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 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
Nov 182006

Mayhem in the streets! Emergency services collapse! Looting, raping and pillaging spread!

Call out the national guard! (Wait – does Canada have a national guard? shite, why didn’t we think of this earlier…)

All this because Vancouver is under a boil-water advisory due to landslides caused by heavy rains that have increased turbidity in the tap-water supply. (Vancouver’s newest fave word – “turbidity” – rolling luxuriously off tongues everywhere.)

A crazed man, obviously in the last stages of dehydration, panting, glassy-eyed, ran over a reporter’s toes at Costco with a shopping cart full of bottled water.

A woman standing nearby, watching the water scrum, with a cart in which water was noticeably absent, laconically remarked to the reporter: “It’s raining. Put out a bucket.”

The fundamental social structure is breaking down. The survivalists were right – head for the hills and claim your hollow stump while you can.

Pete McMartin in the Vancouver Sun: “This emergency message is to inform you that you possibly may not die of thirst.”

“For many of us the emergency meant no change to our routine, since we continued to do what we have always done, which is drink wine.” ibid.

27,694 people will call into work sick on Monday with gastrointestinal disorders. 27,546 of them will be lying.

1,275,983 people have had their chicken-little beliefs in immanent doom validated.

 Posted by at 11:39 am
Apr 302005

image courtesy of duane_j on morguefile

In response to a friend’s invitation to have dinner at Bacchus:

“Bacchus? That’s the place with the dead-animal-head bar, right? Frankly, that kind of place makes me want to knock back double bourbons until I stop caring about how my bad behaviour is spoiling the ambience for the other patrons. Places like that really bring out the Hunter S. Thompson in me. I dress badly – I go home and change first to make sure. I roll Drum cigarettes on the white tablecloth while pestering the sommelier about the vintage of the Labatt’s Blue (“What do you mean you don’t have Labatt’s Blue?!?! Christ!”). I give the piano player a series of five dollar bills and insist that he play “She’s Always a Woman” again and again and again. I sing along. I cry, then I order more shots of bourbon. (“Did you get any Labatt’s Blue yet? Christ!”) I strike up a conversation with the people at the next table. They’re from Japan, so I talk to them in my own personal variant of Japanese. They are polite. This strikes me as funny. I order more bourbon. I order some for them. I tell them they should try Labatt’s Blue.”

 Posted by at 11:52 pm