The Garret Tree
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
  CBC 46: The gutless CBCphobe

Usually it's not worth it paying attention to those who, for no legitimate reason, hide behind anonymity. (I have no problem with lockedout CBC employees who chose to be anonymous or Ouimet who is at least up front about what that blogger is doing)

But one gutless blogger is beginning to really irritate me because he shows up so often on Technorati searches. He (pretty sure it's a he) has only a blog name, "Loyalist" and no e-mail contact.

At least other CBCphobes like Peter Worthington and Andrew Coyne put their names on their writing.

Ever since the lockout began,
day after day, Loyalist has been sending cheap shot after cheap shot at the CBC and its locked out employees on his conservative/ Conservative blog "dissonance and disrespect". He even has the gall to grab picket line pictures from Flickr and make his own snarky little remarks about the people on the line including:

The collective intelligence of a picket line can be determined by taking the IQ of its least intelligent member and dividing it by 10

So an assignment for all the investigative reporters and web geeks out there. Let's go through the blog, find the internal evidence and technical clues and drag this guy out of his closet (an appropriate analogy, he's also a homophobe)

This hypocrite is a PR man, someone who smiles at us when we are working, calls us and flatters us when he needs us and then goes home and, usually late at night, writes his blog, venting his disdain for most journalists, not just CBC reporters, he gets paid a lot of money to be "friends" with.

He also takes aim at every conservative target, not just the CBC. For example he doesn't like the idea that Air France survivors are purusing a class action suit, thinks biodiversity is a joke (what planet does this guy live on?), calls Michaelle Jean a separatist and says that women in the Canadian Armed Forces are emascualting the troops.

To understand this guy's total lack of logic he says:

1)No one watches the CBC.
2)The CBC, the propaganda arm of the Liberal Party, is solely responsible for orchestrating defeat after defeat of the Conservative Party who are, of course, in his view, the natural governing party for this country.

Huh 2? What was happening when Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister?

It's time we found out who Loyalist is, who he works for and put him on our permanent shit list, and take that shit list with us whether we walk back in the doors of the CBC or end up somewhere else.

So let's get started:

General clues:

Many of the blogs are well written. This guy could actually write a column, only problem is the National Post is firing, not hiring.

He monitors all the news services, probably on his employer's dime.

Clue number one.

He's a Journalism school graduate.

J-school grads (of which this blogger is one) are usually quite quickly seduced by union rhetoric about the need to protect the interests of workers--except, of course, when one particular union, its seniority rules and mediaeval trade-guild mentality stand in the way of working for Holy Mother Corp.

Clue Number two. He grew up in rural Nova Scotia.

Clue Number three. He's a flack.

I too was taught by professors who had worked for years at the CBC and thought it was the sine qua non of Canadian broadcasting, even of the Canadian national identity itself. I also was caught up in the same sterile debates about whether journalists were debased by mucking about with the technicians' work, as if we were part of an officer corps who could not be seen fraternizing with the enlisted men.

Many of these debates ended up turning me off journalism altogether. This blog is about as close to the field as I ever hope to come again...

We all talked about becoming great freelancers when we were in school. Few of us had the stomach to survive the uncertainty and gravitated towards PR jobs instead. Perhaps with this lockout, we'll find out who's really cut for broadcasting and who isn't.

Clue Number Four: He lives in Toronto and reads the Toronto Sun.

If people find other clues, send me the URL and I will post them.

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  CBC 45: More on the Intranet blog monitor

As was reported earlier, Ouimet leaked the fact the CBC intranet is monitoring the blogs.

Cross posted to original:

Update: August 31. Someone, not Ouimet, has sent Tod Maffin a screen capture of the Intranet blog monitor. Note: Tod says they stole the code for his blog list without credit. Another violation of CBC standards.

But I just noticed one difference in the screen capture that Tod received.

Someone really earned their bonus money. Tod's list only uses first names. This Intranet list has added the full name of any blogger they could identify. (although they appear to have missed a couple of easy ones, where the blog itself identifies the last name and the Intranet list doesn't).

Yes I put my name on all my work, and stand behind everything I have written, whether it is when I employed by a corporation or by myself. At the current moment, I am self employed.

Hours after Tod Maffin's post, apparently the blog monitor on the CBC intranet vanished into cyberspace.

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  CBC 44: Something we can agree on, the Worthington audit
There is apparently one small something both sides in this can agree on: My call a couple of days ago for an independent audit of the accuracy of statements of reported fact in columns by Peter Worthington in the Toronto Sun.

At least this agreement is at the working manager level.

I arrived at the fairly dry Toronto Broadcast Centre this morning to snap pictures of gloomy people walking around under grey skies. (Katrina has passed on)

I took the memory card back to the Canadian Media Guild office to file for the newsletter, then returned to the picket line. On my way back along Front Street a person I did not recognize, a manager wearing one of those new blood red ID badges, quickly said to me, "Hey great idea about Worthington, wish I'd thought of it," and then passed by.

Later I got a chance to talk to someone else who told me that the CBC has been trying for at least a decade to get the Toronto Sun to issue corrections of inaccurate statements in columns by Peter Worthington. The Sun has consistently refused.

This is Sun policy. A few years ago, a senior editor from the Sun agreed to be put on the hot seat at the annual convention of the Canadian branch of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. This editor said, and those present had to agree, that the Sun is usually scrupulously accurate as it can be in its reportorial coverage. (Its AIDS coverage in the 1980s was among the best in the Toronto papers) But it has been Sun policy since it was founded in 1971 that columnists are free to say anything they want; Sun policy that columnists could say anything about the gay community, whether or not it was accurate; Sun policy that columnists can say anything they want about the CBC, whether or not it is accurate.

As I said in my earlier blog, this attitude is no longer acceptable in most daily newspapers in the United States, even with the growing political polarization south of the border. Columnists as well as reporters have been audited for their accuracy and if found to be grossly inaccurate, disciplined by their employers.

Worthington is free in our society to hate everything the CBC broadcasts and hate everyone who works for the CBC. But if he is to be a credible journalist, he must base his arguments on verifiable facts.

I asked my contact if the senior managers would join this idea and simply write on CBC letterhead requesting an independent audit of Worthington's work.

I was told they are probably too busy. What are you doing in there for all that bonus money?

I am sure someone can take half an hour to draft a letter and the senior NCAN management could take a moment to sign it after one those "news in a minute" casts.

(After all the CBC always responds through the Ombudsman, why shouldn't the Sun, whose columnists are always accusing the CBC of bias, not be held to the same standard?)

Here is the address

Pierre Karl Péladeau
Le président et chef de la direction
612, rue Saint-Jacques
Montréal (Québec)
H3C 4M8

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  CBC 43: Job score August 31

Job Score August 31. CBC 0 Visitors 3

From the picket line in front of the Toronto Broadcast Centre.

And a late scoring opportunity, Global is wooing one and possibly more CBC TV national reporters.

Update: CBC 0, Visitors 4

Add a loss to the City of Calgary. Eric Rosenbaum leaves CBC Radio and explains why.

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  CBC 42: Say it ain't so , John, February?
John Doyle in the Globe and Mail (I'll link to the post as soon as one of the advocacy groups posts it) this morning says that there may be a return to work in early October, either Monday October 3 or October 10. He says shows dependent on news and current affairs have to get ready and Canadians want Hockey Night in Canada.

Shows depdendent on news and current affairs are probably the comedy shows, like 22 Minutes and Air Farce.

As for hockey I have been hearing the same. The date I have always heard is October 1 a Saturday, an interesting coincidence that Doyle is hearing Oct. 3 the Monday. Why that date? Because Saturday October 1, I am told, is the last date possible for Hockey Night in Canada to mount a respectable show the following Saturday. A friend on HNIC told me "we could scramble to do it in five days, but it wouldn't look that great."

Doyle's pessimistic speculation is that if there is no settlement early in the hockey season, it could be February before we're back, just before the federal election.
Memo to the Prime Minister: If it is February, there won't be a CBC left to cover your election.

Katrina and me update
: The towel worked, I got the sleep. There appears to be no futher damage. Now I have to decide whether or not to patch (if I can) or replace the entire section which cost a neighbor with a similar roof $2800.

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  CBC 41: Katrina

It's 0431 as I start to type this. Outside what Environment Canada calls "post tropical storm Katrina" is sending a steady, sustained, heavy rain (no nasty wind thank the Gods).

Half an hour an hour ago a tapping noise outside my bedroom woke me up. Yes, I have Katrina damage. Extremely minor compared to what has happened in the United States, but there is an ugly yellow stain and one small hole in the ceiling so far, so there's a towel down there right now, (the plastic bucket is too noisy) so I can get another couple of hours sleep before my early morning assignment, photographing for the Guild newsletter whomever is braving the picket line early in the morning.

I heard someone else had roof damage from that storm last week, a couple has a baby due tomorrow and at least two people I know just bought their houses,

Things like this happen in other labour disputes of course. And we do stories about it and we the journalists move on while the strikers/lockoutees also continue with their lives. We never hear about them again unless someone decides to do a "follow-up."

CTV, which is covering the destruction in the southern United States, will move on when their managers decided it is no longer cost effective. CTV is blanketing the Katrina story largely because they are out to prove they are, at the moment, Canada's TV news service. If CBC was not locked out they would have probably sent one reporter. They have at least two from what I have watched plus Tom Clark watching from Washington.

As for the CBC, at least some people are writing to the papers to say how much they appreciate blanket Coronation Street.

I checked both the Environment Canada and NOAA radar tracks. Looks like its the tail end of everything and it will only last a couple of more hours.

But to the game players in Ottawa who started all this, and it is a game, a propaganda sheet mailed to us by the CBC made it clear that this is all tied to what we thought it was, a pre-emptive strike to make sure the Guild didn't strike during the hockey season, once we go back, you've done absolutely nothing for employee morale. Or respect for the leadership of the CBC.

And if you win, having the disposable work force is not going to help save the CBC, no matter what your myriad of overpaid consultants tell you. But by that time, the managers who planned all this will also have moved on and the worker bees at CBC will have to pick up the pieces,

Back to sleep, I hope.

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  CBC 40: David Walmsley jumps to The Star?
Late night blogging hot tip #2

Antonia Zerbisias
is reporting in her blog that the rumour mill is zapping between One Yonge Street and Front and John--and it ain't because Katrina is over Lake Ontario at the moment--with speculation that one of the CBC's most imaginative senior editors is about to jump from the Corp to the Star.

She says she is: "getting calls and emails from CBC types asking me if it's true that David Walmsley, who just started as Ottawa bureau chief two months ago, is returning to Toronto to join ... drum roll ... the Star."

Zerbisias was unable to get Star management to confirm or deny the story.

If true, big loss for the CBC.

Blogger's note: I'm dropping the Roman numerals. I originally intended to write only two blogs (I and II) and now that I am up to 40, it's easier to track.

And Antonia is also asking for virtual brown envelopes for the stories she is blogging. I have had a couple of those, but brown (or white CBC) envelopes slipped behind my screen door are welcome as well.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005
  CBC XXXIX: Blog highlights on CBC intranet

Ouimet, and it is pretty certain now that Ouimet is inside the TBC, posted a hot tip late this evening.

The internal CBC intranet media monitoring service is provided a daily highlight of the blogs.

For those of you inside reading this - and I know you are legion - if you want to read lock-out and lock-in blog highlights, you can go to


I wish I would have found it sooner.

For those of you on the outside reading this, if you have a camera and are looking to stick it to the man's home page, you can post a photo on the flicker web site and "tag" it as "cbclockout" and it will apparently be automatically loaded to this web site behind the firewall.

Update: August 31. Someone, not Ouimet, has sent Tod Maffin a screen capture of the Intranet blog monitor. Note: Tod says they stole the code for his blog list without credit. Another violation of CBC standards.

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  CBC XXXVIII: The CBC and the Avro Arrow

A media analyst sent me a private e-mail a couple of days ago saying he believed the employees had won the first two weeks of the public relations campaign with the CBC. Today senior management began the counter offensive, with Robert Rabinovitch in the Globe and Mail (behind the paywall; Update leaked and on Our Public Airwaves) and Richard Stursberg in Macleans.

For me, Rabinovitch's op-ed piece in the Globe shows that he is so set on his bean counting (or should I say bean cutting) course that he has just proved the Canadian Media Guild right, he does want a disposable workforce.

Unless something changes in the next few days, these are the Guns of August as I mentioned earlier, and future historians will mark today, Tuesday, August 30, as the beginning to the end of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. That's why I called this post "The CBC and the Avro Arrow." Almost fifty years ago, beancounters in Ottawa destroyed the Avro Arrow. Now beancounters in Ottawa are destroying the CBC. (But will there be someone to do a TV miniseries about these days, say a decade or so from now, as the CBC produced a miniseries on the Arrow?)

Question: Name a powerful division within the CBC. Most people would say NCAN (CBC bureaucrat-talk for News Current Affairs and Newsworld) Buzzzzzzzz. Wrong. How many people outside the buildings know that CBC now has a Real Estate Division, that Rabinovich is running part of the CBC as a mini version of Oxford Properties or Olympia and York? After Rabinovitch took over, he hired consultants who went through every building in the country and in a nightmare right out of Dilbert, this consultant decided how much cubicle space we should be crowded into. Then the "surplus" space was rented out. The most obvious is the Eighth Floor of the Toronto Broadcast Centre which is rented to the Academy of Design.

This is what Rabinovitch means when he says in the Globe:
The only way to maintain and improve service is to make the money CBC has to go further, through internal efficiencies, by generating income from existing assets--from program content to real estate [my emphasis]--and by entering into new entrepeneurial partnerships.

And now to staffing.

I have a staff job. What I and many others find the most insulting about the corporation's offer that we will keep our staff jobs (at least in this round of negotiation.What's next?) is that they forget where we came from. Almost everyone I know at CBC has slogged through casual and contract status, often for years, if not decades. I know what it is like to live in a small roach-filled apartment waiting for the phone to ring. Why should the next generation forgo the ability to buy a house or a condo or a nice car, have a decent vacation, so the CBC can be "efficient?" Especially since the CEP, which represents many in the private TV sector, has shown this morning what we who work in the business already know, there are staff jobs aplenty in the private sector.

"The most successful private broadcasters in the country use a fraction
of the contract work currently used by the public broadcaster," said
Peter Murdoch, Vice-President Media for the CEP. The union represents 26,000
members in the media, including employees at all of Canada's major private
Murdoch said a quick informal survey by CEP showed that contract work is
not nearly as in play in the private sector as it is in the public
CTV, CHUM, Global - these are very successful broadcasters who not only
have less contract workers but far fewer labor disputes. (CBC has had five in
the last six years.)
The CBC should rethink its bargaining strategy, get back to issues of
programming, and stop blaming employees for failures of management.

Will those talented employees management wants on perpetual contracts even bother to work at CBC? Will they go to the privates or, as we onced joked, now gallow's humour the dark side, PR?

The Globe subhead emphasizes Rabinovitch's statement that

Taken together, the proposals we have put forward to our unionized employees seek to ensure that the CBC can employ the right people for the right jobs at the right time. It seems obvious, but that is the core of our dispute with our union. Without this ability, our programming will suffer and the CBC will gradually become less relevant and attractive to Canadians.

He then goes on to give the example of hiring specialist producers, using a health care show. The health care show goes on for three years. Then ratings show people are no longer interested in health care. So dump the health care producer and he says

The employee hired for his medical background, should not be able, because he has seniority to transfer into and displace a newly hired producer who was brought in for her knowledge of the cultural scene and for her familiarity with the blogging universe.
This shows Rabinovich's utter and total contempt for his employees and especially the people at I was the fourth person to join CBC online in 1996. It is now an empire with a couple of hundred people.

I have worked there for almost nine years. Almost everyone who worked at in the early years, when we were building the service from nothing, came from elsewhere within the CBC, from radio and TV news, from sports, from the geeky sectors of the Corp. (I was a casual lineup editor at Newsworld and was about to have my casual status terminated in the 1996 layoffs, but I was needed, I had just co-written the first book on how to do research in the Internet. So I still had a job but I was still a casual). And by the way, my undergrad degree is in cultural anthropolgy, not computer science.

We were crowded into a tiny room that had once been a green room for a tiny TV studio. We adapted every day as the Internet landscape changed. We were just behind CNN and the BBC but way head of the American networks which were hesitating to jump onto the web.

CTV didn't have the guts to create its web service until five years later. And now is going to steal the Canadian audience from and benefit from our work ( raided for most of its staff in 2000). The even more gutless Global didn't get its act together until it realized it had to compete with CTV.

One of the most popular sections of are the backgrounders, the instant backgrounders, we produce on a daily basis, backgrounders researched and written tied to breaking news. And if was up and running and if you ran a Google link check you would see that this turn-on-a-dime, first-draft-of-history journalism is linked to by sites all over the world.

And note what Rabinovitch says of the newly hired producer: "for her familiarity with the blogging universe." What has this guy been doing for the past three weeks? Who vetted his copy before it went to the Globe? Just how many blogs have CBC lockoutees created in those weeks? Tod Maffin who maintains the list of blogs can hardly keep up.

One of the most talented, award-winning documentary producers at CBC News has a Phd, in what I know not. He has produced docs on all kinds of subjects. It appears that Rabinovich would fire this guy just because the Corp no longer wanted to cover the subject of his dissertation.

Rabinovitch says he doesn't want to mortgage the future of the corporation, but he doesn't want his future employees to have a mortgage.

Perhaps the negotiating teams on both sides should read Sun Tzu's The Art of War. (You'll find a 1910 translation here).

Sun says never put anyone in a position where they have nothing to lose. With the future of the CBC looking bleak, Rabinovitch has just done that.

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Monday, August 29, 2005
  CBC XXXVII: Blog war notes August 29
Look what PBS announced

Management has decided on its message track on the podcasting now going on and the plans for the future podcasts and news site to come later this week. They're saying it doesn't matter. Me thinks they play down too much.

Podcasting doesn't matter, eh? Look what PBS has just announced (other blogs say the announcement was today but there is no date on the release.) It's called NerdTV.

Beginning Sept. 6, PBS will make available - exclusively over the Internet - broadcast television's first entirely downloadable series, featuring PBS technology columnist and industry insider Robert X. Cringely's interviews with personalities from the ever-changing world of technology.

Later on in the news release PBS says:

Cringely noted, "With more than half of American homes with Internet access now using broadband, computer video - especially downloaded computer video - has become a viable but still little-used option for TV distribution. The strength of this new medium can be found in how it serves niche audiences. This is where Internet distribution shines.

And who are the flexible people doing it here? Ahhh three guesses????

One pop from Poynter

After I posted my note last night asking why the Poynter Institute hadn't covered the lockout and especially the stories that emerged last week, there was one link today on their news page, on the right hand column, where the lesser stories go, linking to the Globe and Mail about the poll if people had missed the CBC.

I also received e-mail from people both in Canada and the United States saying they had e-mailed Jim Romensko about the lockout, the podcasting and the blogs. (I sent an e-mail the moment the story that we were going to be locked out was posted).

This is not a case of pressuring someone to cover a story. After all it is being covered elsewhere. I and the people who wrote to me are genuinely mystified why it is being ignored by an outfit like Poynter.

Breaching the wall and finding Doyle

I also recieved a number of e-mails from people who like to read John Doyle. Turns out that Google News breaches the Globe and Mail pay wall. Simply Google John Doyle and Globe and Mail. You go folks!

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  CBC XXXVI: Time to escalate the blog war

For 34 years the people who work at the CBC have had to take it when hate was dished out from the CBCphobes. The only people who could answer were CBC communications. And those responses were usually bland and came from committees of at least a couple of managers and a communications person. (I once saw three managers in a meeting with Ruth Ellen Soles trying to decide how to respond to an issue).

I say 34 years because the hate campaign against the CBC really began with the founding of the Toronto Sun.

Now we have a window of opportunity. The lockout means we are no longer bound by CBC communications policy. We can finally answer back. It's time to escalate the blog war....but to do it rationally and to use the system, and not lower ourselves to the level of those who hate us.

Toronto's gay community always responded to the hate dished out by the Sun. It's a campaign that the Sun has largely abandoned. It's time for CBC lockoutees to take a hint from that campaign and fight back.

One of the most inaccurate, sloppy and nasty pieces of junk journalism I have seen my 30-year career appeared in today's Toronto Sun by columnist Peter Worthington.

Worthington has been telling Canadians what he thinks of them for all those 34 years, he was one of the founders of the Sun. He is entitled to his opinion. But if a columnist wants people to accept his arguments, he must base them on accurate facts.

In his column Worthington says:

The CBC is notoriously anti-military--except when our soldiers are accidently killed by American bombs.

The CBC ignores our troops in the Balkans and Afghanistan and rejects "unbiased" documentaries that record the work they do.

The fact is that CBC and often only CBC has consistently covered the Canadian military. (Note: these statements are based on memory, since I don't have records that are locked in the Toronto Broadcast Centre, but they are as accurate as I can make them--and I am admitting this)

Last year, The National broadcast the show from Kabul. Peter Mansbridge went on a patrol with Canadian soldiers. Correspondent David Common has been in Afghanistan at least twice. Common is a one man band Videojournalist, doing everything himself. He not only filed TV items, he sent me, as CBC News photo editor, still photos of Kabul that I used in a couple of photo galleries.

Dan Bjarnason and cameraman Brian Kelly were onboard HMCS Windsor when the sub made its maiden voyage from Scotland to Halifax.

For the past two years, has published columns from a Canadian serviceman named Russell Storring who was in Afghanistan, then back at Petawawa and is now in Khandahar and is, in one way, since there is no place for his column, locked out like the rest of us.

CBC News Sunday shot, produced and aired a documentary about the Canadians in Kabul.

And when Canadian Coyote reconnaissance units were the first NATO troops to enter Kosovo, the CBC was there, while the other networks who were too cheap to send their crews, depended on video news releases from the Department of National Defence.

Worthington also says:

As for news bias, in the recent Iraq war, the CBC withdrew its staff from Baghdad when bombing began and wouldn't allow reporters to be embedded with attacking troops for fear they'd be suscepitble to military "spin."

What nonsense

Instead, the CBC used American footage of the war and added its own "spin" as to what was happening. Not only cowardly but, that's dishonest journalism.

If there ever was a dishonest report, it is Worthington's.

Yes, the CBC did withdraw its crews from Baghdad. But so did many other news organizations.

The fact that news management decided not to embed was hotly debated among the locked out staff and many, including myself, disagreed with that decision. And, it turns out, embedding might not have been a good idea anyway, since the U.S. military had a priority list for embedded journalists, and it is unlikely the CBC and other Canadians would have got anywhere anyway. Some small market US reporters never left the United States, the units they were assigned to never deployed because the first phase of the war ended so quickly

But there were CBC reporters in the war zone.

Patrick Brown was in the northern, Kurd region of Iraq, with David Common as his field producer. Margaret Evans from radio was also in northern Iraq. Paul Workman and a CBC crew, along with other news organizations skeptical of embedding, crossed the border between Iraq and Kuwait soon after the invasion.

For someone like Worthington, who has sat behind a desk for at least 30 years, to call "cowards" reporters, producers, camera people and editors who have served in war zones in the last few years, some of whom I count as friends, shows the kind of person Worthington really is.

So what should be done?

The solution comes from the south of the border. These days if a reporter or columnist in the U.S. writes a piece, like Worthington's Monday column, that is full of inaccuracies, management usually begins an audit of that reporter's or columnist's work,as was done at the New York Times and USA Today and an increasing number of papers.

It is time that Sunmedia, Worthington's employer, institutes an external independent audit of the accuracy of statements of fact in Worthington's columns for the past several years. (Since Worthington was once an executive of the chain, an outside audit would be free of hints of conflict of interest.) If Sunmedia won't audit the reporting of facts in Worthington's columns, then it should be done by a journalism school.

Note: This is little different than a complaint to the CBC ombudsman, the CBC at least listens to complaints from Canadians. The Sun chain usually dismisses in a snarky little comment in the letters section.

I will accept the results of any such audit and I am sure everyone else would as well.

Update: Worthington's column has been posted on CBC Watch, and there are comments.

To Contact Quebecor, which owns Sunmedia, here is the contact us page.

The president and CEO of Quebecor is Pierre Karl Péladeau.

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  CBCXXXV: "They don't give a rats ass"

John Doyle in the Globe and Mail has been mining sources and has spoken to at least one National reporter who has been approached by a rival network. He says the same thing that I've heard, no one is prepared to move yet. (Get the paper at your corner box or variety store. The online version is behind the pay wall)

His source says:

I'm terribly conflicted to tell you that for the very first time in my career, I'm seriously thinking about my other options. It's hard to maintain a true passion for and dedication to public broadcasting when none of the folks at the top give a rat's ass about it.
We know this morning they don't give a rat's ass. I'm switching between CNN and CTV Newsnet's live coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

Earlier today the Newsworld was taking the BBC. At this moment they are taking the local satellite uplink from an NBC affiliate in Mobile, Alabama. So the Canadian public broadcaster, paid for by the taxypayers for a Canadian voice, is using British and American feeds for a hurricane. If things were normal Newsworld would take a live feed from NBC or CBS, but David Common or Chris Brown or Neil MacDonald would also be in the storm zone.

(By the way anyone in television in the U.S. will tell you that a station's reputation, not always fairly, depends not on how good it is, but its market size. Mobile is the 62nd market in the US TV market.)

The current Environment Canada storm track now shows Katrina's eye (by then likely a tropical depression) churning through the middle of Lake Ontario on Wednesday further east than yesterday's track. After sideswiping Toronto, now it is likely to pass close to Montreal. If Katrina "wobbles," as the wind driven reporters are now saying in their live hits, the hurricane could hit Ottawa.

BUT if you look at the US storm track from the National Atmospheric and Oceanographic Service, the "five day storm cone" shows Katrina is taking aim for Toronto Wednesday and then arriving on Parliament Hill at about 1 a.m. Thursday.

(Note these tracks are often updated and may have changed if you click later in the day. Also I find that the Environment Canada track doesn't work well Firefox, so use Explorer)

So, if the US storm track is correct, how is the CBC going to serve the Canadian taxpayer? Even if they get a manager on the roof of the Toronto Broadcast Centre, the audience in Canada's largest market will be watching CTV Newsnet, CP24, the Weather Network and Global.

Quick note: If the person John Doyle spoke to is the same one my sources indcate is being wooed, it will be a major loss to the CBC. Doyle is right when he says "the longer the lockout lasts, the more plausible the scenario becomes...[that CBC stars] will sprint to a competing broadcaster."

But there is an indication this morning that this could be longer and nastier than everyone thought.

Doyle says
In another few weeks--or heaven forbid, months--it's the veterans and household names that will be giving serious consideration to career options at the competition

At the same time, manager Ouimet says:

People are wondering how long management is willing to "let this last." Well, I've laid my hands on the contingency plan and it goes on for days and days and weeks and months. You would be surprised.

Ouimet also says of the managers who had a briefing for locked in staff last week

They are not stupid brutes, these people. Cathy Sprague [from Human Resources] is as sharp as a tack and refreshingly straight-talking, and all questions were answered in real language. All concerens were openly and honestly discussed.

I have to laugh when I hear people say that these guys are short-sighted and spineless. This is just not true. Their long-term vision might not match yours, but they have one. And they are tough, make no mistake about that.

Ouimet is right. They do have a plan, a long term plan. This was obvious last spring when the news of management's application for conciliation suddenly appeared in our mailboxes one afternoon, starting the clock ticking to the lockout. This whole thing is driven by a timetable, a detailed plan and that is why I believe the Guild is right when it says management is refusing to negotiate.

Question?: Does this long term plan also mean a long-term plan for the CBC mandate? If there is a long term plan for the future of the CBC, I doubt that it has been floated with the Prime Minister's Office or the Heritage Department. Time for the Heritage Committee in the Commons to return early. While it is unlikely and inappropriate for the committee to ask for the details of the CBC plan in labour negotiations, the committee should call Robert Rabinovich and Peter Stursberg and demand answers about their long term plans for the corporation itself.

Reading assignment: For whomever inside the CBC who wrote that long term plan. On your way into the building, drop by Chapters up John Street and buy Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August. It's all about how strict adherance to war plans caused the carnage of the First World War. (John F Kennedy said it was because he read The Guns of August he was tough, but cautious during the Cuban Missile Crisis). Yike, that plan started in August, their plan started in August.

The Globe and Mail doesn't get it: Want proof that the Globe and Mail doesn't get the web? John Doyle is still behind the pay wall. Want to drive visitors to your site and get them interested in what else is there? Make Doyle public.

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Sunday, August 28, 2005
  CBC XXXIV:Not a peep out of Poynter
Two weeks ago tonight, the clock was ticking down to the lockout. The Canadian Media Guild had already said publicly and on the record that the CBC was about to lock out 5,500 employees. covered the story, quoting the union, and CBC management was in the fourth floor newsroom objecting to that coverage, a sign of things to come in the next few hours.

It's been two weeks and there hasn't been a peep out of the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. And that, I find, is somewhat surprising.

For those who don't know it, the Poynter Institute is the premiere professional journalism institute in the United States. It monitors the industry and offers courses for professional development. And all those courses have some sort of ethical dimension.

I, and other CBC employees, have attended Poynter courses over the years or attended conferences where Poynter had a major role. (For the record, I was teaching at Ryerson at the time. Ryerson paid the minimal fee that Poynter charges--it is supported by a wealthy foundation-- while the CBC agreed I could go on company time. For most others the CBC pays for both). Poynter people have attended journalism conferences and held seminars in Canada.

(That is one of the good things about the CBC, it does pay for professional development of its staff employees, something most journalism organizations in Canada don't even bother to consider. The only other company that I know that does it regularly is the Toronto Star. When I see other Canadians at conferences or training [some of which I pay for myself using my author's hat] they are paying for it themselves or a sympathetic editor has scrounged the money from a discretionary budget.)

If there is an issue in journalism, it is usually discussed on the Poynter website, either in the news section or in columns or in guest columns. Although the lockout was covered by the New York Times, the online pages of The Guardian and Business Week, and by the wire services, there has been nothing on the news page run by Romensko. And almost all my journalistic friends in the US say the first thing they look at when they get to the office in the morning is Romensko.

None of the columnists who have their fingers on the pulse of American journalism have done anything either. (Note one of Poynter's online columnists is a locked in CBC manager, so it would be a conflict of interest for him to write about it, but there are two online columnists, the second is at a journalism school, no conflict of interest there, and there are other columnists for ethics and television and everything else. The manager, Jonathan Dube, did file a generic column on August 24)

(Disclosure: I once wrote a guest column about historical reconstruction in narrative.)

I don't really expect Poynter to offer indepth coverage of the details a labour dispute (although Romensko seems to thrive on internal gossip from the US media).

But Romensko and Poynter have covered Canadian issues before. Most recently Romesko reported that CP allowed reporters to use "fuck" in copy when appropriate (picked up from and the fact that Jocko Thomas still checks in with the Toronto Star desk (picked up from the Ryerson Review of Journalism)

But what have they been missing?

And I am sure there are ethical issues galore in all of this.

No "Only in Canada, you say, pity," in this case, because they do cover Canada.

So why the deafening e-silence from St. Petes?

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  CBC XXXIII: Hurricane warning
Hurricane warning: Katrina, a Category Five Hurricane, is about to hit New Orleans. The CBC is getting its coverage from the BBC.

I just saw a storm track on a Buffalo TV station that calls for what will be left of Katrina to be over Buffalo and then Toronto sometime Wednesday, with heavy showers starting on Tuesday.

The Environment Canada storm track at this moment 1830 Sunday is a bit different, with the hurricane over Ohio on Wednesday morning, crossing Lake Ontario and landing around Kingston. (Note this is a dynamic web page so the track may change for those who click later)

So who is going to cover this story for Canadians? Global and CTV, that's who. and and uk with using wire copy. CFRB and 680 News, that's who. In a city that got a multi-million dollar whack from just one hour long storm a week ago.

Watch for for wall to wall live coverage on CTV Newsnet (and in the Toronto market CP24) while Newsworld runs the Antiques Roadshow and the Nature of Things.

This is more than crazy, it is certifiably insane. Not just in terms of losing the audience, but in terms of public service from a public broadcaster.

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  CBC XXXII: The CBC "cult" and the public sphere

Conservative columnist Andrew Coyne is at his worst with his column in the National Post reprinted in CBC Watch.

Coyne, who has his own blog, is one of the few conservative bloggers who has anything intelligent to say (
The best, in my view, is ex-pat Brit, openly gay, conservative, Republican skeptical Andrew Sullivan. Most are anonymous and most just repeat arguments that are the web equivalent of the screaming matches now too common on US news shows.)

Coyne makes the usual, and some would say, valid argument (mirroring one in the United States over PBS) that the private sector can provide alternatives. He also reports on the problems with the mandate and what government hasn't done with the CBC.

Coyne, of course, is not very consistent with his criticism of public broadcasting, a quick search on his blog reveals:

While I'm praising the CBC

Coyne does not tell his readers at the National Post how often he, himself, feeds at the CBC trough. He appears on the current affairs portion of the National on the At Issue panel, and occasionally on Newsworld. He also came to the Toronto Broadcast Centre a few months ago and took part in an internal seminar on blogging and how it would affect the future of news. In fact, I venture to suggest, that with the lockout (and it is a lockout, not a disguised strike as Andrew Coyne maintains) continuing and the future of the CBC in doubt, a small but significant portion of Coyne's package of freelance income is disappearing.

Then he turns around and talks about "the extraordinary reservoirs of self-delusion that sustain the public broadcasting cult," probably referring not only the CBC, but PBS, NPR, the BBC and every other civilized country on this planet.

Of course, Coyne works in a major urban centre with all its advantages. The argument pales when it comes to people who live outside big cities. The private sector is abandoning the rest of the country because there is no profit in small stations with local news and rookie DJs, it's the Broadcast News headline service and syndicated talk shows, music chosen by a consultant in LA.

(This isn't only happening in Canada, there were news stories from California at the time of a recent tsunami warning that with so few private radio stations that broadcast news that the cops and fire departments had go out and blast the warning on loud hailers. I now have the image of some poor soul listening to Rush Limbaugh or a syndicated playlist as a huge wave crashes into a house).

The original idea for this blog was to only write about my book The Sonkrai Tribunal, the writing process and related issues. (Note get back to the edits Robin) My late father was a prisoner of war on the River Kwai Railway of Death. On the Burma Thailand railway, human lives depended every day on cooperation, so the conservative obsession with individuality (which failed or made things worse in these circumstances) has always been a mystery to me. It's how I was brought up, with tales of that cooperation, of building slave communities in the jungle.

I have always said that I despise conservatives who have never had anything more than a toothache and then tell people who have suffered to "get over it"

It appears, the toothache analogy was apt. In last week's New Yorker, (the Aug 29 issue, tattooed guy on the cover) Malcolm Gladwell examines the decaying state of the US health care system and begins asking why the poor have such bad teeth. The brief answer is that they spend their spare money on health care, so they can't afford to go to the dentist (which of course makes their health worse).

The big picture comes from a theory from economics called "moral hazard," which I had never heard of until I read the article. It seems to be strange combination of American individualism and that fact that most economists believe that world is a spreadsheet, not a planet.

Gladwell calls "moral hazard" an American obsession. A dangerous obsession, because it is behind not only the attack on public broadcasting here and in the US, it is behind the growing attack here on public health care in Canada.

Gladwell gives the example of an uninsured American with a broken hand who couldn't even afford a cast, so the doctor wrapped the hand in an Ace bandage.

What the theory (which originally came from studies of insurance) comes down to, it seems, that anything that supports an individual as part of a community, in the public sphere, is economically wasteful and, in conservative terms, immoral.

According to this idea, as Gladwell points out:

...those with health insurance are overinsured and their behaviour distorted by moral hazard. Those without health insurance use their own money to make decisions about insurance based on an assessment their needs. The insured are wasteful. The uninsured are prudent.

Yeah, and when I was an underpaid casual at CTV back in 1993, with no extra money for that sort of thing, and I had cancer, (and I did) what would I have done if we had a health care system like the United States? Most likely I wouldn't be writing this blog, my ashes would mixed with the sand on a BC beach. (And it is the way I was treated as a casual, mostly at CTV, with no health benefits beyond OHIP, that I strongly oppose the casualization of CBC).

If anything is a cult, a dangerous cult, it is this idea that public sphere is wasteful. It goes beyond whether or not you like the programming on CBC, it is simply this cult's conventional wisdom that to provide a public service to Canadians, whether it is CBC radio in the North or making sure a casual with cancer gets health care, is a waste of the taxpayers' money. What's next, roads and sewers? Am I, as an individual, going to become responsible for whatever meterage of water, sewer and road is outside my house?

One last note. The British and Australian POWs I describe in The Sonkrai Tribunal set up a society of survival, where cooperation and a buddy system kept men alive.

As part of this research, I found out about another POW camp (where some of the same unfortunate men ended up later in the war) with largely American prisoners. In this camp (unlike some POW camps with many Americans) the rugged individualism, every man for himself, anything for a buck, attitude prevailed. Because of that men died who may have lived.

The result was a society always on the brink.

The outcome was a secret postwar court martial. I obtained four thousand pages of documents on that trial under the Freedom of Information Act. I hope to write about that someday, but for now, the current book is taking up my time and again, so far, publishers have shown no interest in a "bad news" book about US servicemen.

The real moral hazard comes from the destruction of the public sphere in society.

Update: A comment on CBCwatch also points out that Coyne gets paid for his appearances on CBC TV.

Another comment recognizes that the satellite services are growing and inevitable and then says:

Out of 175 new [satellite radio] channels only 6 will carry Canadian content. It is only a matter of time before this pattern will transfer onto the TV screen as well.

How then can any new emerging Canadian actors, writers, directors, singers or other performing artists hope to survive, let alone break through?

In truth, this will accelerate a process already begun. Artists will have to write, sing or perform material so neutral that no one could tell if they came from Newfoundland or California.

The only question remaining is, does anyone care?

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Saturday, August 27, 2005
  CBC XXXI: Now we know ...blame the Republicans

The "Huh?" blog of the day that showed up on a search is the theory that the American Republican Party wants to take over the CBC. So that's why we're locked out, blame Dick Cheney.

A New York blog called Media Needle reprints another blog about the increasing Republican domination of National Public Radio (for those unfamiliar with NPR it's roughly the equivalent of CBC Radio).

"Morse" an anonymous blogger says:

I didn't hear this segment on NPR, but it's a sad indictment of what used to be the last balanced media outlet in the country. What's next on the Republican agenda? Maybe infiltrating the CBC?

I'm not sure if this guy even knows about the lockout, there are no other references to CBC on the blog.

The original post he is referring to is on Rising Hegemon, a pro-Democrat blog, about the appearance of a Republican analyst on an NPR program.

The world is getting too weird.

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  CBC XXX: The Guardian is covering the blog war
Just got an e-mail to say that The Guardian in the UK is now covering the blog war. You'll find it in the Online Slog column by Jane Perrone.

She singles out this blog and me, which is why I am getting e-mail about it. She also mentions the Guild Ontheline website but unfortunately calls it a strike site.

Good summary of the issues as far as blogs are concerned. No mention of the dispute over the BBC, but perhaps the blog watch column is not the place for it.

And you as you would expect in a quality British broadsheet, some of the most intelligent comments on the issue I have read so far among blogs that allow comments.

One makes it clear how needed the CBC is in rural Canada.

And Perrone quotes the Toronto Star on how the no-chatter sports coverage could change the way TV handles sports, and a couple of the comments agree.

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  CBC XXIX: All's fair in love, war and lockouts

More from the "do you want your old job back" department I mentioned yesterday.

TVO's Studio Two is trying for a hot, hot launch of its new season on Monday August 29. The current affairs show had already announced they'd brought the staff back early because of the CBC lockout. It now seems they're doing more than just stealing a march on the Corp, they are hoping for that hot season launch to grab current affairs deprived viewers. So Studio Two began calling former TVO employees now locked out at CBC and offered short term deals to boost the staff for that launch. At least one producer accepted that offer. There may be more if the lockout drags on.

The most interesting story I heard last night, and at this point let's call it good gossip from a reliable source, is that some of the senior producers in the French arm of the CBC, SRC, are extending the hand of friendship to locked out CBC Francophone or bilingual employees, if they want to return to Quebec and fill empty spots temporarily. Most of these offers are personal from former bosses. But the word is that at least one talented technical person is being wooed with a staff job, to come back, with the family, to la belle province.

That gets me a little worried. Are the top ranks at SRC just helping out folks, or do they have an idea that this mess is going to go long and they're poaching?

(I went out last night to get away from all this, including the blog, cause I had to get out of the house and not to go the TBC, and because friends are saying they like the blog but I am doing a lot of posts.

But you can't get away from this. You go to a bar, you meet friends and they ask you how you are doing. Then, reliable source you've known for some years comes up to you on the street and gives you a tip.)

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Friday, August 26, 2005
  A job at the CBC (chairperson's job that is)

Although the posting for the job of CBC Chairperson has apparently disappeared from online postings, it was published in the Canada Gazette and so I received the following by e-mail from a friendly source.

Chairperson (part-time position)

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Canada's national public broadcaster, was created by an Act of Parliament on November 2, 1936, and now operates under the 1991 Broadcasting Act. As a federal Crown corporation and member of the Canadian Heritage Portfolio, the CBC is responsible for providing, in both official languages, national radio, television and Internetbased services to all regions of the country. The CBC provides a wide range of programming that reflects Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic creativity and is specifically mandated with the responsibility of reflecting the realities of Canada’s multicultural, multiracial and Aboriginal communities in its television and radio programming.

The board of directors is responsible for the fulfilment of the purposes and the management of the business, activities and affairs of the corporation. The chairperson is primarily responsible for the effective operation of the Board and ensures the proper conduct of the board meetings in such a way that the corporation carries out its mandate and objectives effectively, provides good value for the funding provided by taxpayers, remains viable and holds management accountable for its performance. The chairperson also ensures that the Board reviews, approves and monitors the corporation’s strategic direction.

The successful candidate must have a degree from a recognized university and experience in the field of broadcasting. Significant experience managing at the senior executive level in large, complex private or public sector organizations as well as significant board experience, preferably as a chairperson, are also essential. In order to achieve the corporation’Äôs objectives and carry out its mandate, the chairperson must be a person of sound judgement and integrity and must have superior interpersonal and communications skills. The ideal candidate must be able to develop effective relationships and trust with the Minister and her Office, the Deputy Minister, the corporation's senior management, and the CBC’s partners and stakeholders and be able to act as a spokesperson in dealing with the media, public institutions, governments and other organizations.

The preferred candidate must be knowledgeable of the CBC’s mandate and have financial literacy. The chosen candidate must also have an excellent understanding of global, societal, and economic trends, stakeholder concerns, the Government's current policy agenda, and how all of these relate to the CBC. Knowledge of the roles of the chairperson, the board of directors and the President and CEO and of effective board processes is required. Proficiency in both official languages is an asset.

The Government is committed to ensuring that its appointments are representative of Canada's regions and official languages, as well as of women, Aboriginal peoples, disabled persons and visible minorities.

The board of directors meets seven to eight times per year at Headquarters and various CBC production offices located across Canada.

No person may be appointed or continue as chairperson if the person is not a Canadian citizen who is ordinarily resident in Canada and/or if, directly or indirectly, as owner, shareholder, director, officer, partner or otherwise, the person (a) is engaged in the operation of a broadcasting undertaking; (b) has any pecuniary or proprietary interest in a broadcasting undertaking; or (c) is principally engaged in the production or distribution of program material that is primarily intended for use by a broadcasting undertaking.

The selected candidate will be subject to the principles set out in Part I of the Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders. To obtain copies of the Code, visit the Office of the Ethics Commissioner's Web site at oec-bce/site/pages/ethics-e.htm.

This notice has been placed in the Canada Gazette to assist the Governor in Council in identifying qualified candidates for this position. It is not, however, intended to be the sole means of recruitment. Applications forwarded through the Internet will not be considered for reasons of confidentiality.

Interested candidates should forward their curriculum vitae by September 2, 2005, in strict confidence, to the Director, Portfolio Affairs Office, Canadian Heritage, 25 Eddy Street, 3rd Floor, Room 88, Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0M5, (819) 994-8097 (fax). Further details about the corporation and its activities can be found on its Web site at Bilingual notices of vacancies will be produced in alternative format (audio cassette, diskette, braille, large print, etc.) upon request. For further information, please contact Canadian Government Publishing, Public Works and Government Services Canada, Ottawa, Canada K1A 0S5, (613) 941-5995 or 1-800-635- 7943.

A brief comment:

Note the paragraph on the mandate:

The CBC provides a wide range of programming that reflects Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic creativity and is specifically mandated with the responsibility of reflecting the realities of Canada’s multicultural, multiracial and Aboriginal communities in its television and radio programming.

That is also a definition of public broadcasting in Canada. It is also a service that cannot be provided by the private sector. So why aren't we doing what we are supposed to be doing? And can that job be done by temps?

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  CBC Lockout XXVIII: "There will be hell to pay"

NDP leader Jack Layton, his wife, Olivia Chow and Ontario MPP Marilyn Churley visited the picket line outside the Toronto Broadcast Centre this morning. The quote of the day from Layton's speech; "If this is still going on when the Commons resumes there will be hell to pay."

There are developments today on all political fronts.

Susan Delacourt in the Toronto Star reports heavy pressure in the Liberal caucus to bring a settlement.

And Canadian Media Guild officials say they are hearing that Conservatives in rural ridings, especially in the West, are getting an earful from their constituents about what has happened to CBC Radio. With a lot less or even no news on private radio and a lot of the shows syndidcated by satellite, CBC Radio is quite often the only service that serves rural Canada. Layton also mentioned the same complaints in his speech, telling an audience of several hundred locked out CBC staff that satellite syndication doesn't serve Canadians.

What is the big announcement?

There is a new manager who has started blogging, "Charlie" on the Quietly Typing blog And no one is sure if this one is legit or not. The early consensus on Ouimet's Tea Makers is that Charlie is a phony.

I am no longer sure Charlie is entirely phony. Charlie's second post claims there will be a big announcement from the CBC next week:

Rumour has it that the corp will be making a major announcement next week. Details are sketchy, so I won't get into any speculation at this time. However, the anticipated announcement is rumoured to have very little, or nothing to do with negotiations

There may be something to this. A friend I met on the picket line this morning, who just returned from Quebec, without knowing about the blog, mentioned to me that there are similar rumours swirling through Place Radio Canada about some big announcement.

(So Charlie could be a manager or could be someone from Montreal pretending to be a manager).

Possiblities mentioned on the line.

A new chair for the CBC? Coincidently Tod Maffin says that job has just been posted with the close for applications Sept. 2. So next week is too soon for the new chair. (Interestingly the online version of the posting seems to have been removed soon after Tod's blog story appeared)

A replacement for Slawko. Possibly? (also mentioned in the comments on Quietly Typing)

Something unexpected?

I also note that the comments on Quietly Typing accused Charlie of raising paranoia. Could be, could be the rumour in Montreal started as disinformation (how's that for paranoia). We'll just have to wait and see if there is anything to it.

(Details and tips always welcome at the e-mail address in the right hand column)

Talent raids

Not much to report in talent raiding.

A number of people report getting offers of short term casual work mostly from friends, work that will help fill the gap. Others have had "if you want your old job back, we'd really like to have you" calls. No one, it seems, is ready to make a move yet. (I have had one of the former offers, but for now my other time is spent trying to get the edits done on The Sonkrai Tribunal.)

Nothing more on the foreign correspondent talent raid, so I have no knowledge at this point if the job offers were even considered or if any of those involved are now in negotiations with a prospective employers.

In conversation today, however, I was told that the offers I reported earlier this week may not have been new but they may have been long standing invitations that have been renewed with the rise of Al Jazeera and the lockout, just like the people I mentioned in the first graph, who are getting calls from friends.

If there is no sign of movement in negotiations by Labour Day, when almost everyone from CBC Toronto will likely march in the annual parade, then there may be some moves on the job front.

Update 8:23 Friday

Any good reporter knows that a good camera person is worth their weight in gold.
CBC lockoutee Camera guy found an ad for camerapersons for Al Jazeera and has already sent in his resume. Closing date for the camera jobs is September 5.

But the e-mail address appears to be generic folks, (no spam style)

Thanks for the tip!

Note there other jobs on the site on their internatonal TV jobs index page, including ironically two at CBC, including a national reporter's job in Ottawa that expired on August 16. There are also two SRC correspondent's jobs posted on the site, one for Paris and one for Washington, both also expired. So check the dates on any ads elsewhere.

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  CBC lockout XXVII : Notes of a blog war correspondent 7

Brief notes today, since I have a full agenda downtown at the TBC and elsewhere. I usually pick up some news on the picket line, if I hear anything, I will post, otherwise probably one commentary on a related issue this evening.

Podcast again

The Hobson and Holtz report podcast followed up their earlier report on the lockout podcasting plans in their Thursday 'cast.

I know a number of people at CBC Radio whom I respect are expressing doubts about our podcasting plans.

Well folks, in the it's already happening so you better live with it department, I suggest you listen to the whole show either live on the computer (it's an hour) or save it (right click,save target as)for later listening.

It's well produced, kind of laid back, and it welcomes contributions from its listeners, and sometimes includes items with production as well.

This may be heresy, but as I listened I had a thought. If Peter Gzowski was still around today, he would be the world's best podcaster.

(Disclosure: The podcast gives plugs to my site and to Tod Maffin).


Most of the anti-CBC comments on blogs and sites use simple, direct and not-too-nice language. Here is a site that wants the CBC back in the same way

Falling off the news agenda

When we had the meeting at Metro Hall to discuss the alternative news site, some people wanted to continue the outreach and activism effort saying the alternative news site would take away from that. Others, however, warned that we all know how fast a story can fall off the news agenda. It's already happening. I have seen nothing new under CBC on Google News since lunchtime Thursday.

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Thursday, August 25, 2005
  CBC lockout XXVI: Flexibility, innovation and Vblogging

Who says we're not flexible and innovative?

As one of our union negotiators keeps telling the other side, "you get 90-day ideas from 90-day people and five year ideas from staff people."

Well I really hope it never comes to this. (And if it does it will be weeks, not years)

But at today's Toronto tech meeting for the CBCunplugged alternative site, we had a brief discussion of Vblogging. That's on the very bottom of our to do list, but it's there, just in case.

Yipe! some of my friends who last week had never even heard of podcasting may say. "What is Vblogging?"

Vblogging, of course, is Video blogging.

One site, vBlog Centra1 says

Videos, even low quality ones, make a blog much more interesting. When you put video in your blog you get a videoblog, or vblog, for short. They are also known as vidblogs, vlogs, or vogs
There's been streaming video and video clips on the web for 10 years. But now cheap cameras, inexpensive servers and the pace of technology has meant that the video blog is coming up fast, very fast.

Vloggers even had a small convention in New York last January. You can see some of the convention video here.

If you have a Mac, you'll see better stuff on the macTV Videocast site and note Mac has tied this to Itunes, one of the legitimate sources of music for Ipods. (and so there is a connection with podcasting)

Steve Rubel of Micropersuasion has created an index of his posts on Vlogs, including a story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Registration required) on how American Christians have leaped on vblogging to spread their word.

And here is what Wikpedia says on Vlogs


There is a small but growing number of vloggers who feel that videoblogging transforms the Internet into a medium in which people can communicate audiovisually through personal video posts and globally network with people as well as to create new independent programming and content not controlled by major broadcasting networks or cable outlets. These practices revolutionize online communication.

The alternative news site is going to be text, followed by audio. This is sort of retracing the evolution of the media. A text site (print) followed by audio (radio) and there is a lot of work to be done on that, a lot of work. After radio, of course, came television.

There are a lot of talented people out on the street from CBC television. If someone can do a vlog from their living room or a small church can use it to spread their gospel, imagine, just imagine, what the producers, camera people, artists and technicians of CBC TV could do with this--if we had to.

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  CBC lockout XXV: An issue of balance

I don't go to the CBC homepage very often at the moment. But one of my browsers is, for now, set to go to CBC and I just noticed this.

The generic corporate logo and front page for are gone. Instead the front page carries the CBC News banner.

On the right side, not under a corporate logo, but under a news banner, is one link. To CBC management's side in this dispute.

I have absolutely no objection, if the CBC, as a corporation, wants to direct visitors to a site that gives the corporation's point of view, just as the Canadian Media Guild site, which is a union site, directs visitors to its point of view. The CMG is not saying it is a news site.

Most of the employee blogs which are tracking this dispute, including mine, (which borrows the code from Tod Maffin) include links to both the CBC and CMG sites.

But for CBC News to have that one link and only that link is a direct violation of CBC journalistic standards on balance and fairness.

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  CBC lockout XXIV: Who is hardest hit?

So who is hardest hit by the lockout?

A lot of people. But for this purposes of this blog I am going to single out a handful of managers.

I am told there are a couple of the out-of-town managers locked into the Toronto Broadcast Centre, (and perhaps more) whose partners are locked out members of the Canadian Media Guild back home in "the regions."

So CBC upper management has torn apart families in a double way. Not just the problem where one is a member of management and the other the locked out Guild. The CBC has sent one parent thousands of miles away and left the other partner to deal with all the problems at home. "Where's Daddy? When's he coming home?"

At least the US military in Iraq sets up video links for separated families. The CBC can't do that, even though the technology is right there, all the regional centres are shut down tight.

There are several management-union partnerships in Toronto, but those couples get to go home at the end of the day.

And for members of the union we get to go home to our families after our shift on the picket line.

The out-of-town managers don't get to do that. They go back to hotel rooms.

They don't like it. Picket captains are reporting that more of those out-of-town managers who have the courtesy to wait a couple of minutes before going in are saying how much they miss their families and dread to think how long this will go on.

As I was snapping pictures of the waitees at the Wellington St. entrance this afternoon, one manager, a tall woman I didn't recognize, asked me not to take her picture. Then she said, "This isn't personal. I had to do this. I don't like this any more than you do."

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  CBC Lockout XXIII: "Fire seven managers" and other notes

John Doyle in this morning's Globe and Mail comments on what he says is the high ratio of managers to employees at the CBC, at least in the department he used to deal with, the outsourced communications department.

The normal ratio, Doyle says is one manager for every eight to eleven employees. At the CBC Doyle says it is one manager for every 2.3 employees.

That reminded me of an incident that happened in the first round of Martin's deficit fighting cutbacks about a decade ago.

CBC News management decided to end its long-standing relationship with the Reuters video news feed (which had begun when it was Visnews).

A senior workling journalist went to the manager to object.

"But we have to save $700,000 a year," the manager said.

"That's easy," the journalist replied, "fire seven managers."

(By the way for those who are outside Toronto or Canada who want to read Doyle's column, you can't, unless, in Canada, you go to a corner newspaper box. It's behind the Globe's pay wall. Back in April, on my other blog, on research, I commented on how stupid that is. See: A list of best US newspapers for web research )

Other notes

Maffin's news site

Tod Maffin has created a special news page for his excellent lockout coverage, so what was on the main page of his blog is now consolidated on the news page.

I have also borrowed Tod's code and added a list of the CBC blogs to the right side of The Garret Tree.

So with both Tod and John Gushue in St. John's covering the daily news of the lockout, I am going to continue my original idea of looking at the long term implications of the lockout. So consider me the op ed for those guys.

Another manager

Another manager, "Rue," has joined the ranks of the bloggers. Unfortunately the first post is a personal attack on John Doyle by a person who is angry and frustrated. My problem with this post is that it comes close (but doesn't cross that line) of the nasty, small-minded and vindictive blogs from the mostly anonymous CBC haters out in blogsphere (or blogosphere if you prefer).

Rue, get some exercise. It's amazing how walking around and around each day actually calms you down and helps centre your thoughts. There are a lot of very angry, very calm people on those picket lines. (Maybe my next book should be Zen and walking on a picket line) If you're from Toronto, walk around the block, if you're one of those stuck in a crummy hotel room walk down to the lakeshore since you can't be seen walking the line.

(Personal disclosure: My assignment is as one of the photographers for the newsletter. I walk the line every day, usually in the opposite direction. I don't carry a sign, I carry a camera. I do, however, wear a button.)

Ouimet is back, and she (the consensus seems to be that Ouimet is she), on other hand, says John Doyle is 90 % right.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005
  CBC lockout XXII: Alternative news and podcast en francais
The CBCunplugged alternative news site will be bilingual.

What few people know is that Francophones outside the province of Quebec and Moncton area are also deprived of regular SRC news and current affairs coverage. SRC employees across the rest of the country are on the picket lines.

So CBCunplugged will also be SRC déconnectée, mais tours branchée.

Which means that CBC/SRC maybe unplugged but we are always connected.

As with the English language site, the plan is to start with a news text site first and move to audio later.

Both services will exchange stories and story ideas.

(For those who were once inside and are now outside we're saying "That's integration!")

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  CBC lockout XXI: The talent raids have begun
Timing, as we know, is everything.

CNN and possibly the other American networks are raiding CBC talent. At least three high profile CBC correspondents apparently have received generous offers from CNN.

Why now?

It is generally thought that CBC management timed the lockout to as a pre-emptive strike against the CMG so that the Guild would not be in a better bargaining and strike position just before the start of the hockey season. If Guild members have been on the picket lines for six weeks, the thinking goes, they would be more inclined to settle in time for Canadians to hear that familiar theme music.

But the butterfly in all this (Chaos theory: remembering a butterfly flapping its wings causing a storm elsewhere) is Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera is setting up an English-language satellite service to compete with CNN and the BBC. (See story in the Times Online in June)

As the CBC counted down to the lockout, Al Jazeera, I am told, was raiding its rivals. There already have been some significant defections, among correspondents, producers and better technical people at what we call the "Amnets" and in the U.K.

That means the network world is churning. With Al Jazeera hiring and the other networks now forced to fill the gaps left by people who jump to Al Jazeera, one place everyone is going to look at is the talent that CBC management has forced on the street.

(That happened in a smaller way here in Canada 11 years ago when the speciality channels began. After a couple of years when nobody moved because of the recession, suddenly people were jumping every day, including me, I went from being a badly treated casual at CTV to a somewhat better treated casual at CBC)

Antonia Zerbisias of the Star reported last week that Robert Hurst at CTV was also planning a raid. So far as I know, he hasn't made his move. The consensus among the ordinary folks at CTV is that Hurst is holding out until CBC people get a little more desperate so they might come a little cheaper.

When I worked with Bob Hurst at CTV, he was a wide-ranging foreign correspondent and I was a writer on the desk. In those days we called him "Rambo." It may be time for Hurst to put on his old vest and move fast if he doesn't want to see the people on his list on another network's screens.

(There is a job button on the Al Jazeera website, but there is no information about the new network).

I am told Al Jazeera wants a diverse set of faces on the air so it has legitimacy around the world, the kind of people CBC has been recruiting for the past few years.
Of course, one of the problems is that while CBC may lose some of its stars or potential stars, it won't help many of the people now pounding the pavement.

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  Blogging: My policy on anonymous e-mails

I am receving anonymous web-based e-mail to this blog. The first one that I received that sounded legitimate was about CTV Newsnet going live, the second tipped to me that the managers were monitoring the lockout blogs. A couple of others were clearly not reliable and one was probably spam although it had CBC in the subject line.

Today I was able to confirm that the managers inside the Toronto Broadcast Centre are following the various blogs both by locked out CMG members and others, as I mentioned in an earlier post. That e-mail also gave me a chance at a chuckle.

If I receive and post an anonymous e-mail I will identify it as such in any blog post.

If I post stories, it means that I have been able to confirm the e-mail from at least two sources in addition to the anonymous e-mail.

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  CBC lockout XX: Has balance gone out along with the journalists?

Pat Robertson crosses the line--to CBC

How is the ombudsman at CBC going to deal with this? C.C. Radio VP Jane Chalmers and Radio News managers.

Since I am not listening to CBC Radio I cannot confirm this story, and having dealt with myself with complaints to the ombudsman (sent down through channels) I know some are legitimate, some are off the wall, some are one sided and most often the complaints are a little bit of all three.

According a letter posted on a website called, CBC Radio (or CBC Radio managers) filled the airtime with what appears to be raw audio of US tele-evangelist Pat Robertson's call for the murder of the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez Frias.

So this is what it's come to. If this is true, one has to weep.
Despite what the right claims, the one thing that is drilled into everyone at CBC day after day is balance, balance, balance.

CBC Radio News is the jewel in the crown at the CBC, for the media in Canada. And now it apparently has been reduced to running raw tape. Maybe Radio News is picking up hints from TV Sports on how to operate but this isn't football.

If Newsworld had been on, if there had been As It Happens, or The Current or the current affairs portion of the National, Canadians would have heard analysis of the story from all sides, the kind of analysis I saw on CNN (and probably appeared on NewsNet but I was at the TBC most of the day).

Again if anyone in authority inside the TBC would send me their side of this issue, I will post it.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005
  CBC lockout XIX: Notes of a blog war correspondent 6

Today's most interesting blog comes from MisterBryans. It appears from the links on his blog that he likes Cuban music, doesn't like Conrad Black and supports the NDP.

He first weighed in on August 18, taking aim at all those people who say they like the current classical music on the dial position normally held by the CBC, including Russell Smith in the Globe and Mail.

This is a very common attitude amongst the cultural elite of this country. They place a higher value on classical music than other genres. Classical music already gets most of the money from the music departments of the Canada Council and the Ontario Council - symphony orchestras are expensive! - so in effect what Russell Smith wants to do is turn all the public, tax generated funding for music over to one genre.
Unfortunately for Russell Smith we all pay for the CBC. And the rest of us think so-called classical music is important - but then so is jazz, so is world music, and so is folk-roots music. The CBC, when it gets up and running again - has to reflect these genres - or it isn't doing it's job.

This evening he picked up Ouimet's question about where is Robert Rabinovich in all this and goes on to say:

With this present CBC lockout, it's difficult to see if the CBC management has any idea about what they are doing. If their strategy is to beat down the union with a six month lockout - there wont be much of an audience left when the thing is settled. (Except for Hockey Night In Canada) Do they think the audience is just gonna flow back to Andy Barrie's Radio One morning show in Toronto as soon as he shows up for work? Do they think there will be an audience who even remembers where CBC Newsword is for the crucial second season of George Stroumboulopoulos' The Hour? Maybe CBC management thinks so - I sure don't.
And the best part:

And returning to the NHL lockout, if the owners wanted to risk losing half their audience to other sports and entertainment activities with an extended lockout - that was their business - they owned the teams

But CBC management don't own the 'Corpse', we do, the Canadian audience, the Canadian taxpayer, the Canadian arts community who have been supplying the CBC with much of their content for years now.

So the CBC management better have a clear idea of what they are doing here and they had better start conveying it real soon
Other blogs

Not that much interesting tonight. A large number of "aside" comments about the CBC on quite a few blogs. Unfortunately most refer the situation as a strike, when, of course, it is a lockout.

Bill Doskoch quotes from Joe Fiorito in the Toronto Star

The workers aren't the problem. ...

The real test of CBC management?

No new Gzowski, no new Frum. I doubt they'd be hired today if they walked in off the street.

A national corporation whose currency is ideas cannot maintain its position of excellence — excellence is the true "edge" — with the use of disposable workers.

I think senior management is frightened by the intelligence, the creativity and the inexplicable loyalty of the workforce. I think middle management does not know how to manage talent or foster creativity

And Parkdale Pictures has a whole series of entries today. Among the more interesting:

Being locked out is almost a kin to a funeral. Friends you never hear from suddenly show up in nice clothes to offer their best wishes, pat you on the back a few times and then disappear again. You won't hear from them until the next funeral.

Case in point: labour unions. There is nothing organized labour like more than worker misfortune. So it was only a matter of time before they came out in their best duds to offer us a few 'solidarity forever' chants. Today it's the Canadian Labour Congress. I don't know much about CLC boss Ken Georgetti but I sure miss Bobby White. He must be fishing up at the cottage.

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  CBC lockout XVIII: Mr. Stursberg meet Mr. Spock
Quick notes on my return from the front (the Toronto Broadcast Centre)

(Can't resist the alliteration in the headline)

Got home from the lockout concert at the Toronto Broadcast Centre and found an e-tip from an anonymous webmail address. No way of knowing if it is genuine, from a manager, perhaps even Ouimet, from a fellow lockoutee or a member of the public who 1)knows something or 2) is playing mischief.

The note tells me that the blogs have a growing audience among the managers inside the Toronto Broadcast Centre. Some are genuinely interested in what is happening to people they know. But the other managers are apparently tracking to get an idea of the mood on the picket lines and just in case there is something they have to respond to officially.

That reminded me of the episode in the original Star Trek when the aliens threatened the Enterprise computers, so Mr. Spock give a priority command that had the computer calculate pi, indefinitely, tying up all the resources. So the more blogs there are, the more the managers have to click and and and check.

Blogs today

Antonia Zerbisias reminds us today that The Toronto Star was founded when the Toronto Daily News (which died, I believe, during the First World War) locked out its printers in November 1892. So 21 printers and four teenage apprentices got together and published a four page paper, The Daily Star.

She also says, and I agree:

Some workers fear that, by competing with CBC, they'll be signing their own death warrant. That's the more pessimistic view. I believe it will show CBC that there are other ways to reach Canadians -- especially those hard-to-reach young Canadians -- that have eluded CBC management until now.

Although the comments aren't kind, more CBC haters.

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  It only took 24 years
So I tune into Canada AM this morning (I usually watch my colleagues at Newsworld Morning). Up comes a commercial from Sears Canada which promotes the new Sears catalogue on CD.

That brought back memories. Twenty-four years ago there was something that would later be called New Media. In those days the idea was that data would be transmitted from a mainframe to a TV set. That was called videotex. Or on one of the black bars at the bottom of the TV picture (the vertical blanking interval). That was called teletext and it still exists as a minor outlet in the UK.

My first job in videotext was in the London. I came back to Canada and went to work for Southam's Infomart project(is now an online library service). The problem with the project (apart from the fact there was no way the public could see it) was that it was run by bunch of ex-hardware jocks, most from IBM, and fast-talking salesmen. One of those salesman convinced Sears to put the catalogue on the videotext system and create a sort of online ordering system. That was the main source of income for the project. Didn't last long. Can you imagine a catalogue with 1981-82 vintage computer graphics?

Oh yeah, about the time the Informart project got into financial trouble, the CBC started its own teletext experiment, Project Iris. That lasted from 1982 to 1984 when it was killed in the first round of Mulroney cutbacks.

It wasn't just the CBC trying it out. NBC, by coincidence, which never got off the ground, killed their project the same day as the CBC. CBS kept their's going for another couple of months. By the fall of 1984, the only people in North America watching were the CBC test homes in Toronto (200) and Buffalo (about 20 if I remember.)

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Monday, August 22, 2005
  CBC lockout XVII: Notes of a blog war correspondent 5

More of today's blogs on CBC.

From Locked Out Employee in Winnipeg.
The BBC is bascially telling us colonials to take a hike: "licensing bulletins to terrestrial broadcasters around the world is a standard business practice for BBC World as a commercial channel."

And what happens next time the Beeb needs a personal favour from a CBC journalist or technician?

The making of a Podcast
Shel Holz gives background on how today's podcast on the plans for CBCunplugged came about.

He doesn't like Coronation Street?

Jordon Cooper in Saskatoon doesn't like Coronation Street ( The Street's fans can find his e-mail on his blog), likes the Passionate Eye and Deadline Iraq, but like many others seems to think the CBC is a left wing version of Fox News.

Give us back the CBC
A librarian who has just returned to Winnipeg from out of the country can't get CBC again!

What are those managers saying on the air?
Posted today, so it gives an excuse to have a chuckle. Apparently after the American language police went after Garrison Keillor, now the US company that syndicates Ideas is warning public radio stations about the bad language we produce at the Corp.

Rachel's space
She likes the reruns of 22 Minutes.

So that's what happened to that picket sign
A blog from a teen who visited the TBC and took home a picket sign. Put it to good use Chris!

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  CBC lockout XVI: A view on the "strike newspaper"

A guest blog from my online colleague, Andrew Lundy, locked out senior producer of CBC Online Sports.

In May, 1998, the 30-odd newsroom staff at The Standard in St. Catharines went on strike -- the first time in the paper's 100-plus year history -- after talks to come up with a first contract broke down.

The reporters, editors and photographers decided that, in addition to picketing, we'd also start our own strike paper, The Independent. There were two main reasons: one, to show the quality of work we were capable of, and two, to drain advertising dollars away from the parent company, hurting them enough to get them bargaining from a more acceptable position.

Working on the paper was one of the hardest things I ever did. While also a member of the bargaining committee, I routinely pulled 18-hour days (as did many of my colleagues) reporting, editing and laying out the paper. Most of the striking reporters wrote good stories, the copy desk edited and laid out a quality publication, and the photogs produced some great pics. We even had an advertising guy who recently retired from The Standard helping sell our ad space.

We published three weekly issues, each of which broke news that The Standard (then staffed by replacement workers and managers) did not, and featured several local advertisers who diverted their money away from The Standard.

The paper was distributed free, so we couldn't rightly claim to be cutting into the main newspaper, but the ads did help pay for our costs, along with the generous help of CEP, (Communications, Energy and Paperworkers) our union. Once the stike was settled, the paper disappeared.

Overall, it was a fun, exhausting, and most would say worthwhile experience.

But the comparison with launching a lockout news web site may not be appropriate. St. Catharines had only one major medium, The Standard, so readers were looking for a quality alternative. Not so with the web. If isn't up to snuff (and it certainly isn't),
in my opinion, people are much more likely to go to CNN or BBC or, rather than to the lockout news site.

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  CBCunplugged: A podcast about our (future) podcast

Some folks locked out from CBC are still unsure about what a podcast is.

So this just in...a podcast about our planned CBC unplugged podcast from the
The Hobson and Holtz Report for August 22.

The whole show is 80 minutes long, but the site gives the time code for just what we want. (Take note CBCunplugged planners)

15:06 How both sides in a bitter labour dispute are using online communication - Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) locks out employees, who start podcasting radio shows and blogging their views

21:31 Howard Harawitz on the CBC picket line in Halifax, Canada - interview with Jean LaRoche, CBC reporter, on the use of the internet as a means for employees to communicate their points of view; Shel and Neville discuss the broad potential issues (and opportunities) in labour disputes in future.

All you do is click on the button and you begin to download the MP3 file.

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  CBC scuttlebutt: A parliamentary inquiry?
Busy day on picket lines at CBC across the country Monday. It was pay day. First day of lockout pay.

So hundreds showed up at the Toronto Broadcast Centre.

That also meant the rumours were flying. And this is just a rumour, I could not track down the original source. It may be a death wish or it may be wishful thinking. The John Street scuttlebutt is that some Conservative MPs with no love for the CBC want a parliamentary inquiry into the CBC, its management, its operations, the all-important mandate and the future of Mother Corp.

But as was pointed out to me among the trees of Simcoe Park, with a minority government it could happen. And with a minority government that kind of inquiry could go anywhere, with MPs both in favour of the CBC and those who don't like us at all.

So if any of my colleagues from the Parliamentary Bureau are reading this and can get me reliable information, I will post it.

Note to MPs (if you're reading this) I have a late summer reading assignment for anyone, pro or anti CBC possibly planning an inquiry into the CBC. Get a hold of Senator Keith Davey's famous report on the state of the media in Canada back in the late 1960s. There are probably dozens of dusty copies somewhere in a warehouse in the National Capital Region. Read it, especially the chapter with the famous phrase that Canadian newsrooms were "boneyards of broken dreams." And ask do we want to go back to those days.

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  CBC lockout XV: Notes of a blog war correspondent 4

A very interesting post from Matt May at Podcasting today, so I decided to link to this one early.

Matt May reports on the plans for CBCunplugged. (May, you will recall, was the person who last week suggested that the NHL create a podcast.)

Some excerpts from his post CBC workers make a podcast of their own:

CBC has already been on the leading edge when it comes to podcasting (and in Quebec, baladodiffusion), so they're not exactly pushing the envelope, as I recommended of the NHL. What's happening in this case, however, is even more advanced: these reporters are circumventing their own medium. And what an opportunity to do so: 5,500 producers, technicians, writers, and on-air personalities are on the picket lines

And May says

I can't help but wonder what would happen if the lockout goes longer than a month or two. With the Canadian Media Guild counting their volunteer work on this project as part of the labor action, this new entity could be Canada's largest news-gathering operation overnight. In only a couple weeks' time, they could organize their own labor against their current employer (as newspaper workers have done when they are locked out), and produce their own programming as they see fit. They would only get a fraction of the CBC's audience to begin with, but over time, the listeners' loyalty to a given host or show would accrue to this new network, not the CBC. They have an opportunity not only to endure a protracted labor dispute, but to come out on the other side having reprogrammed their former network. CBC management may not notice this now, but once they do, they could realize what kind of trouble they're in.

Note May said "former network." That reminded me of a bunch of people who once threw together a little tabloid newspaper beside (or was it above?) a car wash on King Street in Toronto thirty years ago.

Will those Guild time sheets, sometime in the future, be the basis for stock allocation? Naaahhhhhhh.

But the right would love us, even though it would be the same people.

Monday's links

From CNET News
Canadian broadcasters wage labor war on the Web

(More soon)

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  CBC lockout XIV: We have a problem
Memo to:

Canadian Media Guild
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation middle managers who do the real work

Subject: We have a BIG problem

Among the people who are locked out at CBC across the country there are those who have one of those "dirty jobs but someone has to do it" kind. In this case I am referring to the people in Audience Relations, a producer at News Online, a hardworking woman at the National and junior folks at shows across the country, who have to weed through thousands of spam messages each day to find out what the Canadian public are thinking.

Believe me the CBC does pay attention to those letters. (Wonder who is handling them now? Or will the people mentioned above have to clean up the mess when/if they get back in).

This blog, thankfully, doesn't get much spam. I left comments turned off because I don't want to have go through "comment spam" and I am not going to make people register at yet another site. Anyway my e-mail box is there and I am getting a feel for what intelligent, articulate Canadians feel about this lockout.

I have come to the conclusion that we have a BIG problem, and it is not confined to the right-wing CBC haters whom we can never please no matter what we do.

The problem: A large number of articulate, intelligent Canadians seem to think we are the equivalent of the highly paid hockey and baseball players (also airline pilots)when they were off the job.

Thus there is this image out there that goes something like this. A promising young journalist (it is always a journalist in the blogs not a technical person), is spotted by a talent scout at a journalism school, spends a few months as a casual, lands a staff job and then lives off the taxpayer gravy train until they retire at 65.

The facts, of course, are very different.

First we have to look at one key factor in the CBC wage structure. With a national broadcaster that reaches across the country and a national union, the wages are paid nationally, not depending on the size of the local market. That means money that is okay in Toronto and barely adequate in Vancouver (with its expensive housing) is great in places like Nelson, BC or Gander, NL. So that impression, along with years of propaganda from the right, may the source of the problem.

To go back to the sports analogy. It's as if the AHL also got NHL salaries or AAA baseball got major league money. (And don't forget that often a lot of people in the AHL or AAA are as a good as or better as those in the majors)

The fact is, of course, that in the major markets, CBC salaries have steadily been falling behind for the past fifteen years. Before the lockout and now on the picket lines, people in Toronto are comparing what they get at CBC with CTV and other broadcasters, which at least in the technical areas is a lot more (the reason for the past two "labour disruptions" with the technicians) and, wistfully, with the American networks. (As one production assistant said the people in the US get four times the money and do half the work of people either at CBC or CTV).

This problem came very clear at during the past year or so. is a print service, and a print service needs copy editors, so we began hiring copy editors. But in the Toronto market the competition for a good copy editor is fierce, whether they are staff or casual. The Toronto daily newspapers pay a lot more money for a good copy editor
(about 10 to 12 percent).

So if the CBC wants a good, experienced casual copy editor, they have to compete with the day rates paid by the Globe, the Star and the Sun. At the moment the CBC can't compete. We get casual copy editors on days there isn't work at the big dailies.

The same is true for those casuals, usually in technical fields, that work all over the city, at Global, CTV, CITY and the speciality channels.

This is one factor upper management is ignoring in their quest for casualization. It may actually back fire, at least in Toronto and Vancouver. If they succeed, they may find that they are going to be more market driven than they want and have to chose between someone cheap and someone good.

That got me thinking. So as a photo editor, I can easily compare my salary with those on newspapers in various locations, since that information is generally available for papers with union contracts on union website s and unlike some other jobs in television, they are directly comparable.

I chose the position of assistant or deputy photo editor on the big metro dailies, and photo editor on the smaller ones (where their contracts don't mention deputy or assistant). Where an experience rate is mentioned, I chose the two years because I have done the job as photo editor for two years, even though I have been a web producer for 10 years and a journalist for almost 30.

So someone doing a similar job at Canadian Press (people I work with often when I am on the job at CBC) on The Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Sun, the Vancouver Province and the Vancouver Sun, gets $12,000 to $15,000 a year more than I do. I make roughly the same as a photo editor on the Kitchener Waterloo Record and I make about $18,000 more than someone on the Nelson Daily News, where CBC Radio has a bureau.

(I note that an assistant photo editor on the Toronto Sun, under the current contract, with four years on the job would get $16,000 more than I do).

I don't know how we overcome this impression that we are overpaid and do little work. BUT again no matter what happens in this dispute, it's a problem that has to be solved.

By the way, the CBC up until the last minute, refused to talk money until the CMG agreed to the CBC's request for casualization. Just before the lockout they did a table a money offer, which the CMG rejected. I suggest to my friends who are reporters and producers at CBC go to the newspaper contract websites and say what your print colleagues are getting.



It's not apples and oranges, its journalism.

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Sunday, August 21, 2005
  CBC Lockout XIII: Notes of a blog war correspondent 3

Today's blog links

Freyburg at
is so fed up with what's on CBC Newsworld, that he's thinking of stopping his cable subscription, dumping television and just using his X-Box.

Nova Scotia author Ami Mckay knows the freelance life and so she supports the Canadian Media Guild in this dispute.

A Queen's law student misses the CBC
and is hungry for law podcasts. (He also called it a strike, I've sent him a polite correction note.)

Edward Vielmetti,
who lives in Ann Arbor, Mi, and listens to CBC Windsor is waiting for the CBCunplugged podcast.

Podcast Broadcast has reprinted Steve Rubel's original note on the podcast plans.

Business Blog Consulting, posted information on CBCunplugged and the CBC blog war.
Correction: Based on the blog profile I orginally said the post was by Rick Bruner.
I have since received this note:
Business Blog Consulting is now a group blog, so Rick doesn't write everything.. The post you linked to about the CBC was actually written by me and I'm even Canadian!
Tristram Hussey, M.S.
CBO, Qumana Software — Managing Director, Qumana Services

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  CBC Lockout XII:Breaking news: Newsnet to go live, take on Newsworld

The network wars have begun

I am told by reliable sources that Monday at 1800 Eastern time, CTV Newsnet, which normally broadcasts its newscasts from an LMS server (Lineup Management System) which picks news items and their intros off a computer disk, will go live in the prime time early evening hours from 6 p.m. Eastern until 10 p.m. Eastern when the CTV National that goes on the main network to Atlantic Canada is broadcast on Newsnet. Once the kinks have been worked out CTV will expand the live newscasts into the afternoon, clearly poaching on the territory once held by CBC Newsworld. CTV had planned to do this sometime in the fall but the CBC lockout advanced plans and, apparently, the budget, for this move.

CTV actually made its opening gambit in the network wars shortly after midnight Sunday. The picket captains said all was quiet on John St. when suddenly there was the roar of trucks and a lot of flashing amber lights as a couple of cherry pickers parked across from the picket headquarters RV.
By morning, the crew had pasted huge billboards of CTV personalities all along the hydro substation wall on John Street across from the Toronto Broadcast Centre. When I left the picket line at 3 p.m. this afternoon the crew was installing more posters on the Wellington side of the hydro property. Must have cost CTV a bundle in night overtime for the billboard company to give the CBC a bit of a finger.

And can you confirm?

I also heard but cannot independently confirm that Global bought promo time from the field announcer at Saturday's CFL game between the Edmonton Eskimos and Toronto Argos. The CBC had planned to take the field announcement as an audio feed but for those who watched part of the game in the picket HQ the audio feed was terrible, inaudible one point and not bad for a few seconds before fading out again. Can anyone confirm that Global also gave a finger to the corp on Saturday??

Update Sunday 22:30

Vanessa Vandervalk, locked out in Saint John, N.B. writes:

In answer to your question, I tuned in to part of the game last night just to see what it looked like. I did in fact hear the announcer do a Global commercial over the PA system while CBC carried the feed. He talked about the new fall line up etc. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. However, the management sound people did drop his sound and switch to music over some graphics, but by then he'd said "Global" at least three times.

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  CBC lockout XI: A good cup of tea

There's a lot of speculation about the identity of Ouimet, the "manager" who runs the Tea Makers blog.

My colleague in Vancouver Tod Maffin is wondering today whether Ouimet is an individual manager or a committee of managers and whether or not the blog is genuine or a way of floating trial balloons from inside the broadcast centre. A couple of the commentators believe Ouimet is a real human being and a manager. (I am leaning toward that theory)

See it and resuting comments here:

Ouimet's manager's blog: The Most Popular. But is it real?

Well we know one thing Tod. Unlike the rest of us, so far, Ouimet has taken the weekend off. I think that proves he/she is a manager!!!!

Update 2100 Sunday, apologies to Ouimet

Ouimet was working the weekend, posting, I think, almost simulataneously with mine. So apologies whomever you are.

(NOTE to Ouimet. Are you updating the time stamp in Blogger before you post? The post below was not on your site when I checked Sunday morning. Yet now it shows a date of Saturday and a time of 11:55 a.m. Blogger keeps the time you begin writing a post. It's a good idea, if you save as draft and then update later, to manually update the time stamp.)

And he/she has a good point when the blog asks Where's Bobby? Where is Robert Rabinovich, the president of the CBC? Why is he letting Peter Stursberg, VP for English TV and Jane Chalmers, VP for English radio carry the ball and take all the heat?

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  Canada Votes 2045: The issues

(From news service to be determined later)

Canada Votes 2045: The issues

All the polls show that the hottest issue in the 2045 federal election is the sorry state of the Canada Pension Plan. With most of what is called the "echo boom" generation about to retire, most without any kind of company pensions and meagre RSPs, Canada is now facing a social implosion similar to the collapse of the U.S. social security system a decade ago.

"I have no sympathy for them," says retired Toronto Globe and Post columnist James Q. Kirk, 87, who still runs his own blog. "It was their social responsiblity to save throughout out their working years. It is not now and never will be the responsibility of the government and the taxpayer to bail them out. Why should my pension from the Globe be taxed for people who didn't save their money?"

"How was I supposed to save?" responded writer Leonard X. McCoy, 60. "I was always a casual or on a short term contract. The RSP top up money went for rent and food. I am going to be working as a casual until they take me into the retirement residence. You know, I remember the great CBC lockout of 2005 back when I was in university and they warned people about this."

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Saturday, August 20, 2005
  CBC lockout X: The photo debate

I just received an invitation from another blogger to respond to his post about my contention that if the public sends a photograph to the locked-out CBC, it is crossing a picket line.

Darren Barefoot writes:

Producer Robin Rowland claims that if people submit photos of news events to the CBC, “they are electronically crossing the lockout picket line.” This is utter nonsense. Robin should remember that the CBC is a publicly-owned institution. Its crucial role in keeping Canadians informed trumps his union’s short-term concerns. If you’re considering submitting a photo, weigh the options: more-informed populace or happier, locked-out TV producer. I know which way I’m leaning.

Beyond the issue of crossing the picket line, which I maintain is a valid stance, Darren's post puts me into a potential conflict of interest once the lockout is settled and I return to my job as CBCNews photo editor. So I am going to point folks to the debate among the photographic community itself.

The CBC and other news organizations around the world now routinely ask for free photos from the public and demand all rights to those photographs. During one of the recent hurricanes the American networks actually had on air promos asking for photos.

This gets to one of the issues behind the lockout and the problems with the media today when the corporate bean counters demand as many rights as possible for as little as possible.

When CBC asked for photos before the lockout the message board for the professional photographers in Eastern Canada had a vigorous debate.

You will find it at Freelancing at the CBC and you will see that many professional photographers are worried about the competition from public freebies.

I will make one comment about Darren's post where he says the CBC's "crucial role in keeping Canadians informed trumps his union’s short-term concerns." The CBC abandoned its crucial role when radio coverage of the storm was not available. Asking for a neat picture of a downed tree, whether or not it is free or paid for, has absolutely nothing to do with the public interest.

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  CBC lockout IX: Notes of blog war correspondent 2

So I do a quick post and go grocery shopping (lots of tinned pink salmon this week) with no intention of adding to the blog today. A couple of ideas for Sunday (which you will see then).

But I get home and the alerts are there....

The Guild announcement of a national news service and the growing blog war got attention in the last hour or so. (Also note CBC posts on Technorati have gone up from 20 every four hours a day ago to 20 every three hours today)

First from Business Week

which says (permanent link) :

I'm thinking how much easier it would be to cover labor negotiations in a world of blogs. I remember sitting outside closed doors, waiting for labor and management negotiators to emerge. It wasn't always easy to find others to talk to. Today it would be a breeze.

And then there's a link to a Halifax report on Topix Media News

And Clickable Culture

And IP Democracy

And another blog to watch Parkdale Pictures, which offers A Lockout Song for each day.

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  CBC lockout VIII: Notes of blog war correspondent

Management's first shot in the blog war

One of the most interesting blogs in this dispute comes from "Ouimet" who claims to be a manager inside the Toronto Broadcast Centre, who seems a little caught in the middle.

Today's very interesting development.

This morning the Guild announces the official plans for a news service. The information goes up on the Guild website and Todd Maffin's site. I saw the post just before 1100 eastern time and spent a few minutes on Google and writing before I posted my blog entry at 1115.

I noticed this only after I posted on my blog but 24 hours earlier, at 1109 on Friday the manager, Ouimet, on his/her Tea makers blog, announces suddenly that there will be CBC News soon and BBC feeds will be less apparent.

By Friday morning, the news that there would be a guild news site and newscast was out there in blogsphere. But the first major notice was when it first appeared on a big site, Podcasting News, at 1101 on Friday. Eight minutes later, Ouimet posts. Coincidence?

Another waste of taxpayers' money. We were told that managers were being trained for months before the lockout so they could produce something called CBC News. Nothing at all this week. Now with the pending Guild announcement, we have a response. Hmmmm

Antonia Zerbisia notes the blog war

In her Toronto Star blog, Antonia Zerbisia has noted the blog wars, calling it the Bloggerhood.

Interesting comment:

I only wish that some of these bloggers would speak directly to the audiences who miss their programs instead of (mostly) talking amongst and to themselves.

How about it folks?

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  CBC lockout VII: Lessons from history: The strike newspaper

What was being posted as tidbit and rumour, is now official, next week locked out Canadian Media Guild workers will launch their own, web-based, national news service.

Details were first on Todd Maffin's blog, I love radio.

Official statement from the Canadian Media Guild

Guild Media News Service

It seems a lot of people across the country had the same idea around the same time. It reminds me of the early days of the web at CBC, where again innovation came from the ground up, not from management. While there were a couple of experimental official websites, most of the action came from producers who set up their own sites. (That later proved to be a bit a headache when it all had to be integrated into the official site). But things have come together over the past couple of days.

Putting out a newspaper during a strike has been a long tradition in the business. This is however is something entirely new, a full fledged national news operation, and web based. It is something that J-profs will be using for Phd theses for years to come.

With that in mind I Googled to see if I could find a reliable account of a strike newspaper.

(Hey I am well aware we're locked out...but the traditional term is strike newpaper. Maybe we'll change that. Copy editors or writers out there, do you have any suggestions for a neutral term? Send me your suggestions and I will post them.)

There is a fragment of history on the Online Journalism least when I clicked it seemed that for some reason not all the pages have survived, sort of like being a web archaeologist. Keeping the pressure on . It's worth reading.

The Guild in Seattle wrapped the account of an Internet based strike newspaper with this article.
How the Internet Settled a Strike.

Another site gives the story of an earlier strike newspaper in Seattle, in 1936.

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  CBC lockout VI: Blog war and other stuff

Storm warning
I was on the picket line yesterday afternoon when the storm struck around the Toronto Broadcast Centre, grabbing shots of our folks caught in the downpour. After about 40 minutes, camera batteries were pretty well exhausted anyway,so I headed home. I got soaked through just crossing Wellington Street to get to the subway via Metro Hall.

I was going downtown late Friday when the Bloor Danforth subway was shut down due "to a police investigation on the Bloor viaduct" the announcement said. That sent one poor woman nearly over the edge. She was telling everyone she had been trying to go somewhere for hours and this had all started, she said, when the Don Valley Parkway was flooded out near the Lakeshore. She fled the station just before the power came on. (That meant it wasn't a jumper, perhaps some fool on the tracks). The poor woman should have stayed five minutes longer.

Then this morning I saw in the papers how bad the storm was. ( No I didn't watch a newscast when I got home.)

A major storm with tornado warnings for Metro Toronto! This is the kind of situation where my colleagues at CBC Radio do consistently excellent work. So I wonder where the audience went while CBC Radio played second rate classical music? Was there anyone listening to that second rate classical music and missed the storm warning?

And it doesn't matter whether or not you support the CMG in this or not. Some on the right are now asking whether or not taxpayers' money should go to the CBC management ads. Now is the time for those on the right and the left to ask, what is the responsibility of a public broadcaster when a tornado is heading toward a major urban centre? Just what are the Canadian--and especially southern Ontario--taxpayers getting for their money at this moment?

Casual hell (A note from the blog war archive)

To backup what I said earlier about what happens to anyone who is stuck as a casual, my former colleague at Bill Doskoch posted this back in January as discussions were just beginning.
Bill argues with himself about casual hell. It's worth reading to show people, especially the Iron Rice Bowl jerks just what is really like, not only at the CBC but at the private broadcasters as well. The original post now has comments related to the lockout.

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Friday, August 19, 2005
  CBC lockout V: No CBC radio? No Forget about tornado warnings

Just in from blogsphere.....there was a tornado warning in Waterloo during the storm this afternoon.
And from the bare bones info on this blog, apparently the managers writing for in Toronto thought the weather here was more important than in Waterloo. (It's not me saying that, it's the blog but you can find the story linked from the blog. I am not going to cross the line and link)

Zeronbus live journal

Note also that the article is asking people to submit their pictures to the site.
If people do give them pictures they are electornically crossing the lockout picket line.

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  CBC lockout IV: Blog war update 1

For the order of battle in the CBC lockout blog war, Tod Maffin is keeping an updated list of the growing number of blogs on his site, check out the right side column for the links.

And from another blog, Cameron Archer mistakenly called the lockout a strike. And was, of course, quickly corrected.

But the best post in the comments comes from CBC radio's Curt Petrovitch who says rightly:

The difference between the two is at the heart of what management has termed a "labour disruption".

But infact, it's a "management disruption." Read the CBC management ads, (paid for by taxpayers money).

They clearly state management was "forced" to lock it's employees out.

Note to copy editors: You can call it a lockout. But Curt is right, don't call it a labour disruption. Labour didn't disrupt a thing. Call it a management disruption.

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  CBC Lockout III: Let the blog war begin
The first couple of days of the CBC lockout were days of shell shock.

Now the shock is wearing off.

The managers were stupid enough to drive the audience away and, no matter how this is settled, leave a large number of disgruntled employees. Not too mention the middle managers, "confidential employees" and members of other unions who are locked in the Toronto Broadcast Centre and not doing much. Some of the middle managers and confidentials, I am hearing from reliable sources, are extremely depressed and others not too pleased with their superiors to say the least.

Outside the walls, in the last 36 hours, a profound change took place. And that change is going to have reprecussions beyond what happens in the labour dispute.

This is now the first blog war!!

And in that battle, management hasn't even sent out a byte.

I realized that last night when I got home from having a drink with a couple of CBC friends and checked Steve Rubel's Microperusasian blog.

I saw a link to a blog that suggests the CBC's sugar daddy, the National Hockey League, create its own podcasting network, largely because it is frozen out of US television.

You'll find it here: Can podcasting save the NHL?

The writer Matt May doesn't even mention the CBC lockout, (Americans seldom pay attention to Canada). But even this suggestion is another threat. The NHL is not happy to say the least with the CBC. And as I said in a note to friends, if the NHL, or someone else, wanted to create a quality podcast all the people, not just Hockey Night in Canada staff, but a lot of technical people as well are available at the moment.

And what happens when there is a settlement at CBC and the NHL goes ahead and creates a podcast anyway? Someone a year from now could watch the Leafs (win I hope) sitting somewhere with a PDA or video pod.

I was rather, as readers may note, angry at Russell Smith's column and his remarks about freelancing in the Globe. That's when I decided to start blogging the lockout. Others have started blogging as well.

My colleague John Gushue in St. John's is listing the growing number of blogs, both from locked out CBC employees, and others, who are leaping on this issue. This is a blog war. And in 2005 blogging may be more effective than the traditional walking and walking and walking round and round and round a building (In my job I the opposite direction as everyone else, taking pictures)

Since I am determined to keep this blog looking at the longer term implications of the lockout rather than the day-to-day issues, I am beginning think that this blog war will change the media in Canada and perhaps elsewhere.

One reason management says it wants "flexibility" is that the threat to they say comes from the Internet.

The fact that many CBC people started blogs or expanded their blogs in the past couple of days shows now the flexiblity, ideas and innovation that has been going on inside the broadcast centres across the country for years. In fact most of the innovation at CBC, both in the journalism and the technical side, has come from the bottom up, not the other way around.

And there will be a lot more innovation to come.

The CBC blog war, I predict, will go down as one major step in the changing media landscape.

Why, if you wanted to preserve what you have, did you launch 5,500 talented people in blogsphere and podcasting cyberspace when blogs and podcasting are eating away at the media market share?

People who follow blogs will see that the CBC employees, who normally are not really permitted to have public opinions (because we are a public broadcaster) are articulate, intelligent human beings from all sides of the political spectrum, not as the right wing media and bloggers tend to assume, time servers at the Iron Rice Bowl.

Anyone in the media anywhere in the world, can now see the CBC lockout from a growing number of varied voices. Management, of course, won't comment, except through a dedicated spokesperson. And the public can read those voices as well.

It is too early to predict the outcome of this labour dispute. If it drags on too long, people will begin getting other jobs. If there is a settlement in the next day or so, things have still changed.

I hated the term coined in the US, used mainly by the right, of MSM--Main Stream Media, I have worked in the Main Stream Media for 30 years and I am damned proud of that.

One example, on September 11, 2001, USA Networks, without a news outlet of their own took the feed from CBC News and we were overwhelmed with notes of thanks and praise from Americans who turned on the Home Shopping Network and never left. (Wonder what the managers who planned the lockout were doing on 9/11???)

I am constantly amazed about when I travel in the US so many people come up to me (sometimes because they notice a CBC luggage tag on my backpack) and say how much they love "As It Happens."

But it may that by shutting down one arm of the MSM, the CBC, the managers are not only driving the TV audience away, they are showing that the MSM is becoming irrelevant. (Although it remains to be seen how people or companies can make money at doing this, the only blogs that are making money so far are techy ones).

No plan ever survived first contact with the enemy the saying goes. So stay clicked (stay tuned is no longer an option) and watch what happens.

These blogs may be like the introduction of the airplane in the First World changed the landscape no matter who won and who lost.

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  Sonkrai update: Let the revisions begin

Heard from my editor on the first read of The Sonkrai Tribunal, who wants major revisions. Not unexpected. I always write way too long on the first submitted draft. My earlier non submitted drafts are even longer.

But since I couldn't afford to take time off when I was writing the original, my overview wasn't that good, working an hour or so each night. Now I have had a month or more for the grey cells to regenerate.

Now, of course, that I am locked out, I have some time, when I am not doing my lockout duty, do turn those revisions around. As my editor said, I have to be brutal.

I will.

Note to editors: The original proposal was sold to Allen and Unwin in Australia. US, Canadian and UK rights still available.

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Thursday, August 18, 2005
  The CBC lockout II: The reality of the marketplace.

Russell Smith in the Globe and Mail has called the CBC The Iron Rice Bowl. That, according to the BBC was a Maoist “idiom referring to the system of guaranteed lifetime employment in state enterprises.”

The Edmonton Sun sneers

Apparently, young employees are always asking the union to help them find permanent positions. "We are talking about the next generation of the CBC," Amber said. "We are a family, and the family goes from generation to generation."
Time for a reality check. Guaranteed employment has gone the way of the dinosaurs (unless you work at the CBC or in some other unionized environment).

It's time for the person on the Edmonton Sun, likely a staff writer, who wrote that editorial to make his/her own reality check. Does that writer have any kids? Does that writer care if that kid has a career? Probably not.

Isn't it interesting how many people who claim to be in favour of the marketplace ignore it?

What these critics are ignoring is the reality of the marketplace for young talent in Canada in 2005.

This surprise, surprise, is not the 1970s when I was in journalism school, this is not the 1980s when The Journal was the most innovative TV news program anywhere in the world.

I have seen the change in the newsrooms of both CBC and CTV and when I was journalism instructor at Ryerson.Ask any senior producer, either at the CBC or in the private sector television and they will tell how hard it is to keep good young people these days. Journalism no longer has the glamour it had 20 years ago.

Most of young people today are not prepared to wait around for the phone to ring. They are not going to tolerate short term contract after short term contract. They are not going to stay in roach-infested apartments while their friends from university are buying condos.

I have seen really talented young people who I knew when I was at CTV in the 1990s, at CBC in the past decade and when I was teaching at Ryerson get tired of knocking their heads against the brick wall. They don't wait like many of my generation. The rate of people leaving is much higher than it was in the past.

Others like another former student don't even to apply to the Main Stream Media, they start their own successful websites.

Knowledgeable recruiters for school boards across Canada are leaping for joy right now. No matter what happens in the CBC dispute, they know that frustrated young people (like a couple of my former students) will be going to teachers college. And then there's law school, grad school and MBA programs.

Media bean counters have never had a long term view. In the 1990s, many media organizations had a double ended layoff policy. Older workers were given packages and younger workers were sent out the door.

Short term gain, long term stupidity. Why has the media lost the younger audience? At least in news it is because those young voices were sent out the door ten to fifteen years ago, the editorial assistants and junior reporters who would have told their seniors: "hey this is an issue..” Or “hey my friends don't think like that.”

Now no one is looking to the future.

Hey guys! Wake up! Boomers like me are going to be retiring in great numbers in the next five to fifteen years.

Schools and universities are desperate to replace the retiring boomers.

The media,meanwhile, in both the public and private sectors, counts beans, and lets many of the best and brightest go to teachers college and law school, ignoring their long term staffing. Of course when there are gaps in the newsrooms a decade from now, the marketplace will set the demands. It will be a seller's market and talent will demand and get the money they want.

But who cares, all the current managers—and it doesn't matter again whether they are in the private sector or public—will be long gone. Let the next guys handle it.

Related link added at 21:47 Aug 18
A post from the blog where
Darryl MacLeod talks about his own experience. Brief excerpt:

Most of these temp employees will work for two or three years.. with the hope of getting on full-time eventually. When they don't, they will either move on to other employers or leave the broadcasting industry altogether like I did.

I was a temp aka "casual" employee at various CBC locations for over twelve years. I worked all the crappy shifts (some starting at 4:30AM), often with little or no notice. It was like I was on-call twenty four hours a day.

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  CBC lockout I : The reality of freelancing in Canada

When I started this blog, I made a conscious decision to keep it tightly focused on my book The Sonkrai Tribunal and issues around the book and the life of a freelancer, I wasn't going to talk about other issues or the CBC where I was employed am now locked out.

I am now going to stretch my decision just a little because of some of the comments that have appeared recently in the press about the main issue, keeping large numbers of new hires on call as casuals or on short term contracts. The Brits even have a word for it, which I found on the National Union of Journalists website casualization.

I am a locked out fulltime employee, but I have been working on my book for the past couple of years, part time an hour or so a night because the small advance was not enough to take time off work. It certainly would not have paid any bills if I didn't have a full time job.
In his column “Virtual Culture” in The Globe and Mail this morning, Russell Smith said

As a career freelancer, I am not enthusiastically sympathetic to the union in this dispute; I have always worked on contracts (or even without a contract as I do here [referring to his Globe and Mail column]) and everyone I know in television works in I am not filled with indignation at the prospect of the end of the CBC's famous Iron Rice Bowl. Such Maoist precepts seemed dated now.

First let me say that I was by my own choice, a full time freelancer in Toronto, one of Canada's most expensive cities for about 13 years from 1984, when I was laid off from the CBC's first new media project (yes Mr Smith there are layoffs at the CBC ) until 1997, when I was working full time at CBC Newsworld Online (but still a casual). I went on contract in 1998 and the last set of negotiations in 2000 converted many of the online staff, including myself, on contract to permanent staff.
Freelancing anywhere is like starting up a restaurant, most don't last a year. Thirteen years isn't bad, if I do say so myself.

But given my own experience and Smith's comments, I believe that he is ethically bound to reveal the complete source of his household income.


Because almost all the successful freelancers I know in this city are supported by their partners, most often partners who have full time staff jobs and most of them in non-creative businesses.

If Russell Smith is the sole support of his household he can make that statement. However, if a good proportion of his household income does come from other family members, then his statement is both unethical and hollow.

If he has fled the city for a farm or an inexpensive house in a small town, his statement is valid. If he lives in Toronto and the expense of this city is supported by other family members, then his statement is both unethical and hollow.

I was a single household, which in my case is just me and my cat, for most of the time I freelanced, so I really don't think of much of people who claim to be successful fulltime freelancers while the partner pays most of the mortgage.

Smith also says he works for the Globe and Mail without a contract. Does that mean he retains the rights to his column? He is ethically bound to answer that question as well.

The class action suit against the Globe and Mail and other papers is dragging on. The issue is whether or not freelancers can retain the rights to their material.

Once it was possible for a freelancer to sell slightly different versions of the same story to different outlets or use that material as the basis for further articles. That has become increasingly difficult in the past decade, one of the reasons that I decided being a freelancer was increasingly untenable.

It is the demand from many media organizations that freelancers surrender all rights in the past decade that along with rates with that have not kept pace with inflation that have driven many freelancers into staff jobs in TV (yes there are staff jobs in TV Mr. Smith) or have left creative industries altogether.

And that is a loss to Canadian culture.

One more thing, things are not so good south of the border for freelancers either. I have a large number of freelancer friends and acquaintances in the United States. They have a lot more outlets for their work than we do in Canada. But they have one huge problem we don't here. They tell me time and time again that most of that money goes for minimal health insurance. So their relative income isn't much better.

So my message to Russell Smith and the others who think the CBC is an Iron Rice Bowl are living in the 1970s. Get real.

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Thursday, August 04, 2005
  Korean guards on the Burma Thailand Railway

Copy of a note I posted on the Far East POW list.

The Korean gonzuku guards were among the worst in the camps. And since one of the main characters in my book was the notorious Toyoyama with F Force, when I was doing the academic side of my research, I deliberately took a directed reading course in Korean studies at the University of Toronto, to get their point of view, mainly so I could understand the character.
Although I have little sympathy for these people, some facts that are not generally known

1. Most of the guards were draftees. If a local village or region did not meet quotas from either volunteers or the draft, the local community was ordered to provide more men. (This was the same system that provided "comfort women.")

2. Almost all Koreans as well as native Taiwanese (a Japanese colony at the time before post-Communist victory migration) were forced to change their names to Japanese ones if they wanted to work for the Japanese or upon being drafted or press ganged.

3. There are academic studies in Japan that indicate that the proportion of Koreans charged, tried, imprisoned or executed for war crimes against POWs was higher than the Japanese themselves largely because the Korean guards had closer contact with the POWs, so that they could be identified easier and their war crimes easily proven beyond any reasonable doubt. It has been argued-- convincingly in my view-- by Japanese academics that this was a case of concentrating on the lowest levels of responsibility while those also responsible, the mid-range of the Japanese officers in the camps or headquarters, captains, majors and colonels, often, but not always, escaped retribution from the Allies because they could not be identified and the cases against them proven.

4. The Korean guards underwent a brutal six week basic training course in Korea before being shipped to the camps. The basic training consisted largely of bashing for the most minor infraction, so that when they bashed POWs, they were doing what they had been taught to do.

5. This doesn't mean that they escape responsibility, many brought up to revere Japanese culture wanted to be more Japanese than the Japanese.

6. Most of the Korean guards convicted of war crimes were for decades and those few still surviving in a legal limbo. Because they were on "lifetime parole" they were not permitted to leave Japan after all the war criminals, Japanese and Korean, were freed in 1956. At the time Koreans were a despised minority in Japan. The gonzuku in Japan were also denied veterans benefits (while Japanese war criminals did get the benefits). Japan's argument was that since Korea was independent, Korea was responsible for them (even though they were drafted into the IJA) . So the men settled in ghettos, lived on odd jobs and some locally provided welfare or money from families in Korean and in most cases never married. They had a large suicide rate in the 50s and 60s.

7. A modern irony "gonzuku" roughly translated means civilian contractor. The gonzuku were not part of the IJA order of battle and actually signed an employment contract. The other auxiliaries, heiho, which were used in combat were part of the IJA order of battle.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005
  Reporting memories
There was a debate on Writer-L on how to report memory.
Here is a copy of my response.

Let's not go overboard on “ethics” when it comes to memories, whether in a memoir or an interview. In my view, it is not an ethical issue, unless we expect someone to have perfect omniscience.

A couple of opening teasers:

When I was teaching investigative and narrative journalism, on the last day of class, for those students who showed up—usually the better ones—I played a tape of Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon, black and white, in Japanese, with English subtitles. At the beginning the expression was what is this all the end they got it, the same story told as “truth” from several viewpoints, the victim, the perp, the cop, the onlookers.

Then there is Rudyard Kipling, who in his poem the Neolithic Age said: "There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,/And every single one of them is right!"

Now to the point of my argument.

For the past five years I have been working on the story of one of the prisoner of war camps on the River Kwai. Three years of academic study and a MA thesis, followed by two years of turning the academic into narrative. The manuscript was shipped to the publisher a couple of weeks ago.

For almost all of the past 60-odd years 95% of the books on the prisoner of war experience, have been individual memoirs. As such they were one man's isolated vision.

In addition, with only a few exceptions, these books were written long after the fact. Almost all these men, whether the prisoners on the Kwai which I write about or Americans in POW camps in Japan, did not write down their experiences until after they retired.

Many suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And it has been proven clinically that the memories reasserted themselves after the ex-POWs retired, and no longer had work and raising the kids on their minds. With others retirement gave them the time to write what they always wanted to write. (The same is true and again shown in the psychiatric literature of Holocaust survivors)

While a good proportion of the books were published commercially, many were self published after the commercial publishers turned them down but the ex-POWs wanted to get their own stories out there.

The quality of writing and fact in these memoirs varies.

There is one problem however. A few years ago one short memoir was exposed as a forgery by a “wannabe.” This was mentioned in one academic paper by an author who herself has an agenda, she is the daughter of an officer who feels that memoirs by enlisted personnel are unfair to officers. The problem is that now it appears the academic community it throwing out the baby with the bath water. Academic writers are now citing this paper and contending that all POW memoirs are unreliable. (It's like when the US media expose a phony Medal of Honor winner as a “wannabe” and some academic then claiming therefore all memoirs by all of Medal of Honor winners are unreliable).

After my academic research, I applied my investigative skills, including filing FOI requests and getting documents from multiple sources.

One key officer was the semi-official historian of the camp I am writing about. For years, it was his account that was used. It was not that until his men began to write their memoirs, after retirement, that people learned, at least according to these accounts, that that this man actually stayed in his hut and left everything up to more junior officers.

This was confirmed first by an academic researcher. Add investigative journalism and one thing that I found in looking at documents and testimony was that this officer committed perjury at the war crimes trial of camp guards, claiming personal credit for events that took place in another camp. The men who were in the second camp described the events both in official reports and in later memoirs and there was no mention of this officer. He also committed probable perjury in other areas, largely to cover up his own failures.

So, in this case, the documents the academics are depending on are not that accurate.

My solution was to use the journalistic practice of making sure that I have more than one source. Where I have two or more sources I write the story as narrative with an end note naming all sources so as not to break the narrative. Where there is just one source I weave it in as best I can and attribute it in the text to the individual, in a way that I hope doesn't break the narrative.


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I write in a renovated garret in my house in a part of Toronto, Canada, called "The Pocket." The blog is named for a tree can be seen outside the window of my garret.

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Name: Robin Rowland
Location: Toronto, Canada

I'm a Toronto-based writer, photographer, web producer, television producer, journalist and teacher. I'm author of five books, the latest A River Kwai Story: The Sonkrai Tribunal. The Garret tree is my blog on the writing life including my progress on my next book (which will be announced here some time in the coming months) My second blog, the Wampo, Nieke and Sonkrai follows the slow progress of my freelanced model railway based on my research on the Burma Thailand Railway (which is why it isn't updated that often) The Creative Guide to Research, based on my book published in 2000 is basically an archive of news, information and hints for both the online and the shoe-leather" researcher. (Google has taken over everything but there are still good hints there)

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