The Liberal government has contracted a think tank called the Public Policy Group to research the possibility of providing subsidies or other considerations to the collapsing news industry.
CANADALAND accepted an invitation to participate in the research project by attending a roundtable discussion between media owners. We were also asked to provide a written statement articulating our position on the proposals discussed. Here’s what we sent them:
Dear Public Policy Forum,
At the request of Taylor Owen, the following is a statement of our position on the possibility of public policy intervention in the Canadian news industry.
I am the publisher of CANADALAND, a small digital news organization that specializes in podcasts. Podcasts drive our revenue. We sell advertising on our podcasts, and we direct listeners to our crowdfunding page largely through our podcasts.
We produce the most popular Canadian podcasts for Canadian listeners. Our shows are focused exclusively on Canadian topics, with an emphasis on media, policy, culture, and public life. We do original and investigative reporting and have broken many national news stories in the few years we’ve been around.
Increasingly, we have competition: the Globe and Mail just launched a podcast. The CBC has many and sells ads to the same companies we do. Maclean’s, The Toronto Star, The National Post, The Walrus: all of them have dabbled in podcasts or are currently publishing competing podcasts.
We welcome the competition. Canadian advertisers are still largely in the dark about the medium and there are plenty of listeners to go around. New entrants could evolve the medium and help establish podcasts as an industry in Canada, as it is now in the US and abroad. Many legacy media podcasts, most notably the CBC’s, pre-date our launch, and we rose above them by virtue of our content. On an even playing field, we are winning.
What we do not welcome is government subsidies for our competitors. Too often in Canada, tax breaks, funding and other programs intended to help small startups and innovators like ourselves get hijacked by legacy players. It’s a trivial matter for a newspaper to launch a digital lab or project for the sole purpose of tapping these funds, leveraging their brand and status to take the lion’s share of the subsidies. At this point, with their efforts underwritten by the government, our competitors could conceivably undercut us on advertising rates and push our revenues down to the point where we would no longer be profitable. We run our organization on a budget lower than the annual salary of one top Postmedia or CBC executive. As sustainable as we are, we are also vulnerable to market interference.
In short, we are asking that no subsidies or considerations of any kind be made available to Canada’s legacy news organizations.
We support the removal of obstacles preventing philanthropic organizations from practicing journalism.
We support a review of the CBC’s mandate and support a prohibition of advertising on CBC’s podcasts and other digital content.
We take no position on the creation of subsidies directed exclusively to benefit legitimately independent small digital media companies.
I will point out that we do not ask for or expect subsidies for CANADALAND.
Last week, the Financial Post published revelations about the Toronto Star’s newsroom and the suicide of Raveena Aulakh, one of its reporters.
Aulakh took her own life earlier this summer and since then questions about the Star have been circling, despite the paper’s internal investigation, which concluded that “the company provided all reasonable support and assistance to Raveena.”
Sean Craig’s lengthy article tells a different story. Over the course of his investigation, Craig (formerly of CANADALAND) spoke to over a dozen sources and reviewed emails Raveena Aulakh sent before her death.
Up until now, we knew Raveena Aulakh had been in a relationship with her then colleague Jon Filson, a senior Star editor in charge of the Star Touch project. The relationship broke down and Filson was also in a relationship with Toronto Star managing editor Jane Davenport. In the wake of Aulakh’s death, Filson and Davenport ceased working in the Star newsroom. Filson was seemingly terminated, while Davenport is still employed by the Star, who have not clarified in what capacity.
Unifor, the Star’s union, called for an external investigation of the Star’s working environment. At first, the Star resisted, having conducted their own internal investigation, but eventually agreed. The Star then once again put the external investigation on hold because it couldn’t agree on the parameters with the union.
Craig’s piece explored lingering questions about the Star’s newsroom, and what he found was quite shocking. Here are the main points:
Jon Filson had a reputation for bullying and “preying” on female colleagues
Two former interns at the Star have said they felt bullied by Filson. One described having a sexual relationship with him while he had direct oversight over her work, while Filson was married. Twenty-two at the time, the intern said she felt “bullied and trapped” by him and left the paper after both the relationship ended and the contract with the Star expired.
The second intern said the culture at the Star “was the most toxic newsroom I’ve ever worked in and eventually led to my decision to leave journalism altogether.” She said Filson bullied her, and his behaviour extended beyond interns.
Neither of the women reported Filson to management, but the second woman said she was discouraged from telling the union.
A student newspaper discouraged students from interning for Filson
By 2008, Ryerson University’s paper, the Eyeopener, heard accounts of Filson’s behaviour. General manager Liane McLarty said young women were warned against interning at the Star because of several incidents involving Filson. This, it seems, is more preventative action than the Star ever took.
Raveena Aulakh wanted to complain about Filson to senior management but her boss was unwilling
Days before her death, Aulakh wrote this her direct superior Lynn McAuley “I’m happy/grateful to go with you if I ever have to talk to [Toronto Star manager of labour relations] David Callum. Whatever you think and say, I will do that.”
It seems this was not the first time the issue came up with McAuley. A few weeks earlier, Aulakh wrote this about McAuley: “She said she likes Jane (Davenport) a lot and won’t say anything unless Jon (Filson) makes life miserable for people and Jane still protects him”.
She was also discouraged from reporting her concerns to her union
From the Post’s piece: “On May 13, Aulakh wrote that McAuley told her ‘not to say anything to the union’ about the relationships between her and Filson and Filson and Davenport.”
But McAuley knew from others that Filson was a problem
Lynn McAuley wrote this about Jon Filson: “I’m alarmed he has this pattern… Completely unrelated to your relationship with him and his preying on interns … three managers today asked me in private how he can be stopped.”
The Post said McAuley tried to provide Aulakh with support, “checking in on her regularly during her free time when the reporter was on sick leave.” Outside of formal channels, it seems McAuley did everything she could to support Raveena Aulakh. But she chose not to pull any of the levers available within the company, which raises questions about how effective these protocols are and why she chose not to pursue them.
Before her death, Aulakh reached out to people in the newsroom which she perceived as an unhealthy environment. “I used to love that newsroom, it was my refuge. Now I’m scared of coming in — I feel emotionally unsafe.”
TorStar Chairman John Honderich allegedly declined emails from a source that would implicate the Star
John Honderich is the most senior figure at the Toronto Star. A former Star employee told the Post that she emailed Honderich to offer help with the Star’s internal investigation. According to her, Honderich turned her documents away, saying that the investigation was only looking at the impact of the relationships on the work that the people involved produced. But (as she would later read in the press) the Star’s investigation was actually intended to also look at how Aulakh was supported by her colleagues, which the emails directly addressed. Honderich did not deny this allegation.
Management likely knew about Filson’s behaviour before Raveena Aulakh’s death
Aulakh sent several emails to newsroom staff, including management, about what was happening. Filson had a pattern of alleged bullying that many senior staff were aware of. The Eyeopener’s general manager said complaints regarding Filson went eight years back. Still, Filson kept getting promoted into senior positions, from features editor to, eventually, a leadership role in Star Touch.
Raveena Aulakh expressed despair over the loss of a safe workplace
Many have assumed that this tragedy was primarily about interpersonal relationships gone sour. Toronto Star Public Editor Kathy English referred to Aulakh as a “clearly heartbroken reporter.” But emails from Aulakh herself reveal that her despair had much to do with a different kind of loss. “I used to love that newsroom,” she wrote of the Star. “It was my refuge. Now I’m scared of coming in – I feel emotionally unsafe.”
Read the full Financial Post story here.
We are officially launching The Imposter, an arts & culture podcast hosted by Aliya Pabani, on July 13. Subscribe to The Imposter on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. Episode 0 is online now.
For those in Toronto, we’re going to be celebrating with a live podcast performance at Gladstone Hotel on August 3. Tickets here.
This one-time event will include live music, feature interviews, comedy, storytelling, and other goodies.
This event is sponsored by FreshBooks.
Look forward to comedic storytelling by Jackie Pirico, member of the acclaimed Laugh Sabbath collective, live music from cosmic soul sisters bizZarh, and an audio documentary performance by Geoff Siskind about the 1980s period of “tax shelter cinema” that created such films as Porky’s, Prom Night, and Meatballs.
More guests TBA!
For more info, email Katie at email@example.com
Photo by Yuula Benivolski.
Last week the CBC put its widely derided comedy portal Punchline out of its misery and rebranded it as CBC Comedy. They were very excited about this.
Our beloved Punchline is all grown up! We’re so pumped to unveil our sleeker, sexier site, now called CBC Comedy! https://t.co/U3s16bhyCF
— CBC Comedy (@CBCComedy) June 23, 2016
Readers were quick to note that the site is still not funny.
@CBCComedy if only yall put as much effort into having funny content as you do with your sexy site
— Brandon Trainor (@BTrainLD) June 24, 2016
A pack of jackals from the National Post took particular pleasure in making fun of the site.
It still appears to be bad. https://t.co/MNr5amr5Ak
— Jen Gerson (@jengerson) June 24, 2016
The new CBC Comedy: where unfunny Something Awful forum content from 1997 is reposted 19 years later. pic.twitter.com/5aamY3pcAQ
— Sean D. B. Craig (@sdbcraig) June 24, 2016
“No, seriously. It’s comedy. It’s right there in the name.” https://t.co/nu9lJFuAHt
— Chris Selley (@cselley) June 24, 2016
This seems to have hurt the feelings of the CBC Comedy team.
The site’s editor sent private messages to her critics, letting them know it’s not nice to make fun.
And that’s how we work things out in Canada.
CANADALAND has obtained a memo outlining the departure of Jane Davenport, the Toronto Star’s managing editor, from the newsroom. Here is the full memo sent to the editorial department:
From: “Cooke, Michael”
Date: Monday, June 6, 2016 at 2:16 PM
Cc: “Holland, David”, “Honderich, John”, “Bower, Alan”
At her request, Jane Davenport, our Managing Editor, will move to a new role outside the newsroom and within Torstar, effective immediately.
Our newsroom’s loss is somewhat softened by Torstar ‘s gain as Jane will no doubt make a considerable contribution in her new job.
During Jane’s tenure as Managing Editor she has helped energize our journalism and she has been in a relentless pursuit of the Star’s trifecta of major story-types : investigations, exclusives, and actions.
On a personal note, I shall miss being alongside her intelligence, enthusiasm, energy and her extraordinary work ethic.
I hope to be able to make an announcement later this week regarding Jane’s successor.
Canadians weren’t the only ones watching last week’s Ghomeshi verdict. The trial made international headlines, but those writing about it abroad had a very different perspective on the verdict and ruling than that of our news media.
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