journalism

Black Press Keeps Buying and then Closing Small B.C. Papers. Why?

By Megan Devlin for J-Source, the Canadian Journalism Project.

Eric Plummer, editor of the Alberni Valley Times, remembers the day last September when two representatives from Black Press told him his paper was closing.
 
“They came in, I think it was like 4:00 or 4:30,” he said. “I don’t think that we’d even finished the paper yet, actually.”
 
The daily paper, which served the 25,000 people of Alberni Valley on Vancouver Island from 1967 to 2015, was one of 11 British Columbia community newspapers that Black Press bought from Glacier Media in 2014.
 
“I won’t contend that the paper wasn’t losing money,” Plummer said. “I think at that point I was just so hellbent on keeping the paper going that I refused to believe that we were going to be dying just yet.”
 
On Oct. 9, 2015, Plummer published the paper’s last edition.

That Time We Agreed with Ezra Levant

Ezra Levant


Ezra Levant is at it again. Only this time we aren’t rolling our eyes and quickly closing the Internet browser. No, this time we actually agree with him. Hear us out.
 
Last week Levant’s right-wing online news and opinion outlet The Rebel complained to the Alberta premier’s office about three incidents where Rebel staff were allegedly barred from government events. In its response last Friday, the government defended its policy.

“Our client’s position remains that your client (The Rebel) and those who identify as being connected to (The Rebel) are not journalists and are not entitled to access media lock-ups or other such events,” read a response from an Alberta Ministry of Justice lawyer, posted by The Rebel.

After a few days of outrage, the Alberta government lifted its ban on reporters from The Rebel.

“We’ve heard a lot of feedback from Albertans and media over the course of the last two days and it’s clear we made a mistake,” the premier’s office said in a statement.

While his “reckless disregard for the truth” and bigotry don’t make Levant the best crusader for press freedom, he’s right to argue that the Alberta government should not be in the game of determining who is and who is not a journalist. That opens the door to the government or press gallery of the day to disallow journalists it disagrees with.

The whole affair strikes a chord with us because DeSmog Canada has been on the receiving end of the same kind of treatment here in B.C. — stuck in the middle of a shifting debate about what constitutes a “media outlet” or a “journalist.”

The Tyranny of the Talking Point

Dear government spin doctor,

I am working on a story about how the job you’re doing is helping to kill Canada’s democracy.

I know that your role, as a so-called communications professional, is to put the best spin on what the government is or isn’t doing.

That means you often don’t respond the questions I ask, you help elected officials do the same thing and you won’t let me talk to those who actually have the answers.

While this may work out very well for you, it doesn’t work out so well for my audience who, by the way, are taxpayers, voters and citizens.

So your refusal to provide me with information is actually a refusal to provide the public with information.

And if the public doesn’t know what their government is actually doing, it can continue doing things the public wouldn’t want it to do.

That just doesn’t seem very democratic to me. Does it seem democratic to you?

Smaller Media Treated Like Second-Class Reporters?

Draft media guide for citizenship and immigration

All media requests are not equal.”

Journalists from small, alternative and independent media outlets have long believed that’s why they get no response or a delayed response when they contact the government for information. That can make it more difficult for them to break stories, frustrating the public’s right to know.

But it’s also an adage you’d never, ever expect to see the government write down — until spin doctors at the federal department of citizenship and immigration did exactly that in a document I obtained via a recent access to information request.

Was it a pique of honesty that led them to put those words in black and white, an error or just plain indiscretion?

Introducing DeSmog Canada’s New Executive Director

Emma Gilchrist, Executive Director DeSmog Canada

A year ago, DeSmog Canada excitedly welcomed Emma Gilchrist to the role of Deputy Editor. As amazing as it has been to have Emma working tirelessly to bring the best out of our writers, digging into editing like it’s fun (really) and breaking news stories of national importance, we just can’t seem to contain all of her incredible talents in her part-time deputy position.

That’s why today we are beyond delighted to announce Emma’s new role as DeSmog Canada’s Executive Director.

Most of you will know Emma has incredible talent as a writer and, as we here at DeSmog know, she pretty much performs magic as an editor, but she also has a bold vision for independent media in Canada.

Postmedia Could Soon Own Almost Every English Newspaper in Canada: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Newspaper boxes in Calgary

Postmedia has struck a $316 million deal to buy 175 of Quebecor’s English-language newspapers, specialty publications and digital properties, including the Sun chain of papers, according to a report in the Globe and Mail this morning.

If it passes regulatory hurdles, the deal will mark a step further down the path of media concentration in Canada.

What does this mean for Canadians in practical terms?

In Calgary, for instance, the Calgary Sun would be owned by the same company as the Calgary Herald. In Toronto, the Toronto Sun and 24 Hours would be owned by the same company as the National Post. In Ottawa, the Ottawa Sun would be owned by the same company as the Ottawa Citizen. And in Edmonton, the Edmonton Sun would be owned by the same company as the Edmonton Journal.

It’s Vancouver that takes the cake for media concentration though — Postmedia already owned the Vancouver Sun and The Province, but if the deal goes through it will take over the free daily 24 Hours as well.

Mike De Souza's 20 Most Important Articles for Postmedia

mike de souza

Last week, journalist Mike De Souza published his final article for Postmedia News. The outlet closed its Parliamentary Bureau dismissing De Souza and four other employees amid a scandalous revelation that senior staff are colluding with Canada’s largest oil and gas lobby, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), to shift the national conversation to more positively reflect on the energy industry, particularly Alberta's oilsands.

De Souza’s final piece fittingly covered an internal memo that showed the Harper government was warned back in 2011 that a massive increase in oil-by-rail transport was impending, given the rate of oil production in the oilsands outstripped Canada’s pipeline capacity. The Harper government, despite such cautions, failed to address the safety concerns associated with such sharp growth in oil tanker train traffic. Two years later, the tragedy of Lac-Mégantic killed 47 people.

There’s no question that Mike De Souza has been crucial to the survival of investigative journalism on energy and environment in Canada over the last several years. His work has exposed government and industry collusion, shining a light behind closed doors and serving the public interest. He has detailed high-level climate change denial, suppression of scientists and environmental regulations and the high level of orchestration between the Harper government and the oil, gas and pipeline industries in the creation of the infamous Omnibus Budget Bill C-38.

Ultimately, De Souza’s reporting has provided Canadians with a critical counter-narrative to Harper government spin when it comes to climate, energy and the environment.

Here’s a list of just 20 stories worth highlighting and remembering from De Souza’s career with Postmedia News:

Canadian Scientists Must Speak Out Despite Consequence, Says Andrew Weaver

If people don’t speak out there will never be any change,” says the University of Victoria’s award-winning climate scientist Andrew Weaver. 

And the need for change in Canada, says Weaver, has never been more pressing.

“We have a crisis in Canada. That crisis is in terms of the development of information and the need for science to inform decision-making. We have replaced that with an ideological approach to decision-making, the selective use of whatever can be found to justify [policy decisions], and the suppression of scientific voices and science itself in terms of informing the development of that policy.”
 
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