May 162008
 

Plebiscite 2004 (Voters)
Creative Commons License photo credit: peterwalshprojects
I normally shy away from public political debate – the water gets too hot. However, the Vancouver Public Space Network has asked mayoral candidates to answer questions about current Vancouver issues (public toilets, parks and public spaces, the Safe Streets Act, the Downtown Ambassadors).

I like this form of political discourse. I find it useful to see the candidates’ answers side-by-side, and I think it gives the candidates the opportunity to articulate substantive ideas (an opportunity that Allen De Genova’s pompous and opinion- and idea-free “blah blah blah my five terms as Park Board Commissioner blah blah blah my intention as mayor blah blah blah” failed to grasp).

Unfortunately, Mayor Sam Sullivan did not participate. (Nor did Raymond Louie.)

 Posted by at 10:24 am
May 092008
 

Salt Spring yaks
I am merely a mid-grade foodie. (What an awful word.)

That is kind of a confession.

For example, there is only one kind of salt in my kitchen. (Ok, two. Oh, wait – three. But they’re not frou-frou salts. They’re all white.) I do not peel the skin off tomatoes prior to making a sauce. I don’t know how to lard a pheasant and neither favour nor disfavour durian (having never tried it).

As an occasional flicker-through of food magazines in the grocery store line-up and skimmer of food blogs, though, I am occasionally aware of the latest food fad. (Was food always subject to fashions? I don’t remember this as a kid, but, then again, maybe that explains the whole “Cooking with Campbells” cuisine of my childhood. Where fashion is concerned, we often look back in anger. Let that be a warning to us.)
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 Posted by at 10:52 am
May 082008
 

There is an interesting discussion going on over at Harvey Oberfeld’s blog about the state of TV news in British Columbia. In the first post, Harvey decries CTV and Global for ignoring important, breaking news (the Conservative funding scandal) in favour of “light” news (biodegradable coffee cups and an update on Canadian interest rates). (“Local TV News: Dumbing Down British Columbians“)

Harvey, now retired, was a senior reporter with BCTV (which was later acquired by Global). (See Wikipedia for his bio.)

In response to questions raised by the post (disclaimer – they were my questions), Harvey wrote a post about why lighter stories are favoured (“Debating T.V. News … the Beauty of Blogging!!“). This prompted a response from Cameron Bell – “State of the News: Read it and Weep!“. (Cameron Bell was the highly respected News Director for BCTV who is credited (along with Assignment Editor Keith Bradbury and the news crew they assembled) with bringing BCTV’s news program to the top of the ratings.)

Harvey points out that it mostly comes down to money – the amount of money a television station is willing to spend on the news-gathering process. Cameron Bell, however, notes that smart organizations are willing to spend lots of money provided that it generates commensurate profits. Profits are determined by the amount of revenue generated from advertising, which fluctuates depending on the number of viewers. The key to attracting viewers is quality content.

However, the low-hanging fruit – the easy stories – are duplicated and re-covered by multiple news organizations. Cameron Bell points out that three major news organizations (one newspaper, two television) covered the warm-up suits for Canadian Olympic athletes. He charitably (in my opinion) gives the original reporter credit for producing an interesting story. I don’t agree – I think it was a travesty of news on the first report that just got worse on subsequent reports.

I find this all extremely interesting, from a news consumer point of view (although my exposure to TV news is mostly limited to clips I see via the internet). It’s sort of a relief to learn that the there isn’t a grand conspiracy to dumb-down the news or avoid certain topics. Instead, there are merely difficult management problems – human resources, finances, planning and “vision”, etc.

 Posted by at 10:08 am