key to a Successful Immigration Policy (Friday, 7pm, in the theatre named after a bank in the building named after a grocery store) — John Ralston Saul talks about immigration.

King’s College

Reductions and Selections in the Recent Philosophy of Biology (3:30pm: Archibald Room, New Academic Building) — Ford Doolittle and Evelyn Fox Keller speak.


In the harbour

7am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 41 from Saint-Pierre
7am: Pantonio, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Argentia, Newfoundland
7am: Maasdam, cruise ship with up to 1,510 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney
7:15am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
10:15am: Pantonio, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
11am: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
11am: Tugela, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Charleston, South Carolina
3:30pm: Maasdam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Bar Harbor
7pm: Hebridean Sky, cruise ship, sails from Pier 23 for Louisbourg
9:30pm: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York


Footnotes

Nice day, they say.

Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. NEWS WORTHY

    Charles Luck Gossage, the ad-man who ran text-heavy ads and got people to read them AND the man who “discovered” and promoted Marshall McCluhan said: “People will read anything–so long as it is interesting.” Case in point: people still read the 800 pages of War and Peace–and the Anderson Valley Advertiser newspaper. (Come to think of it, Marshall McLuhan proves it too.)

    Print papers die mostly because they are not interesting.

    Also: consider

    1. I used to know Bruce Anderson, the owner of the Anderson Valley Advertiser. He even published me a couple of times. He was one of five guys who inspired me to get into journalism.

      Bruce was a Trotskyite. The other four ranged across the spectrum politically. Tim Crews was a Libertarian. Bruce Bruggman was a center-left business person. George Thurlow is pretty much an establishment guy, but also the first American journalist shot in El Salvador (“if you ever get shot,” he once told me, “don’t get up — they’ll shoot you again!”). There was another guy, I forget his name, some variety of crazed right-winger, who delivered his newspaper from an airplane.

  2. Your comments re Chris McNeil do not reflect the references to them on pages 57-60 and 28-29 of the decision.
    And why are the findings on page 67,69,70,71 and 75 re McNeil not included in your commentary; all references to him are positive.

  3. The Inca saw what happened when their gold was discovered by the conquistadores, and at least one incident occurred where a lode of gold veins was discovered by an explorer, so the tribe in the area killed him.

  4. I’m sorry to see New Glasgow and Truro lose their daily newspapers, but it is bullshit to blame this development on “the rise of publishers that do not understand that editorial content sells newspapers.”

    You know perfectly well that the decline of print newspapers has nothing to do with ignorant publishers and everything to do with the total evaporation of newspaper advertising caused by the internet. Classified and display ads accounted for more than 80% of newspaper revenue in the 20th Century. It’s gone. So are daily newspapers in towns with 10,000 (New Glasgow) and 12,000 (Truro) people. Maybe a really good weekly will serve those towns better than the feeble dailies they’ve had.

    I hope Lever and Dennis will succeed in using the economies of scale arising from their purchase of Transcontinental’s Atlantic newspapers to keep local reporting alive. There are sure to be jolts along the way, but the Cape Breton Post is significantly improved since Lever rescued it from Transcon’s wretched grip. So is the Casket, which had operated as an arm of the Archdiocese.

    Lever and Dennis and their financial backers deserve credit for trying. You deserve no credit for throwing mendacious spitballs from the sidelines.

  5. NOTE: Displacing Blackness: Planning, Power, and Race in Twentieth-Century Halifax

    By Ted Rutland

    I had the “pleasure” of writing about Rutland’s work for the Spring issue of Atlantic Books Today.

  6. Representing Cecil Clarke in the media would be my definition of a thankless task, but Christina Lamey (disclosure: a personal friend) has always carried out her duties ably and conscientiously. She doesn’t suffer fools gladly, but she is competent, courteous, and well-informed. Even a fool can see the connection between communications and marketing. The fields have always been closely linked. The meanness in your and Mary Campbell’s snide attacks says far more about your character and competence than Lamey’s.

  7. It is hard to see how HRM will fix its racism problem when its lawyers see racial slurs as constitutionally- protected free speech.