Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

A Look Back: Culina (jeff)

When we published our feature on the Culina family of restaurants we began with a note that said: A little backstory: Sally and I wrote this story for a new Edmonton food magazine…alas it never hit the news stands. You, dear friends, can still enjoy our glowing words about Culina

The Culina story remains one of my favourites for a number of reasons. Brad Lazarenko is passionate about food and I could have spent days interviewing him. Culina puts out amazing food. We landed some great photos from a friend of a friend who got married at Culina Mill Creek. But my favourite reason to mention the story in our long look back is that it highlights something the Internet has made possible in journalism: no story need go untold.

Sally and I wrote the Culina story after pitching it to the editor (I think he was the editor?) of a new Edmonton food magazine. But that magazine – of the old fashioned paper variety – never saw its first issue printed. So, we had a finished story and photos and nowhere for them to go.

Wait. Scratch that. We would have had a finished story and photos and nowhere for them to go if this was 1998. But we had an Edmonton-focused website that suited the story just fine.

If this was 1998 we probably would have then tried to pitch the story to a few places. And if no other editor would have run the story it would have sat unpublished next to my seven unfinished novels. Thus, the great advantage of the Internet is the wide, and free, availability of publishing tools.

As I mentioned in an interview on the end of our website you can begin telling your Edmonton story right now. You can tell the stories you don’t hear in traditional news (or from other blogs) and you can probably do that as well as anyone.

And you don’t have to wait for permission from some crusty old editor to do it.

 

 


September 6 Edmonton Headlines

Good morning, Edmonton, and welcome back to the work week.

How do you commute to work? Is speed your choice? Cost? Convenience? (There’s also a video.)

Here are some updates on Edmonton’s transportation network.

All this commuting stuff comes with the end of the Journal’s summer series on the suburbs. Living on the Edge looked at everything from commuting, to density, shopping, churches, who’s moving to the ‘burbs, and what’s working well out there.

If you followed the series at all, or are about to dive into it, there’s a survey you can fill out. I’d suggest filling out the survey if you appreciate long-form, in-depth reporting like Living on the Edge.

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Wow. Could it really be?

Could the old Esso (Imperial Oil) lot at the corner of Whyte Avenue and 105 Street finally be moving toward sale? After more than a decade is the contaminated land finally going to be ready for new development? It’s a miracle!

And it’s a good reason why the City of Edmonton needs more and tougher rules for contaminated lots, or “brownfields,” and owners who would let properties sit vacant for more than a couple of years. (This one has sat empty and dirty for 13 years.)

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Edmonton Police are going to start using black and white cruisers.

Alberta festivals, including a couple of Edmonton big ones, are getting some federal funding.

News on new beers after the jump. (more…)


September 2 Edmonton Headlines

Good Friday to you, Edmonton. Ready for the long weekend?

The City released a short update on what City Council did this week. The three and four paragraph stories are great for you and me to get a glimpse at what our elected officials are talking about, and it’s bad news for newsrooms that put out the same length, or shorter stories.

That Council Roundup is an example of media and public relations skipping the middleman of newsrooms. There are a few in Edmonton (and every city) that write very little on City Hall. When they write very little they are often doing no more than what we see from the City itself in this Roundup; a few quick notes on what was on the agenda and what happened. Newsrooms are going to have to add some depth and perspective to their stories or risk people skipping them and just checking on the official Roundup.

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I like the gusto of outgoing Premier Ed Stelmach. He says his Conservative caucus is willing to give Edmonton money for a downtown arena, but it’s a decision that he won’t have to give final approval to. Well played.

Speaking of Stelmach…capital region municipalities want to build a better integrated transit system and he doesn’t think that’s a good idea. I take back my kudos. There’s also a consideration for an outer ring road for Calgary?! Geez. I hope Alison Redford or Doug Horner become the next premier and move on some highs-speed rail.

Calgary prosecutors will look at whether a trio of Edmonton police officers went too far during the arrest of an Edmonton shop owner. His own store’s surveillance video will be part of the evidence they can look at.

Surely the irony of attacking the Edmonton salon which produced a domestic violence ad is lost on the vandals. If you want to do something productive to show you don’t think domestic violence is a good way to sell a business, boycott the place or donate to the Bad Ad Fund.

We’ll probably be paying more for water, but it’s not clear if that will be on tax bills or EPCOR bills. Meanwhile…at EPCOR Tower…that utility is already going to try to boost fees for sewer and and drinking water. Of course, they are mulling the decision.

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Minimum wage went up with the new month. And it really is a minimum (even more so for those in jobs serving alcohol).

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Lloyd Robertson anchored his last national newscast last evening.


A Look Back: Headlines (jeff)

(As we wind down our days at the edmontonianwe’ll be looking back at some of our favorite posts, stories, items, etc from the last 2+ years. Feel free to submit your own.)

For almost our whole existence we’ve been doing a daily post called Headlines. It’s a curation/roundup/collection of Edmonton news. With lots of capital region and Alberta, and other bits of news, in there too.

The idea for our Headlines came from Sally, with inspiration from a few online chats Sally and I had at my previous blog, the morning posts at BlogTO and the Torontoist, and the idea I already look at lots of news.

It’s changed just a little over the two+ years I’ve been writing the posts (and Sally has stepped in whenever needed). We first collected all of the stories (with less emphasis on crime and stories lacking context) and placed most of the links under the newsroom’s title. I shifted away from that to try and dissuade anyone from avoiding stories from a newsroom they weren’t a fan of (still with less emphasis on minor crime stories and those without detail or context).

The rest has remained pretty much the same. Lots and lots of Edmonton, from as many sources as possible,  usually a photo (sometimes it was even relevant), and an invitation to talk about what’s going on.

I will often focus on a story that’s big in the news, or I think deserves more than just a sentence and a link. While I would never deny the stuff that got more “ink” included my own thoughts and opinions, it was always for stories I really did think we should be talking about.

Sometimes that also included the newsrooms and the way stories were presented. While some of my earlier Headlines posts didn’t always contain the most constructive criticism of newsrooms, I hope that most of the time I was offering good information to you on what goes into news production, what Edmonton’s newsrooms are up to, where I think they could better communicate with the audience, how they could maximize resources, and why context and explanation are always going to be more important than a splashy headline, sexy photo, and puns.

With just a few more days of Headlines left, I hope to be able to stay off the soapbox. And Mack’s got a good list of other similiar curation-style posts you can find in Edmonton’s Internet.


August 30 Edmonton Headlines

I stumbled upon this dance floor at Churchill Square last night. Downtown is not dead!

Good morning Edmonton. I’ve got to say, I’m totally into this summer weather we’ve been having lately. It feels so good.

You know, you’d think people creating ads would take some time to think about what they were doing. But, I guess, some businesses still have to learn about social media the hard way. And by “hard way” I mean doing something that’s not all that thought out and being lambasted by people far and wide.

Hey, advertising doesn’t always work. Sometimes things get lost in translation or execution; that’s totally fair. And if something falls flat, or offends, you can apologize and explain that it wasn’t your intention. Then everyone can move on.

But then, you get businesses like Fluid Salon, which doesn’t really apologize, blames the rest of us for not “getting” their “art” and not doing enough to end domestic violence (again, you and me, not them) and you can’t help but wonder what is going on…

Also, I don’t think I saw the “media” talking about boycotting your salon so much as regular people.

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Sidenote: This is a good example of news and objectivity. Newsrooms are covering the story, but their headlines offer items like “a campaign for a local hair salon is raising eyebrows”  and “ad being called ‘disgusting.'” That leaves a lot of room to say glorifying domestic violence might not offend everyone, or shouldn’t. By way of clarifying that point I offer a fake headline of  “Certain neighbours don’t like new condo plan” which is a totally acceptable place for objectivity because it’s going to be a subjective decision-making process.

If newsrooms, and the humans working in them, expressed that this was unacceptable (which I think they’re doing by non-objectively choosing to cover the story) they’d be saying to the audience that they are a part of the community and want the best for Edmonton. That’s not to say you can’t get the salon owner’s take on the ads and issue.

A couple of journalists did express actual human emotions about the ads on Twitter (and in opiniony places like blogs), but we need to see that become part of news coverage. Your audience knows you’re humans, knows you have reactions and emotions, and it’s ok to show that. It might even make stories better. Leaving room for people who might welcome domestic violence in ads, or who don’t think the moon landing happened, doesn’t make you fair and balanced, it lets down your audience.

Balancing that journalism criticism, is this story from Fish Griwkowsky in the Journal. He’s writing about local filmmaker Trevor Anderson and it says at the end of the story that the two know each other and work together. That doesn’t make the story about Anderson’s new movie any less interesting. More of this please!

I promise to keep the journalism discussions at a minimum in the rest of today’s Headlines.  (more…)


August 18 Edmonton Headlines

Good morning, Edmonton. Let’s ignore that slight chill in the air and keep our minds focused on summer. Though, we can hear the gears grinding to life over at the Long John Index.

Edmonton’s streets have been safer this year (so far).

Building housing and neighbourhoods around LRT stations would go a long way toward densifying communities within the Henday’s boundaries, and increase transit usage. The City just has to get it right this time. (Though, to be fair, Clareview isn’t that bad.)

Edmonton’s got a little star power involved in the Boyle Renassaince project. Not sure yet if that means a higher contract price, but it could be worth the camera appeal that Mike Holmes will bring to affordable housing and the revitalization project.

Some days I have to take a deep breath before diving into the crime stories to see if there’s anything that speaks to trends, and information that might add more value to the Edmonton conversation. Most days it just seems like “…journalists believe that the world gets better if you remind people that the world is broken every day.”

We’re a terrible city – Crime can be frightening, but put it into context, tell people what they can do about, offer solutions.

Murder at the Max – an inmate at the Edmonton Institution (a prison at northeast city limits) is dead after a fight. Nobody’s been charged with murder, but it sounds like the headline writer here knows it’s coming.

Axe Attack” – Maybe.

Knives, shanks, and slashing throats with paper – I like to think this story is about how a crackdown on knives, and concealed weapons, cannot be the only measure taken to combat violent crime in Edmonton. (Prevention of crime, and the causes of crime – like homelessness, drugs, and gangs – are way more important. And court sentences are something the federal government may be asked to look at.) Though, I could be wrong and that story could just be about knives.

Are all the bleeding leads done? Good. (more…)


August 17 Edmonton Headlines


Good morning, Edmonton. It’s time for newsrooms to slow down.

We’ve been talking a lot more about news and content creation in the last few weeks. And I think everything we want to see; balanced crime stories, in-depth reporting, accurate stories can be achieved if newsrooms embrace the lack of deadlines the Internet provides and slow down.

Fearmongering crime stories could disappear if newsrooms worked the stats, thought about whether they were terrified to walk the streets (and if they aren’t, refused to let people sensationalize the stories), considered the causes of crime, sought prevention options, and demanded more of politicians and police than tough-on-crime announcements.

Then, a front page screaming about murder becomes a story about how homelessness has actually been one of issues behind Edmonton’s 2011 homicide rate, and perhaps looks at what’s been done to house more people (and improve their mental health or addictions), and the pressure on civic leaders is to improve the safety of Edmonton’s homeless, push harder for provincial dollars in housing, mental illness and healthcare, and addiction treatment. Then politicians cannot get away with telling the cameras they will “clean up the streets” (whatever that means).

The race to get the story into the news machine first damages everyone involved. It hurts the credibility of the media outlets who commonly treat factual inaccuracies as no big deal, and it fails the citizens who trust these outlets for information that shapes their reactions to the world around them. Reporting the news is a tremendous responsibility, and not just a game of  ‘who had what story first.’

Yesterday there was a story from CBC about a strip club opening in Old Strathcona. That’s not going to happen. It sounds like paperwork and City bureaucracy are to blame. But if the owners of X Bar (a strip club) didn’t want to apply for a new strip club, how did that become the story? By going too fast.

Slowing down, and getting reaction from the bar owners and City staff on the license applications, we could have a story about how the process to get a strip club works (if there was another level of paperwork involved), or – better yet in my opinion – how a bar location that keeps closing in failure keeps re-opening. That last one spins into a question for the City of Edmonton, Old Strathcona Business Association, and commercial property owners in the area; what are they doing to preserve the neighbourhood as heritage and boutique?

CTV strip club Google Alert(Side note on that strip club story: CTV followed – we’ve talked all about that lately too. Then changed the story when it turned out the southside strip club wasn’t happening. You can see a Google Alert above, since they changed the story on the same URL. Kudos to CBC for creating a new item on their website for the second story, ensuring an Internet trail. Newsrooms need to learn to deal with the mistakes, not wipe them out, or they won’t get better. It also helps folks, like me, find out what you’ve been up to beyond the last day or so.)

Update: Even if the City approved a strip club in the bar location, and the renovations happen to have been something extra the operators were thinking about seeking and the extra paperwork and delays dissuaded them, then the stories missed a step in confirming with the bar and building owners what was coming to Whyte. The permit would have just been the first step of working on the story, not the story itself.

The Journal had a story about a Fort McMurray man who went to Los Angeles to get brain surgery. Doctors told him to get the surgery and he went. Waiting an extra day would have taken one part of the story from “Another guy probably had the surgery covered by Alberta Health Services, I want it too.” to “Why the heck are Albertans forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a surgery they can’t have done in Canada?”

(Side note to that last link; not sure why the CBC felt they should leave in the Journal’s line about the other guy who might have received coverage. The Journal’s follow-up said he did, and the CBC story didn’t need to mention it, or could have included the chased-down fact.)

All of the slow down links above take you to an editorial from The Walrus, a fantastic Canadian magazine, that states speedy news is like a regular diet of fast food, and calls for a “slow news” movement. Similar to the slow food movement it would be a shift to deep, thorough, important information instead of churning out bits of information here and there. Just because there’s information in a story doesn’t mean it’s helping or is teaching us anything about the world we live in.

All that, and I’ve only given you a couple of today’s stories. More ahead. (more…)


August 12 Edmonton Headlines

Look, leaf, I don't know what kind of orders you're getting from the tree, but I demand you get back up there.

Welcome to the end of the week, Edmonton.

Edmonton Police are going to try and bust people for carrying knives and concealed weapons. This is one of the enforcement steps following a crime announcement from the chief and mayor. The Edmonton Police Service (EPS) is also sending more officers into the five most violent neighbourhoods in each police division.

But you probably woke up as terrified as ever, just like the Edmonton Sun thought.

(While I agree a lot of long-term plans, especially if they involve buzzwordy task forces and work groups, are more political than practical, can we at least give the new police chief a week or two on the latest plans?)

By the way, Sun staff, our homicide rate is not “skyrocketing.” You can see here and here that our homicide rate is fairly steady, declining for the most part in the last few decades (as is the general trend across Canada). So, unless an increase of 0.4 homicides (per 100,000 people) in the most recent decade is a huge jump to you, things are not as terrifying as you may think.

Countering that claim like that I feel like a certain website that was set up to counter newsrooms’ fearmongering crime claims

Also, I prefer to call it a homicide rate, not murder rate, because not all of the deaths are going to result in murder charges (either 1st degree murder or 2nd degree murder) and some of them may result in no charges at all (self-defense, police shootings are two examples).

Alright, that’s enough media crime yammer, let’s see what else is going on in Edmonton. I don’t believe it’s just crime and death. (more…)


August 11 Edmonton Headlines

We sure are!

Good Thursday to you, Edmonton.

The police chief and mayor revealed a little more detail on where Edmonton is going in new crime-fighting and crime prevention programs. They’ll need help from the provincial government to fund some of the ideas. They could probably also use some help from the courts and parole systems to ensure the worst, and repeat, offenders don’t get out as often as they sometimes do. But crime prevention is really going to be the long-term key.

Among the items: more social workers and social assistance, more enforcement in high-risk neighbourhoods, trying to get tougher laws, or punishments, for knives and “edged weapons,” domestic violence awareness.

It all sounds good, but money and the actual projects and help will have to come through for anything to improve beyond our current state. (And, a reminder, we are currently seeing decreases in crime right across the country. Mack’s got a new look at some homicide numbers too.)

Just a quick, cynical, side note: If the mayor wants money, because that’s what help from the provincial government will be tied to, for programs both provincially and city-run, would he be willing to give up the downtown arena $100-million request? That kind of money could get a lot of people off the street, build-up mental health treatment, increase social assistance, and create crime prevention activities and programs.

A unanimous city council vote on a sports stadium? I guess that’s what happens when the city isn’t paying and the new stadium is privately financed.

Duncan Kinney has been crunching the numbers on Edmonton’s deal, because it doesn’t sound like anything is working or making lots of people happy with the current plan.

Arena-free from here on out (today anyway). (more…)


August 10 Edmonton Headlines

This was the scene Tuesday at 9pm. So bright!

While this column spins its way around the downtown arena quite a bit, municipalities do get the worst deal when it comes to taxes. Provincial governments, which have power over municipalities like Edmonton, should think about changing the tax rules to allow cities and towns to tax more than property.

Police want you to be on the lookout for an older Chevy Suburban after a shooting in south Mill Woods. The two guys shot are known to police and aren’t talking. No crime should go unpunished, and no crime is more important than another to the victims. But this kind of crime, a shooting that happened in public, is one that justifiably leaves people upset and scared.

We should hear more from the police chief today on new plans to take on violent crime, but the largest way to solve such problems lies outside of policing with social agencies, housing, mental health, and addictions treatment, community groups, and school and recreation resources.

Here’s a good example of a couple of guys who used sports to get university educations.

While there’s going to be a need to involve all kinds of other groups in keeping our city as safe as possible, police budgets are not going to get smaller in the near future.

Five years after a man was shot by Edmonton police the case is still in the courts in appeals and reviews.

Alright, that’s where we’re starting today, but next we’re heading to Whyte Avenue. (more…)


August 8 Edmonton Headlines

Well, that might be going a bit too far.

Hello Monday! And hello Edmonton.

Just to check: the Edmonton Oilers still play in Edmonton.

And the Katz Group wants to help with your PR, you know, if you need it or anything.

Forget the murder hype, we’re all safe. While that headline may be an oversimplification, it’s great to see at least one newsroom trying to challenge the scary, headline-grabbing homicide count. Now, if the same sentiment could seep off the editorial page and onto the front page – where we usually see the homicide and violent crime stories themselves – we’d really be onto a more balanced view of Edmonton.

The columns have come after Everybody in this city is armed?! was launched. So, keep up the pressure on newsrooms to dump the “If it bleeds, it leads” approach and talk to you like you know your own city. Which, we’re about to see in the next couple of stories, is still very much needed.

Stuff like saying “…rash of violent crimes in the city.” without including any stats or information on whether that’s true is what unnecessarily hurts the city’s image and leads to an ill-informed view of what’s going on and what may lead us to some solutions.

Or blaming crime on families with working parents and immigrants. That’s probably not helping any discussion on crime. Or football. Or whatever this iNews880 blog is about.

Balance those crime statements!

We should hear more on crime from the police chief today. (Update: He’s working on things.)

It’s Monday and we’re just getting this week going. More Edmonton news after the jump. (Which makes less sense if you’re reading this as a result of a direct link.) (more…)


August 5 Edmonton Headlines

Welcome to the end of our short August week, Edmonton.

Edmonton’s playing major catch-up on infrastructure – our roads, public buildings, LRT, etc… – some might even say we’ve got an infrasturcture debt that’s way past due. That’s an important factor to remember when talking about pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into a downtown arena, without any clear plans on all of the exciting, truly revitazling buildings and infrastructure that is supposed to go around the arena.

And, even then, it might not be the best way to spend all that money. Other cities don’t seem to be getting ahead after dumping money into a new arena or stadium. Is a downtown arena truly going to change our city, or is Edmonton simply following the lure of big promises and the fear of upsetting a fan base?

Speaking of the fan base…sounds like the Oilers would look for close-to-home options if the downtown arena plans fell through.

Good for iNews/CHED for trying to balance a story about how newsrooms should try and tell a more honest, full story about life in Edmonton and drop the “If it bleeds it leads.” approach. Wait, no, I take that back. They “balanced” it with a story full of sensational quotes that says nothing about whether crime reporting is accurate.

They did not try to counter the claims that our homicide rate is “unacceptable” and our city unsafe. Probably because there’s nothing as quotable in that. (More on this story below, in the PC leadership race.) Here’s your balance: crime is dropping in Edmonton, and across Canada, and Edmonton is experiencing a 2011 jump in homicides for unclear reasons.

That doesn’t take anything away from the victims of crime and their families. It might even help catalyze people into more action on crime prevention if crime stories made up a more representative portion of news coverage. Right now it’s so prevalent you’d think very little else goes on. That is indeed the perception that makes it into newscasts and newspapers outside of Edmonton.

It’s nice to see a Journal columnist saying we’re safe in Edmonton. That, however, doesn’t make the front page as homicides routinely do.

We should hear from the chief of the Edmonton Police Service next week with some new plans and approaches to crime in Edmonton.

I really thought I could end the week with a little less on crime reporting. Especially with downtown arena in the Headlines. Shows what I know. (more…)


August 4 Edmonton Headlines

Good morning, Edmonton. How’s about we start with scary crime again?

I want to write a little more about a new website launched Wednesday later, but suffice to say Edmonton newsrooms are still going to for easy quotes on murder and crime.

Councillor Kim Krushell is paraphrased (not directly quoted in the story) as blaming northern Alberta workers getting out of hand for some of our troubles. Why would the CBC then try and back that up with stats?

Premier candidate Gary Mar wants to be the next leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives so he can tackle our “unacceptable” murder rate. Don’t worry, the story doesn’t get into details about whether or not we have an unacceptable murder rate, or how this year fits into Edmonton’s annual crime patterns, it’s just a tough-on-crime line from a politician served up to keep the newswheel spinning.

The interesting thing about that 630CHED/iNews880 Gary Mar story this morning is that it follows a Wednesday afternoon story talking about this new push to have a better conversation about crime in Edmonton. It took all of 14 hours to run one story talking about how easy, sensational quotes and a lack of research in stories is more fearmongering than reporting, and jumping right back to the short “objective” piece that doesn’t challenge what anyone says about how scary and violent Edmonton is.

This is where objectivity is crap.

If the reporters, editors, producers, and everyone else involved in getting a story out to Edmontonians aren’t walking around absolutely terrified of being killed why do they let people talk about our city like it’s a horrible place to live? I know they aren’t doing it on purpose; there are deadlines, and the people quoted answer the phone right away. But the irony of running a story about how a new premier will clean up our streets hours after one calling for better, more researched, fair stories better not be lost on every “journalist” in Edmonton newsrooms. This isn’t about your audience misinterpreting your stories, this isn’t about one or two people that are always quoted, this is about how the stories are put together and presented. The Chief can come out and tell us we’re in a fairly safe city every day, but if newsrooms sensationalize our crime what’s the point?

It’s also interesting to note a line like this in a Sun editorial: “…Alberta’s capital city has recently become known more for its violence than anything else.” How does that happen without the newsrooms pumping out story after story about how violent it is? News coverage has about the largest role to play in how a city is viewed from the outside. I challenge Edmonton’s newsrooms to tell a more balanced Edmonton story.

Unless staff members of the newsrooms really are terrified to leave their house. Then I guess this is their story.

Sigh. I guess I’m just leaving my soapbox out all of the time now. (more…)


August 3 Edmonton Headlines

Some days you really aren't getting anywhere.

Good Wednesday to you, Edmonton. Yes, it’s already the middle of the week.

We were talking yesterday, and last week, and when annual crime statistics came out, about context in crime stories. Today there’s a story about a suspicious death investigation at a senior’s home fire in Old Strathcona. Some of the news stories are hinting at the fact police are looking at a suicide as the centre of the crime, which involves another’s death. This CBC story is a little more open about it.

While that wouldn’t make it anymore pleasant – it’s terrible to see people die and others forced out of their home by a fire – this little bit of context as to what might have happened helps people outside of the story know they’re safe. It’s that fear of random crime which is truly scary. And I think that’s where a lot of “tough on crime” talk comes from. Let’s put the context in EVERY crime story, not just as a smaller add-on somewhere else in the newspaper or newscast.

Unfortunately, in a lot of crime stories, without much detail as to what happened you can be left with a feeling that you’re in danger just being in Edmonton, or a certain neighbourhood. It shows how reporting right now (RIGHT NOW!) is fraught with the chances of fearmongering. Police have to be forthcoming with details, and they aren’t always. Sometimes, police are still investigating as newsrooms are working on their second, third, umpteenth version of the story.

We’re more likely to get details, information, and context, at a court case. But, by that point, people usually remember the first story or two about a crime as chosen by newsrooms (make no mistake, there’s no objectivity about selecting one crime over the dozens that happen each day). And, since not every newsroom has a constant presence at the courts, the initial stories usually get more play.

Working on a breaking news story for a day or more might be the best way newsrooms can get out information in a timely manner and avoid leaving any danger up to the imagination. It also means they have time to seek out good, reliable sources of information, challenge people who only seem to be trying to get into the news for a quote, be more careful with sidebar and spin-off stories, and truly be a part of the community they want to serve.

You don’t go around trying to frighten your friends and neighbours, nor would they talk to you a whole lot if you were vague about everything. Why do we allow our news coverage to be vague?

It’s time for you and me to ask newsrooms for a better level of crime coverage. We don’t need them to slap together a story, we need them to dig in and tell us why the stories are important, why the story matters, who and what is shaping our city. We need to demand a better discussion about crime in Edmonton.

Now, let’s see what’s happening in the rest of a pretty safe Edmonton. (more…)


Short Week Headlines

Click for more terrible front pages.

Good morning, Edmonton.

While we’re not trying to doom and gloom you, we are going to begin with homicides; stories that are most prevalent in Edmonton news right now.

Overall, Edmonton’s got 33 homicides on record in 2011. That’s the most of any city in Canada. Though, with stories like this and this from the Edmonton Sun you’d think we lived in a war zone. I doubt a death penalty would reduce one year’s higher than usual homicide rate. Let’s remember – ALL newsrooms - that our crime rate is down,down, down.

Also, I think I’ve mentioned this before in Headlines, but the Sun’s staffers should know that the highest penalty for murder in Canada is life in prison with no chance at parole for 25 years. Not 25 years and you’re out. We can also send people away as “dangerous offenders” in Canada, which means they do not have a release date at all. These tiny bits of information, usually added at the end of a story or an opinion piece, do have an impact on how people perceive crime and criminals.

After this weekend’s (and today’s) stories I am now officially pleading with Edmonton newsrooms to stop talking to criminologist Bill Pitt. “Everybody in this city is armed” sounds like the worst crime research ever.

There are connections to Edmonton’s Somali community within our high homicide rate, and within the homicide rate for the last number of years. Police continue to try and work with members of the community to solve the many murders and killings within this population. Though, the crimes reach right across Canada inside of Somali gangs. There are, of course, many Somali-Edmontonians willing to help police, and who want to see the city operate in a peaceful manner.

Detectives, and extra Edmonton Police officers brought in to help solve homicides, are busy. An excellent point made in this story that paramedics and medical staff likely help keep the homicide number down.

While police try to solve as many killings as they can, prevention of crime is going to be the key to keeping homicide rates down on a more permanent basis.

We might have started things off with homicide, though I do hope you don’t think I’ve switched to a “If it bleeds, it leads” approach with the Headlines. I mean, I don’t want to scare anyone into thinking Edmonton has a murder around every corner. It doesn’t.

Hopefully, by compiling a lot of the weekend stories (good ones, interesting ones, ones the Edmonton Sun had) we can have a fuller conversation about what’s going on in our city, and see the work of police, community groups, and individuals to bring killers to justice and keep things as safe as possible.

Now, just for criminologist Bill Pitt, let’s put away all of our knives and continue with the day’s stories. (more…)


July 22 Edmonton Headlines

Welcome to a rainy Friday, Edmonton.

A bunch of new apartments to be built in Edmonton, and the region, will include homes available for less than market value.

The Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidates began a tour of debates last night in Vermilion. Nothing crazy or outlandish happened, so take a peek through the story to start getting a sense of the people that would be premier.

Strange that I would mention that here, right off the top, where I usually have Edmonton news. Maybe there’s something in this story about the downtown arena and its snowball’s chances of provincial money. Speaking of paying for fancy things

Police are trying to work with the Somali community to solve all of the homicides that population has suffered in recent years, including four this year.

Two Edmonton Police officers are under investigation after drunk driving charges were dismissed because a suspect was badly beaten during the arrest and police testimony left the judge feeling like there was a “circle of silence” from the arresting officers.

It’s the Indy weekend (I’m sure that you didn’t need a reminder), but what does the race say to the world about Edmonton? Does it say anything at all?

A man with Edmonton connections, and alleged tied to war crimes, is among the most wanted immigration fugitives in Canada.

Edmonton author Gloria Sawai – an award-winning author – has died.

*****

Are Ottawa and Alberta on the same page when it comes to environmental monitoring, particularly of the oil industry? Yes? Yes. Maybe?

As the newest Alberta oil spill is being cleaned up, National Geographic is setting its sites on pipelines that will run from the capital region to the B.C. coast. (I got the link to the National Geographic story after seeing a story in the Journal.)

A legal case about Metis and Status Indian registration, and living on a Metis settlement, went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. Basically, you can only register for benefits once.

All of this rain has meant a rise in river and lake levels across Alberta.

A Sherwood Park man is fighting hundreds of millions of dollars in fraud allegations. Here’s a quote that stood out to me: “…his latest business was legal.”

*****

As mentioned yesterday, crime is down. In Edmonton. In Alberta. In Canada (there are some crimes that saw an increase last year though, but overall things are getting better). So, I’m sure you’re glad the federal Conservative government is getting tough on crime.

And I’m sure tonight’s news will have lotsa crime stories. But crime is down.

Hold on a second…I know my soapbox is around here somewhere…Ah, here it is.

This story and at least one more has begun with lines like “You might not believe it…” but crime stories in the news is THE reason people wouldn’t believe it. So, aren’t you saying you’re getting it wrong?

Here’s a better opening: “It might contradict everything we put in the news every day, but crime is continually dropping…”

This is the biggest reason I don’t link out to a lot of crime stories. They lack context. Homicides are about the only story that include references to how many have happened overall, if that’s up or down for this time of year, or over a period of years. That doesn’t happen with sex crimes, robberies, or many other crimes. That lack of context is what leaves people with a feeling things aren’t safe.

That’s not to say everything is perfect and I’d feel perfectly happy counting stacks of money out on every street corner or wandering around every neighbourhood at 3am, but without context people in charge – in neighbourhoods, in community groups, in government, in policing – don’t get to focus on real problems and prevention because they’re reacting to front pages and 6 o’clock news reports.

Jumps off soapbox.

Let’s end on an up-note: dinosaurs and celebrities!

 


Bleeding Lead Headlines

The news don’t stop!

The English-language leaders debate went down last night. Leaders of the Conservatives, Liberals, NDP, and Bloc debated and grandstanded in the hopes of winning over voters with their party’s ideas and platforms. Green Party leader Elizabeth May was relegated to an online chat because the “media consortium” running the debates couldn’t be bothered to include a national party with a million supporters.

Jumping off that Green Party snub (and noting the consortium has no problem including a regional party like the Bloc) New Democrat leader Jack Layton talked about bringing in proportional representation, which, looking at the map of blue Alberta will likely turn in on election day, is overdue.

There was a candidate’s debate over at the U of A for the hottest riding in Alberta – Edmonton-Strathcona. For two hours candidates (except the Liberal) answered questions on all the topics of the federal election, a few more on education (they were at the university), and took question after question from the audience.

It’s sometimes tough to know who the winner and losers are in a debate, but let’s just say Conservative Ryan Hastman did get taken to task by the widow of an Edmonton mayor.

Watch the debate over and over thanks to the power of the Internet.

And don’t forget about the losers in the election. There will be plenty of people running, and a lot of them know they won’t win.

Outside of the election, and around Edmonton… (more…)


February 15 Edmonton Headlines

A balloon? You think a balloon one day a year will make up for you being a jerk? Or, at least something like that is how I picture this little guy getting left behind.

Hey, just because Valentine’s Day is over doesn’t mean we don’t love you, Edmonton. We’ll try to keep showing it.

On a more serious February 14 note, it’s a day to march and remember murdered and missing women.

A dangerous offender hearing is on to decide whether a man who attacked Edmonton bus driver Tom Bregg should be sent to prison without a release date.

Clear that ice on your sidewalk. You can avoid a bylaw ticket if you at least sand the crap out of all that ice.

An Edmonton police officer had her house burned down, and will likely end up testifying as a victim of crime instead of just an investigating officer.

99 Street and Scona Road is going to be one of the largest construction closures of 2011. So, you probably want to avoid that, starting in May.

Let’s see what else is going on… (more…)


This, That, and Edmonton

Good morning, Edmonton. How’s the return to cold been for you?

Just because it isn’t snowing doesn’t mean your work is done. You’ve got make sure sidewalks at your home or business are ice-free. If you get a ticket, maybe just tell the City you’re dealing with a once-every-two-decade winter and will need a little longer.

The Mayor has launched his neighbourhood revitalization task force. The group has the rest of the year to look at how to keep our older, core neighbourhoods in the best shape possible and make them places people continually live in. The biggest challenge, after you look at the basics like streets and sidewalks, is going to be dealing with a public school board that is closing schools in the same communities.

Alright, enough about snow and streets… (more…)


November 10 Edmonton Headlines

edmonton, cfr, canadian finals rodeo, cowboy, rodeo

Is there a metaphor in this about the Internet and traditional news?

Hello there, Edmonton!

So, remember that whole thing where iNews880 copied a few paragraphs from the Edmonton Journal on a story on the Edmonton Eskimos?

Well, there’s been an apology between the offending newsroom and copied writer.

Oh, and remember when Metro copied Wikipedia to write about The Flaming Lips?

Sounds like Metro Edmonton doesn’t seem too keen on copying from the online encyclopedia again.

Well, I’m glad that’s all cleared up.

Until next time.

Before we get to all of today’s news (which doesn’t appear to have any copy and paste action) let’s take a look at a story I skipped over yesterday.

The Journal had a story on Edmonton’s housing starts. A housing start is a new home being built.

Now, the story says we saw fewer new homes being constructed in October – fewer than in the last couple of months, and in October 2009. It says we’re at our lowest new home construction spot since June 2009.

I tend to be wary of a lot of business stories. This one is full of numbers and that can make it hard to accurately convey information, or make the information interesting and relevant. You can also miss the actual story be focusing in on just a few of the numbers.

As Mack D. Male shows over at his blog, the numbers can tell a good story. You just need to let them.

In fact, Mack’s graphs use what is supposed to be the same numbers from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), as the Journal’s story, but show we aren’t at our lowest point in housing starts in since June 2009. He even pointed that out to the Journal.

So, is one of the stories wrong? Yes. Maybe. Kind of.

If both of the stories are looking at Edmonton’s housing starts month-to-month then you’d think Mack’s got it right and we aren’t at our lowest point since June 2009.

But if the Journal looks at, or takes information from, the CMHC’s province-wide housing starts we are at the lowest point since June and July 2009 (barely). Talking with a representative from the CMHC, as the Journal did, some of the trends and numbers may have been mixed together. That could happen without the reporter even noticing or checking against stats. It doesn’t make the story wrong, but it doesn’t make it clear.

And now you know why I tend to shy away from pointing you to stats-based business stories on a regular basis.

Whew. (more…)


Copy and Paste Headlines

Good morning, Edmonton.

I was all set to talk about Conan O’Brien’s return to television this morning when Maurice Tougas (of SEE Magazine fame) posted a comment in yesterday’s headlines I had to check on.

Before I get into that I’ll just say it’s nice to see Conan back on TV. He may not always have the funniest or best show, but that’s not really what the whole Tonight Show thing was about. I think there were overtones of how things have always been done vs. how things could be done. And the groundswell of support, especially through the Internet, for Conan really showed me that NBC was forsaking tomorrow’s audience for today’s easier money.

Anyway…onto more copying and pasting in Edmonton news!

Yesterday it was iNews880(630CHED) using the same opening paragraphs from an Edmonton Journal story on the Eskimos’ last game of the season. Today it’s Metro using Wikipedia as a writer.

It can be dicey enough to use Wikipedia as a fact-checking source (though, I think it’s getting better all the time), but to just copy from the online encyclopedia, essentially word for word, is pretty crappy journalism.

It’s even crappier when you consider we’re talking about a story with four sentences, the longest one being ripped-off:

edmonton, metro, flaming lips, wikipedia

Now the Wikipedia quote:

Melodically, their sound contains lush, multi-layered, psychedelic rock arrangements, but lyrically their compositions show elements of space rock, including what critics describe as bizarre song and album titles—for example, “Psychiatric Explorations of the Fetus with Needles”, “Free Radicals (A Hallucination of the Christmas Skeleton Pleading with a Suicide Bomber)” and “Yeah, I Know It’s a Drag… But Wastin’ Pigs Is Still Radical”.

As I said yesterday; gee, that looks familiar. (Update: Doing a word count, I find that one sentence is actually more than half the story.)

I was tweeted a question about whether this kind of stuff was common place. I said it was not. Perhaps I was wrong…

Now, on with the rest of today’s news! Hurry, before we find out it was all copied from a magazine in 2007. (more…)


Duplicate Headlines

Do not adjust your monitors and mobile devices, you aren’t seeing double…

So, as I tend to do with my fancy-schmancy iPad, I check the tweets when I have a few minutes. iPad for Twitter makes it really easy to scroll through my timeline and see what everyone is up to.

I was catching up Sunday morning, when a couple of tweets about Eskimos stories caught my eye.

By the time I checked in, the Edmonton Journal and iNews880(630CHED) stories appeared to be different. That would make sense since they are different newsrooms.

But, thanks to Mack D. Male (Mastermaq to you Internet savvy folk), we’ve got some screenshots that prove there was some duplication going on.

First, the lead paragraphs of the Edmonton Journal’s story on the end of the Eskimos’ season:

edmonton, edmonton journal, eskimos

Now the beginning of the iNews880(630CHED) story on the same event:

edmonton, inews880, eskimos, copied

Gee, that looks familiar.

You’ll note, as I mentioned earlier, that the Corus Edmonton newsroom has since changed their Eskimos story, making it wholly original.

Now, there are a couple of ways this could happen:

1. Raffaele Papainni and Mario Annicchiarico could be the same person. Or share some kind of mental connection. Unlikely, but not impossible.

2. The iNews staff thought, incorrectly, they could use news copy from any source because everyone is on “the wire.” While there are certainly ways for newsrooms to use stuff from another local newsroom when it passes through The Canadian Press news wire, it’s frowned upon to just take what you want as it’s produced, especially without accreditation. The bigger problem here is that the Journal, and its parent company (Postmedia) aren’t part of the news wire collective, so newsrooms can’t use their stuff without spelling out that it’s from the Journal (which is not very likely to happen since newsrooms want you to think they’re the only ones producing news). Perhaps a staffer snagged some copy from another Postmedia newspaper (likely in Regina, since the game was against the Roughriders) not thinking about the connections. Basically, not thinking.

3. Malicious copy and paste. I doubt this was it.

It’s certainly been an interesting week in the old mainstream media. This case really highlights the fact that anyone still arguing that whole “blogger vs. journalist” thing needs to take a look at “journalism.” This stuff didn’t come along with the blogosphere and everyone that’s creating content, regardless of where they do it, can make mistakes and cross lines.

Another example this week was the magazine Cooks Source lifting a writer’s recipe and post, and really not caring about the plagiarism.

Before we get you completely caught up on all things Edmonton, a big thanks to Mack for sharing the screenshots of our local copy and paste job. (more…)


Edmonton Headlines

edmonton, tree, leaves, dead, fall

That tree is one dead motherf--shut your mouth--I'm just talkin' about fall.

Good day to you, Edmonton.

It appears the mayor is making the media rounds, stopping in at the Edmonton Sun for an editorial board meeting. They focused on the downtown arena in their story.

Over at the Journal the mayor’s plans for the LRT to Mill Woods, specifically; not borrowing money to pay for it, was the focus.

Now, watch how that LRT story is “balanced” by our unbiased news friends. In this iCHED story (my new combo name for the shared newsroom of Corus Radio’s CHED and iNews) they counter Mandel’s statement about paying for the LRT line to Mill Woods with a statement from David Dorward. But the numbers don’t match up. The LRT to Mill Woods (the South East, or SE, line) won’t cost $3-billion. That’s the cost of all three expansion lines. The Journal gets the same quote from Dorward.

Just a quick bit of bias/fact-checking for you on a Wednesday morning. I say it checks on bias because countering statements is a tool newsrooms use to show they are fair and balanced. But you can see that those giving the quotes, from an opposing side, don’t always care about balance, or even staying on topic. And if the newsrooms don’t care to check on the facts of the statements, well…they feel they have to have an opposing view or we’d all think they were biased and western society would crumble.

Watch for that. It’s actually a bit of a PR weapon.

In the case at hand mayoral candidate Dave Dorward appears to be shooting down Mayor Stephen Mandel’s statement about paying for the South East LRT line without borrowing (or, presumably, without hiking taxes a whole bunch), because he mentions LRT and the same potential provincial funding Mandel does. But by throwing in the cost of ALL proposed LRT lines he makes it seem like Mandel is lying. And since Dorward comes in after Mandel (and most “counter” arguments tend to come after the main points have been made) his line about $3-billion probably sticks in the audiences mind.

In the rest of today’s election news… (more…)


Edmonton Dipstick Headlines

edmonton sun, james cameron, dipstick

Don't you just hate how blogs are so biased and lack journalistic integrity? Why can't those bloggers get upstanding, respectable, paying jobs in a newsroom already?

Hello Edmonton!

SEE Magazine’s got a couple of election-focused stories this week. They’ve got a beginner’s guide to voting, why the school board vote matters, and how Stephen Mandel doesn’t appear to have a viable opponent, yet most of the ward races look pretty good.

Metro thinks Ward 3 is going to be the big one.

The Examiner also asks if most people really even see a choice in the mayor’s race. Maybe that’s why there wasn’t interest from U of A students in an event hosted at the U of A.

Vue’s look at organized labour’s role in the municipal election.

One candidate, in my ward actually, is asking where Edmonton’s aboriginals are in this election race.

from the Edmonton Journal:

Giant housing proposal worries Beaumont (It’s for a new city, south of Edmonton.)

Three Jasper women win case against CN (Nobody has to move! I wonder if I could make similar arguments against a transfer without having children.)

Did you read Broken Pencils, the great series on First Nations education?

from the Edmonton Sun:

Cameron ‘quite open’ to filming in Alberta: Blackett (Be careful what you wish for Mr. Minister. He might film something that’s not as quietly about environmental destruction and greed.)

Province sets new mark for oil and gas land sales

from 630CHED/iNews880:

St. Albert council approves H4H project (Finally!)

Beverly Motel re-opening (What’s the over/under on this being closed, again, by the end of the year. I’m going to say it will be if it’s inspected by then.)

from CBC Edmonton:

Man wants officer charged with attempted murder (He was shot at 7 times, hit 4. His case was thrown out due to “excessive force.”)

from Global Edmonton:

Graffiti program (Wiping it away on the LRT route.)

from Vue Weekly:

They consulted, but did they listen?

A question of action (You didn’t miss the other oilsands stories in all of this James Cameron coverage, did you? Because it’s been Cameron! Cameron! CameronMore Cameron! Did anybody ask the tough questions though? Like, why we never got True Lies 2?! Seriously though, read that editorial from Vue.)