Monday, October 27, 2008

Award-winning independent weekly Carleton FreePress forced to close

I received word tonight that one of the few independent papers in New Brunswick has been forced out of business in a cutthroat battle with an Irving-family owned media giant that owns most of the papers in the Canadian province.

The Carleton FreePress in Woodstock, N.B., won the Canadian Association of Journalists' President's Award in May and was nipping at the heels of the competing Bugle-Observer, editor Bob Rupert told me at the CAJ Awards ceremony in Edmonton, Alberta, in May. At the time, he was confident the FreePress would overtake its competitor.

But the Bugle-Observer, part of the Irvings' Brunswick News Inc. chain, slashed advertising and subscription rates as well as its cover price in an apparent bid to bury the scrappy newcomer. The strategy succeeded where other ploys failed.

In November 2007, the province's top court denied a court injunction filed by the Irvings' company to stop the FreePress from publishing, or to block its publisher from speaking to Irving subscribers and advertisers.

It's sad day for journalism in Canada.

Here's the press release I received:

Carleton FreePress suspends publication

Citing the downturn in the economy and inability to compete with a chain that
has cut its advertising and subscription prices to the bone for the next year,
the Carleton FreePress today announced it is suspending publication.

Today’s paper will be the last.

“We have tried everything,” said publisher Ken Langdon. “Our staff has been
heroic, right down to the last person. We’ve got a good paper. We’ve earned a
place in the fabric of Carleton County, but in the end we simply cannot compete
with the Brunswick News financial power.

“They can afford to drop a few million dollars here to get the Bugle-Observer’s
monopoly back and the Irving chain’s manager is willing to do what it takes
here to discourage any others who might take heart from our success to compete
in other New Brunswick markets,”

Langdon said three factors converged in the last few weeks to create
insurmountable problems for the paper. One was the market crash and the fallout
on the local economy. The other was the cost of adding a second paper on
Fridays, which the FreePress felt it had to do to compete. The third was a
Bugle-Observer announcement that it was cutting its ad prices in half for the
next year and it’s per issue price from $1.25 to 25 cents. (This week it
offered a year-long special buy at 29 per cent of its regular ad rate.)

“The last few weeks have been harrowing,” said Langdon. “We have wracked our
brains to find a way to save the paper but we can’t alter the numbers.

“Big bucks have prevailed.”

FreePress editor Bob Rupert said the death of the “little paper that could” is a
bitter pill to swallow.

“We feel badly for our readers, we feel badly for our advertisers and we feel
badly for a community that really needs an honest paper with the courage to
publish all of the news—even if it hurts,” said Rupert.

“Since Day One we have been warned that Brunswick News would stop at nothing to
get back its stranglehold on this market and that’s exactly what has happened.

“So we are going down today, but we can hold our heads high. We tried to bring
an independent voice to Carleton County and for a while we were winning. The
closer we got to victory the more Brunswick News spent to stop us.

“What is really sad here is that our employees lose their jobs. We’ve raised a
family here. The loss is personal.”

Ken Langdon
The Carleton FreePress

Wednesday, July 23, 2008 aggregates journalists' personal j-blogs

It started with a question by PressThink's Jay Rosen, posed via microblogging site Twitter. A week later, Kiyoshi Martinez launched

The site aggregates journalists' personal journalism blogs -- as Martinez notes, it's kind of "meta." It's also a little surprising that it doesn't appear to have been done before (at least not as far as I can recall since I started blogging in 1999).

My criteria eliminated blogs written in an official capacity for a newspaper or news organization. The point here was to find personal blogs, not work blogs... I’m more interested in what people have to say about their jobs and the field itself.

A quick scan of the aggregated posts yields plenty to ponder.

If you're a professional journalist with a personal blog on journalism, you can e-mail Mr. Martinez to be added to's blogroll.

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[* See update at end of this post]

I stumbled across an online service today that appears to be a Canadian equivalent of the U.S.-based Help a Reporter Out [].

I write "appears to be" because the creators of -- identified only as "Brendan, Natalie and Greg" -- are apparently shy about disclosing who they are except for some vague bios on the "About" page. The only contact information is a cryptic e-mail address, and a domain lookup states that the holder's identity is private. All of this suggests that the site might be nothing more than a spam harvester. [If you know who runs it, call me or drop me a line at the e-mail address at the top right of this page.]

My guess is that the site is a side-project by PR people who don't want to run afoul of non-compete clauses in their employment contracts, or a perhaps a pilot project for a new agency -- which renders its authors' apparent desire for anonymity somewhat justified.

Assuming that is legitimate, it seems to be modeled on the free HARO, which says it has gained some 16,000 users since it launched as a Facebook group last year.

But while the journalist-source matchmaker HARO competes with PR Newswire's fee-for-service ProfNet (which charges potential sources $600 to $4,500 for access to journalists' requests, according to the Industry Standard), I'm not aware of any parallel rivalry in Canada.'s closest competitor is likely, the online version of the desktop directory often found on journalists' shelves -- where the tome tends to stay.

I know of no professional journalist who uses Sources as anything but a last resort, in part because its criterion for listing would-be "experts" is apparently the ability to write a cheque. That's not to say legitimate authorities on a range of subjects are nonexistent or even plentiful in the Sources database but whenever I've thumbed through its pages in recent years, I've been struck by how many self-styled pundits I've found whose main expertise is ensuring they get pixels, airtime or ink.

With a little work and a little luck, perhaps can help solve that weakness in the journalist-source relationship.

UPDATE 07/25/08: Mystery solved -- is legit. I received an e-mail today from an old PR contact, Brendan Dermody -- the "Brendan" of's trio -- about the site's launch. Brendan wrote that he and his cohort were inspired by HARO and the U.K.'s Getting Ink to launch the Canadian source-pulling service (vs. the traditional model of PR push to journalists). You can also connect on Twitter by following @JSources. Good luck, Brendan!


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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Saleem Khan has left the building

I've left CBC News Online. I'll have more news on my next project soon.

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Saturday, March 31, 2007

JibJab tackles news

The team of satirists over at are taking a shot news media in a piece named What We Call The News, expressing with music and pictures -- and a lot more humour -- the dismay many journalists feel about the state of their trade.

What We Call the News | Send To Friends | JibJab

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Hello to 'craplets' readers

Hello to everyone who found this blog as a result of your interest in the 'craplets' story that I broke.

I'm on vacation after a gruelling week running around covering the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) for CBC News Online, TV and radio -- while suffering from a terrible cold, severe sleep deprivation, a lack of meals and a foot injury.

It's interesting to see such a strong reaction to the story from all quarters. I've been covering technology for more than a decade and have done double duty a news editor and writer for much of that time but few stories -- including weightier ones -- have touched a nerve the way this one has.

For those of you who may be wondering why my blog isn't updated more frequently the answer is simple. As a technology reporter who is "always on" I value what little time that I can get offline.

Feel free to leave comments or to contact me by e-mail at the address noted at the top right of the page -- and thanks for visiting.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Internet trumps MSM with video of Saddam Hussein execution

This morning I tripped across this unofficial video of Saddam Hussein's execution, apparently taken on a cellphone camera by a guard or witness who was in the room.

Unlike the official video released by the U.S.-backed Iraqi regime, it includes the moment when Hussein is dropped and a shot of him moments after death with the noose still around his neck.

The video once again underscores the role that so-called "citizen journalism" (if this can be categorized as such) plays in our connected world.

While news organizations debated what and how much to show of the execution if and when any video or photos became available, this video was apparently already circulating online.

The person who uploaded it had only this to say:

Originally posted as a link on the Something Awful forums, I saved and uploaded it to google video before the it died

Monday, December 04, 2006

Gannett's newsroom has mojo: Decentralized, online and hyperlocal

The future of the newsroom is news without the room according to at least one media organization, an article by the Washington Post's Frank Ahrens suggests.

Newspaper chain Gannett is experimenting with mobile journalists or "mojos" who rove the community and report in depth on whatever is happening in the local community -- no story is too small.

Darkness falls on a chilly Winn-Dixie parking lot in a dodgy part of North Fort Myers just before Thanksgiving. Chuck Myron sits in his little gray Nissan and types on an IBM ThinkPad laptop plugged into the car's cigarette lighter. The glow of the screen illuminates his face.

Myron, 27, is a reporter for the Fort Myers News-Press and one of its fleet of mobile journalists, or "mojos." The mojos have high-tech tools -- ThinkPads, digital audio recorders, digital still and video cameras -- but no desk, no chair, no nameplate, no land line, no office. They spend their time on the road looking for stories, filing several a day for the newspaper's Web site, and often for the print edition, too. Their guiding principle: A constantly updated stream of intensely local, fresh Web content -- regardless of its traditional news value -- is key to building online and newspaper readership.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Our crack team at the CBC technology news unit is making some changes that will enable us to cover more news and improve our ability to communicate with readers. We're still working out the details but you can guess what's coming based on the subjects this blog covers. Keep your eyes peeled for the next few weeks. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, November 06, 2006 frozen

I'm breaking my usual rule about blogging about work to let people know that anyone looking for news from this morning might be disappointed. There's a server problem preventing the site from being updated.