Posts Tagged ‘Sun Media’

LFP_Eedition_120x600As you may know, I am writing a number of blogs examining a crystal meth series which ran in The London Free Press while I was on staff at the paper. I thought the research would be easy. It  should be easy, but it isn’t.

I googled: “London Free Press” “Kate Dubinski” “On Thin Ice”. It was a six part series but I my search returned only three relevant hits.
On Thin Ice: Crystal meth ingredients readily available in London
On Thin Ice: A death in the family
On Thin Ice: One town’s battle

Plus, I had a hit mentioning another in the series: On Thin Ice: Cheap and Deadly and AIDS, I will google this next. And, I had one hit of a bulletin board where someone posted the complete text from: ON THIN ICE: Perth County’s growing meth problem a warning for region. Nice.

Finally, one hit was a forum with chatter on the series. One person wrote about the installment on making meth: This article is adding to the hype, making people think it’s that easy to make ice. The ingredients may be easy to find but making it is is another story. The reporter should make it, so that it’s a proper full story. It’s like saying it’s easy to buy a gun by pointing at the store.

I now googled: “On Thin Ice” “Cheap and Deadly and AIDS”. Nothing of relevance. I removed “and AIDS” and repeated my search. Success. This is the lead story in the series. Yes!
Only available for a fee.

Only available for a fee.

I then tried googling: “Perth County’s growing meth problem a warning for region”.  I discovered this article is no longer available on-line. Odd.

Why would some be available and others are not? For this article, one must contact Sun Media and pay $10 plus GST. I’ll simply use the copy posted on the bulletin board and save myself time and money.

I now turned to The London Free Press site itself but I couldn’t find the usual search field—the kind I have at the top right of my blog.

I did find: News Research Centre. I clicked and was taken to a page listing the charges associated with a search of The London Free Press archives. The research fee is $12 for one article emailed (sic) from Sun Media. That’s incredible.
Research Fees

Research Fees

A search of an electronic file is almost instantaneous. It should be possible to fill an order in no more than minutes, and yet they want $12. That is an insane fee. And it is 20 percent more than the price quoted from my failed Google search. They won’t be getting an order from me.

I opened a second tab, did a 411 search for the Central Library, called and within seconds discovered copies of The London Free Press pages are available from the London Room for 10-cents a copy. I understand that the copies are made while you wait from the library’s microfiche files.

I also noted that a photo reprint is $46 from The London Free Press. Another crazy fee. Someday, I’ll tell you what went into making a reprint in the days of film and darkrooms and family-owned newspapers, and I’ll tell you what they charged for all that service. You will shake your head at what certainly looks like incredible greed on the part of the present corporate owners.

Now, let’s try a search of the Canoe site using the following search terms: “On Thin Ice” Dubinski. Result: One hit but it is not from the series. In other words, nothing.

Oh well, I will persevere.



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An open letter to Paul Berton, editor-in-chief, The London Free Press:

The newspaper stock and mutual fund tables are disappearing from the business pages of our local dailies. This is not a big loss for most of us as we have switched to the Internet for this information.

Carrying those tables is expensive and inefficient. Most of us are interested in one or two dozen entries at most. But some readers are missing those pages and are upset.

Paul Berton, editor-in-chief of  The London Free Press, addressed this recently when he wrote, ” . . . it’s a hard pill to swallow for those who a) like tradition, b) live in a rural area and have only dial-up service, or c) don’t have a computer or the Internet at all.”

Earlier Berton pointed out, when it comes to these tables, “you can get them more efficiently at money.canoe (sic).”

Money.canoe.ca brings up a screen with a stock and mutual fund search box at the top of the page. This is O.K. for searching one or two stocks or funds but it is painfully inefficient for checking one’s portfolio.

This is where Berton and newspapers in general are dropping the ball. The Canoe site is quite good and a lot of work has been invested in making it perform some neat tricks for the Internet-savvy investor interested in keeping careful tabs on his portfolio.

Sell the site, Paul. Coax tradition-bound readers to migrate to Canoe and to The London Free Press on-line. Sow the seeds of future growth. Make these readers feel you have their best interests at heart, and not just your bottom line. Don’t let it be, “. . . tough on them . . .”

Hold their hand. Give them a step by step guide on how to track their stocks and mutual funds, using the tools so generously supplied. Tell them, that it’s free and it’s incredible.

And, if the site is slow for those without a high-speed Internet connection, work with Canoe and Quebecor to supply a dial-up friendly site as well. Don’t give your readers an incentive to go googling in search of another portfolio tracking package.

Negative stuff like the comment from P.J. Harston, business editor of the London Free Press, has no place here. P.J. wrote, “Change is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow and I certainly lament anytime that pill comes from us. But change, like death and taxes, is inevitable — perhaps more so now than ever before . . . The switch will be difficult for some and then it will get easier for everyone.”

For most the change is not bitter. And if clear instructions were being provided the switch would not be difficult for anyone. Make it easy for all, right from the start.

You’ve got a good product. Sell it.


If you read this in the past, you may notice today that I have corrected some (maybe even all, hope springs eternal) of the spelling errors. Oh, how I miss a human editor. I should go back and check more of my posts. And then there’s punctuation to tackle…

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Consuming only 0.06 watts when on, I light a hallway with a number of these for less than a quarter a year.

Consuming only 0.06 watts when on, I light a hallway with a number of these for less than a quarter a year.

Newspapers are failing. I know. I worked for one. Just before Christmas a layoff rippled through the Sun Media chain and I took a buyout.

With time on my hands, I read the paper. I groan. I blog, sometimes about newspapers. Newspapers think the Internet is killing them – and they’re right. But there is a complexity to the Internet attack. Newspapers are dying the slow, torturous death of a thousand cuts but sadly they are wielding the knife on themselves.

Newspapers see themselves as information providers but the large chains that own them seem to have no drive to provide a rich mix of information. Slashing staff – reporters, photographers, editors – is not the way to better coverage.

Take Earth Hour, the one hour in the year that the world falls in sync with me and turns off non-essential lights. Earth Hour is hailed as stunningly successful but it leaves me disappointed. At the end of the Earth Hour the lights come back on.

Earth Hour leaves me with a raft of questions and I am sure that the folk I worked with at the paper are also asking these questions. For instance: does a drop in power consumption translate into energy-savings?

According to the Canadian Press article carried by The London Free Press, Toronto recorded a 15.1% power drop and provincially there was a 6% for the fifteen minutes between 8:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. These were referred to as energy-saving numbers. Are they?

Maybe I am wrong but I find it difficult to believe that our energy plants have the ability to respond immediately to a record drop in demand. My guess is that the plants simply keep on cranking out the power and it then goes unused.

What makes it more difficult to believe the plants could have been prepared was that Manitoba actually had a small spike in consumption after the start of Earth Hour. British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia all reported a mere 1% drop in power consumption.

It is possible that no energy is saved, and worse, there may be a net increase in energy usage. But not to worry, Earth Hour is not about saving energy. It is a billiant campaign for the World Wildlife Fund of Australia by the bright lights of the Leo Burnett ad agency.

Leslie Aun, vice president of public relations for the WWF told the Phoenix New Times last year, “The purpose of the event was not to save money or power. It’s a symbolic event.” Unfortunately, symbolism is not always environmentally-friendly.

Keith Stewart of the World Wildlife Fund-Canada, says, “It’s fun to see how much electricity demand drops.” Ah yes, such fun. And with what exactly do a lot of the participants replace their off-for-an-hour compact fluorescent lamps (CFL): candles.

I guess it is also fun to see how much we can enlarge our carbon footprint by turning off our modern, high-tech lighting. Check out this blog: Physical Insights: An independent scientist’s observations . . .

This blogger writes, “The widespread practice of misguided eco-Luddites turning off their lights for Earth Hour and burning candles as a source of light is grossly misguided and actually contributes to increased carbon dioxide emissions.”

Is the blogger right? Is the newspaper right? This round goes to the blogger. Why? Presentation. It is clear the blogger has spent more time and invested more thought into the topic.

As I wrote yesterday, it is time to rethink Earth Hour. Asking households and businesses to take non-essential lights and other electrical appliances off the grid for an hour and only an hour does not show committment.

If these are truly non-essential uses, and our globe is truly facing a global disaster caused by carbon emissions, then let’s save spaceship Earth. Keep the damn stuff turned off – otherwise, what’s the point?

Postscript: to those at the paper where I once worked. Considering the hollowed out shell of a newroom in which you now work, the quality of the newspaper you are still turning out is amazing.

I can just imagine how the newroom looked on Sunday night, empty desk beside empty desk, with just a couple of reporters, one photographer working the picture desk, and a few editors, everyone working to release the Monday morning edition on deadline. There would be no time for very much newsgathering.

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After almost 40 years working as a photojournalist in the newspaper business, I took a buyout. Layoffs were rippling through the Sun Media chain with buyouts softening the impact on staff. I took the bait much to the relief of the younger photographers.

Now, I find myself retired, stripped of camera gear, Blackberryless and strapped for cash. But, I do have lots of time – well, not lots – not at my age. And so I find myself saying, with some excitement, hey I’m free. Let’s not blow it. “Rock on!”

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